Sanctuary for Families Honors S&C for Pro Bono WorkOctober 29, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed unique challenges for Sanctuary for Families, an organization dedicated to the safety, healing and self-determination of victims of domestic violence, sex trafficking and related forms of gender violence. In the early months of the pandemic, Sanctuary worked to establish systems that would function with diminished government and institutional resources, while supporting clients who were facing worsened situations and, in some cases, trapped with their abusers.
S&C worked with Sanctuary for Families to assist in the Virtual Courtroom Advocates Project (VCAP), an effort to ensure that survivors of domestic violence still have access to orders of protection during the pandemic. The nonprofit quickly developed the VCAP program when stay-at-home orders were issued in New York in March and accepted 205 referrals to the program from April to August. Twelve S&C lawyers assisted the program.
To further assist with Sanctuary's mission, S&C partnered with Sanctuary for Families to help two victims of sex trafficking, “Soojin” and “Miyoung,” in pursuing their immigration petitions. When S&C became involved, their applications had been in limbo for several years. To compel action in the women's cases, the S&C team filed mandamus actions in federal court in the Eastern District of New York, asserting claims under the Administrative Procedure Act that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services abdicated its statutory duty to adjudicate or conduct a determination as to the women's petitions. When the agency eventually reviewed their applications and sought additional evidence and information, S&C defended the clients' eligibility.
Within weeks of responding to the agency's inquiries, Miyoung received approval of her T Nonimmigrant Status visa (“T Visa”) under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in April 2020. The T Visa enables certain victims of a severe form of human trafficking to remain in the United States for up to four years, where they are eligible for employment authorization and certain federal and state benefits and services. Soojin likewise received approval of her adjustment of status petition and is now a lawful permanent resident of the United States.
For this work, the S&C pro bono team led by Garrard Beeney, and including Olivia Chalos, Suniti Mehta and David Seidler, was awarded Sanctuary for Families' 2020 Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Award. The VCAP team included Kassie Bagley, Caroline Black, Francesca L. Fulchignoni, Brian R. Gottlieb, James C. Manning, Maria Naimark, Elizabeth R. Williams and Julie A. Wilson.