The Board met during September 2021 to discuss grant applications. As a result of that discussion, the Board made the following grants to five worthy organizations.
Click on each Grantee’s name below to read more about their organization and the case for which they received funding.
The Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP) is a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting for a future where the United States welcomes individuals fleeing violence. With over 175,000 members from over 175 countries, ASAP is now the largest organization of asylum seekers in the United States. ASAP members share a common goal: to work toward building a humane, welcoming, and accessible asylum system in the United States. ASAP takes a dual approach to achieving our mission. First, we provide the legal resources and support that asylum seekers want and need. Then, we engage together in efforts to make change, including through high-impact social justice litigation and policy advocacy. We leverage technology to serve asylum seekers, no matter where they are located.
THE CASE: In 2020, ASAP members voted to challenge new rules proposed by the Trump administration that would severely limit asylum seekers’ ability to obtain work authorization. The new rules would have eliminated the 30 day processing requirement for asylum seekers’ work permit applications, forced asylum seekers to wait 365 days in order to be eligible to apply for work permits, have added new biometrics requirements and fees, barred many groups of asylum seekers from receiving work permits altogether (including those with certain criminal convictions and those who entered the United States not at a port of entry), and imposed other harmful changes.
On September 11, 2020, the district court ruled in ASAP’s favor in CASA v. Mayorkas (originally CASA v. Wolf) and issued a limited preliminary injunction that protected asylum seekers’ ability to work -- but only if they were members of ASAP or another organization, CASA. Since that preliminary injunction, ASAP has helped over 100,000 asylum seekers successfully receive work permits. Also, our legal argument that DHS Secretary Chad Wolf was likely serving unlawfully as the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security became a critical precedent that led to the defeat of many Trump era anti-immigrant policies, including the rescission of DACA and a major rule restricting asylum access. We are currently working to expand the court’s protections in the CASA litigation for all asylum seekers. ASAP has a hearing scheduled for December 20, 2021 before Judge Xinis in the District of Maryland on ASAP's motions for summary judgment, motion to expand the preliminary injunction, and the government's cross-motion for summary judgment. The generous support of the McDowell Foundation grant will allow ASAP and its members to continue to litigate this case.
Also, in response to ASAP members' priorities, on November 10, 2021, ASAP brought a new lawsuit to address the related problem of long delays in work permit renewals. Unreasonably long delays in the processing of renewal work permits have forced many asylum seekers to lose their jobs and only means of support. Five ASAP members are plaintiffs in this new class action lawsuit, Tony N. v. USCIS. ASAP has a hearing scheduled for December 17, 2021 before Judge Chesney of the Northern District of California to address the organization's motions for a preliminary injunction and class certification. Recent coverage of the litigation has been featured by CNN, Bloomberg, and the Washington Post.
Grant Contact: Zak Manfredi, Litigation and Advocacy Director, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Children’s Legal Center (CLC) works to provide trauma-informed support to victimized children and families through direct legal and non-legal services. Created in June 2018, CLC’s founding attorneys recognized the growing need for free immigration legal services, especially for children and victims of violence. We provide immigration relief screenings for eligibility and direct legal services to undocumented children and families who have experienced victimization. Our services include representation before the Immigration Court for asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors (UACs) as well as undocumented victims living in our communities. Our social services support includes assistance with obtaining benefits for our clients including AllKids or Medicare benefits, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the Women Infants and Children (WIC) Program, as well as assistance with school registration, housing, guardianship, interpretation services, and other needs that arise. Our staff consists of four full-time attorneys, two full-time law clerks, a part-time social worker/victim’s advocate, and fourteen part-time law student and undergraduate student interns. CLC has established partnerships with two domestic violence centers (WINGS and Courage Connection), Partners of Our Community (POC), Rolling Meadows Police Department, Midwest Human Rights Consortium (MHRC) and Kovler Center to ensure that clients are protected from further victimization and put on a path towards safety and stability.
