In communities, courtrooms, and the halls of government, we work tirelessly to make New York a better place. Here’s what we’ve achieved so far.
By the Numbers
Every day, in every borough, The Legal Aid Society works in courtrooms and communities to deliver justice to New Yorkers. Our direct representation of thousands of individuals every year informs our impact litigation efforts and policy advocacy—providing us with a powerful perspective from which to begin dismantling the systemic barriers that keep our clients from thriving.
We provided legal services on more than 52,500 individual cases which benefitted more than 135,000 low-income adults and children.
Our Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic reduced tax liabilities by $2,825,654 and recovered $69,646 in tax refunds.
Juvenile Rights interdisciplinary teams of Attorneys, Social Workers, Paralegals, and Investigators amplified the voice of children in 70,000+ appearances in Family Court.
On May 23, Xiu Qing You was detained by ICE at a mandatory interview for a green card. Mr. You has lived in Flushing, Queens since coming to the United States in 2000 to escape religious persecution in China. He has no criminal record, but his application for asylum was denied and a final order of deportation was issued by the government. Mr. You runs a nail salon in Connecticut with his wife and is a father to two young children.
The Legal Aid Society joined Yee Ling Poon, Esq. as co-counsel to represent Mr. You, and initiated the request for a stay of removal and his immediate release. On June 20, The Legal Aid Society won an emergency stay motion that temporarily prevented his deportation, pending resolution of his petition for habeas corpus. The Court also ordered Mr. You’s immediate release from ICE detention. United States District Judge Analisa Torres of the Southern District of New York heard the arguments and granted the stay.
At the end of the day, each case is a person who is going to return to their family and community. We want to be in a good position to work in communities directly, getting to be with individuals before an issue arises.
Legal System Impact
Kids Separated at the Border
In May 2018, we met four siblings in government custody who were separated from their mother who was facing charges for illegally entering the United States. Ranging in age from 7 to 17, the siblings were living in different foster homes for two months and had only spoken with their mother a few times since being forcibly separated. While the siblings greatly wished to be reunited with their mother, they feared doing so might mean detainment or deportation. These children, together with 72 others, became our individual clients as we fought for their release from Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) custody.
In June, in response to widespread outrage, President Trump signed an executive order ending his administration’s controversial family separation policy. Despite the ACLU’s suit to require reunification, The Legal Aid Society and others were concerned that the government planned to deport families once reunified.
In response, we filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of all children in ORR custody in New York who had been forcibly separated from a parent, covering more than 300 children in total. We successfully obtained a temporary restraining order in Federal Court, requiring 48 hours notice and meaningful information about the government’s plan before moving our clients. This success gave our young clients an opportunity to consult with their parent(s) before the plan was effectuated.
While one team of attorneys fought for the rights of separated children in general, our individual casework continued. The four siblings mentioned above were slated to be reunified with their mother in Texas, but given the trauma they’d endured and the looming uncertainty of the reunification process, we filed a group habeas petition in New York challenging these plans. The government relented, agreeing to bring the mother to New York to be reunified.
On July 27, the children reunited with their mother at the ICE offices in NYC. Our attorneys ensured a swift and proper process. A few hours later, the family was on their way to start their new life in San Francisco. The children are now enrolled in school and attend regular therapy sessions.
A Progressive Tradition
Founded in 1876 to defend the rights of German immigrants in New York, The Legal Aid Society has a long history of progressive advocacy. Over the years, our mission to ensure justice for all New Yorkers hasn’t so much changed as it has evolved to reflect the growth and diverse social fabric of the city.