Legal Aid Society

A Day In The Life

Fighting Detention & Deportation in the Immigration Law Unit

With the Trump’s administration striking fear into immigrant communities across our city, Forensic Social Worker Wanjuri Hawkins and her colleagues in our Immigration Law Unit are taking a stand for those in need.

“We’re helping our clients stay in the country and not get deported.”

Wanjuri is protecting our city’s immigrants. With President Trump’s administration striking fear into the hearts of immigrant communities across our city, Wanjuri and her colleagues in our Immigration Law Unit are taking a stand for those in need. Together, they are making sure that the basic rights of these vulnerable New Yorkers are protected against dangerous and destructive policies.

Our Immigration Law Unit (ILU) is on the front-lines of the fight for our city’s immigrants. ILU is the largest legal practice of its kind in the nation, with over 60 staff members handling nearly 6,000 cases each year. And in the past two years, the need for our work has only increased. We have been fighting back against President Trump from the very beginning. When he announced his unlawful travel ban, our staff rushed to JFK International Airport, working overnight to ensure that every person who was illegally detained was set free. Today, we are fighting against detentions and deportations, all while helping more immigrants secure their legal status. Taken together, Wanjuri sums up ILU’s mission succinctly: “we’re helping our clients stay in the country and not get deported.”

As a forensic social worker, Wanjuri plays a special role in ILU’s work. Wanjuri helps the most vulnerable clients access the essential services they need. As Wanjuri explains, her clients face serious challenges outside of their immigration issues. Some have trouble with substance abuse, some are homeless, and still others need assistance for mental health issues. And for these vulnerable clients, “there can be a lot of barriers to services.” Thankfully, Wanjuri works tirelessly to overcome those barriers. “It can be a challenge, but our goal is to connect them to treatment.”

For Wanjuri, every case she handles is the opportunity to change a life forever. And, more often than not, her work does just that. A few years ago, Wanjuri was working with a man from Jamaica who had a long history of mental health and substance abuse issues. He had been in and out of treatment centers and homeless shelters and was eventually picked up by ICE agents. While the man’s attorneys defended him from deportation, Wanjuri worked with him to help put his life back together. She connected him with essential resources. Now, almost four years later, he’s drug-free and working to become a peer counselor to help others like him overcome their problems. For Wanjuri, this victory still means a lot. “Every time I see him it just puts a smile on my face.” As immigrants across our city fight for their rights, Wanjuri is there to lend a helping hand.`

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