THE CASE: [Class Representative] v. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Children's Legal Center represents 68 individuals who came into the United States to seek asylum, encountered ICE and whose personal documents were confiscated by ICE (and not returned). Children’s Legal Center is in the process of filing a class action lawsuit against ICE for the seizure of personal documents of identification, such as passports and birth certificates. A 2006 ICE policy memo sets forth the policy of document confiscation, but these actions violate due process and the 4th Amendment. Not only do these actions violate the Constitution, the confiscation of documents harms asylum seekers, preventing them from applying for work authorization and harming their chances of winning asylum as they cannot provide corroborating evidence of biographical information.
Many of our clients have been victims of this injustice and have been unable to obtain replacement documents due to lack of access to their consulates, the costs charged by the consulates for replacement documents, and the pandemic. We are seeking the return of all original documents to current and future class members as well as a nationwide injunction preventing ICE from further seizing personal identifying documents of income asylum seekers.
Grant Contact: Laura Hoover, Executive Director, 833 W Chicago Ave, Suite 320, Chicago, IL 60642, 312.722.6642 email@example.com
Founded in 1977, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) is one of the nation’s leading legal advocacy organizations for LGBTQ people, with an active national litigation docket and a strong track record of winning precedent-setting cases. Beginning with custody cases on behalf of lesbian mothers, NCLR has built an unparalleled history of successful litigation and innovative legal theory and practice in LGBT family law. NCLR won key marriage equality cases and developed innovative arguments that LGBTQ people are protected under sex discrimination laws, which later were adopted as central principles of modern antidiscrimination law by conservative Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch in the 2020 Bostock decision. We were the first national LGBTQ legal organization to introduce a Youth Project and have successfully defended against legal challenges to laws banning licensed therapists from practicing conversion therapy on minors. We have a strong, recent record of winning cases on behalf of transgender youth, employees, and prisoners. We have never lost an asylum case in which we directly represent the applicant; and have innovated new programs and litigation strategies to support LGBTQ elders, challenge discrimination in sports, and address the needs of rural LGBTQ communities.
THE CASE: In Tingley v. Ferguson, U.S.D.C., Western District of Washington, Case No. 3:21-cv-5359-RJB, NCLR successfully moved to intervene on behalf of Equal Rights Washington to defend the state’s law prohibiting licensed therapists from performing therapy that seeks to change a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Conversion therapy is a dangerous and unethical practice and has been shown to make LGBTQ children who undergo it nearly three times more likely to attempt suicide. In one recent study, more than 60% of children subjected to conversion therapy attempted suicide. Therapists who continue to engage in these discredited practices prey on vulnerable parents as well, exploiting their trust in licensed mental health providers to persuade parents to unwittingly subject their children to the risk of severe and lasting harm.
NCLR, with local co-counsel Raegen Rasnic of Skellenger Bender, P.S., has been defending the case alongside Washington state officials represented by the state attorney general. The law is being challenged by Brian Tingley, a therapist represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the country’s largest anti-LGBTQ legal organization. ADF seeks to use this case to overturn precedent upholding similar state laws protecting children from conversion therapy. In late August 2021, the United States District Court for the Western District of dismissed the challenge, holding that the law regulates a dangerous treatment, not speech, and therefore does not violate the First Amendment right to free speech. The court also rejected Tingley’s religious liberty claim, ruling that state governments may require licensed health care providers to follow professional standards and that the law applies equally to all providers, regardless of their religious beliefs. Tingley has appealed the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which is expected to hear the case in 2022. We are using our grant from the Foundation to support our work on the appeal.
Grant Contact: Jennifer Bing, Director of Philanthropy, 870 Market Street, Suite 370, San Francisco, CA 94102, 415.845.9406, JBing@NCLRights.org
For 50 years, the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) has fought to advance justice in support of children and youth, amplify youth power, and dismantle racism and other structural inequities. We focus on complex challenges that disproportionately affect children and communities of color and on solutions that require multiple public systems to change their policies, practices, and culture. We operate at the intersection of youth-serving systems, including immigration, juvenile justice, education, health, child welfare, and child trafficking.
Our long-term goals are to ensure that public systems treat children and youth equitably, with compassion, provide the opportunities each child needs to thrive; seek to end those racial disparities; and ensure that youth have a central role in designing the systems that impact them. To achieve this, our campaigns weave together impact litigation, policy development, and coalition building.
THE CASE: D.S. v. Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) was filed on behalf of three youth plaintiffs who represent a class of children subjected to placement instability, as well as an organizational plaintiff, Disability Rights Washington, to protect thousands of children with disabilities in foster care. Across Washington State, children with disabilities in foster care are separated from their families because DCYF fails to provide them the supports to remain or reunify with their families. Many children are subjected to extreme placement instability, cycling between temporary shelters, group homes, out-of-state facilities, one-night foster care stays, hotel stays, and offices. For example, one child was placed in 30 foster or group homes, and in hotels or offices 20 times. Instead of receiving appropriate care, this child was further traumatized and isolated from his family. There are many other children with similarly unacceptable experiences in foster care.
The lawsuit’s goals include requiring DCYF to -
1. Provide appropriate family preservation- and reunification-focused supports;
2. End the placement of children in hotels, offices, and other short-term stays;
3. Develop an adequate array of placements so children with disabilities receive foster care services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs; and
4. Institute a process for providing individualized needs assessments to children with disabilities in foster care.
Grant Contact: Marie Lim, Development Manager, Mlim@youthlaw.org, (510) 920-3511
New Economy Project is at the forefront of financial justice advocacy in New York City. Founded in 1995, our organization seeks to build a new economy that works for all, rooted in racial and social justice, cooperation, neighborhood equity, and ecological sustainability. We undertake systemic, social justice litigation and are known for effectively combining direct legal services with cutting-edge legal and policy advocacy, coalition-building, and applied research. We challenge structural inequities that perpetuate poverty and racial wealth inequality and advocate for policies and practice changes that eliminate economic discrimination and other inequities that harm low-income New Yorkers and New York City neighborhoods.
Since 2005, we have operated a nationally recognized financial justice law project that helps low-income New Yorkers resolve legal issues related to credit reporting, debt collection, and fair banking. We provide a full range of legal services, from advice and counsel, full representation, and impact litigation. We combine free hotline services with court-based clinics, extensive know-your-rights resources, and community education. We have initiated and co-counseled on numerous groundbreaking class actions, based on patterns we identified through our direct legal services work with clients. Through the litigation, we have helped our clients win hundreds of millions of dollars in redress, and secured vital changes in financial companies’ policies and practices that improve conditions for low-income, immigrant, and Black and brown New Yorkers.
THE CASE: Esgro Capital Management, LLC v. Sharae Banks. In 2016, Sharae Banks, a single mother, learned that a debt buyer company had secured a default judgment against her—though she never even knew she had been sued. Ms. Banks sought information from the debt buyer’s attorneys, who offered her only an unaffordable payment plan. The debt buyer then began garnishing her wages in 2017, forcing her to work overtime to try to make up for the garnished wages. Only in 2020 did Ms. Banks learn that she could move to vacate the default judgment. Despite her proof that she was never served, the court denied her motion, citing cases finding that courts should not grant such “discretionary” relief where the individual “demonstrated a lack of good faith” or was “dilatory” in asserting her rights.
New Economy Project is appealing this state court decision, with co-counsel at The Legal Aid Society of New York City. We seek to reverse a disturbing line of cases granting New York State courts unwarranted discretion to refuse to vacate default judgments entered without personal jurisdiction and equating a sustained period of involuntary payments with waiver of one’s personal jurisdiction defense. By painting individuals unable to raise prompt legal challenges as dilatory or lacking good faith, these cases obscure the myriad structural obstacles—including fraudulent conduct by debt buyers—that low-income New Yorkers face to asserting their legal rights, and effectively punish them for being poor or lacking representation.
Grant Contact: Susan Shin, Legal Director, New Economy Project, firstname.lastname@example.org, 212-680-5100