A Legal Empowerment Approach to Addressing Justice Barriers in the U.S. Immigration System
Legal empowerment is a bottom up approach that empowers minority communities for change
Sanctuaries such as the New Sanctuary Coalition which undertake a legal empowerment approach provide minorities with not only assistance, but opportunities in leadership
Relying on strict legal approaches limits the power of organizations and creates a dependency on attorneys
In the Puck Building, NYU’s International Relations department along with the NYU Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU Law School, the Center for Global Affairs at NYU's School for Professional Studies, the Robert L. Bernstein Institute for Human Rights, and the Office of International Programs at NYU Wagner held an event presented by Beenish Riaz, Nikta Daijavad, Juliette Caduche, and Ellie Happel addressing legal barriers within the U.S.immigration system on Feb. 26.
Prior to getting into the bulk of the event, panelist Nikta Daijavad, a Global Justice student activist, defined legal empowerment as “a bottom up approach that empowers minority communities to challenge and change the legal barriers that reside in the U.S. immigration system.” Sanctuaries such as the New Sanctuary Coalition (NSC) have implemented legal empowerment practices and are extremely successful in doing so.
Juliette Caduche, a Haitian national, employed the help of the NSC to assist in her claim to asylum and a current volunteer at the NSC.
Caduche shared her experience with the New Sanctuary Coalition, stating that it “gave her hope” to pursue her claim to asylum. Attending college in Russia and transfering to the U.S. to work at the Humane Society in 2014, Caduche had her first child while living in the States and later returned to Haiti to continue working.
However, in 2016, Caduche was forced to seek asylum in the U.S. due to political tensions in Haiti, as well as for professional and personal reasons. After being rejected from several attorneys, Caduche finally found an attorney who directed her to the NSC.
Caduchea attributed the ability to speak at the panel to overwhelming support she received from the NSC.
While taking questions from the attendees, the panel was asked to address the problems attorneys and organizations like the NSC currently face. Daijavad explained that although progress has been made, certain issues such as strict legal practices pose a significant threat to improvement in the immigration system. Pre-established legal customs hinder organizations from providing legal services for fear of being accused of unauthorized practice of law, which in turn forces dependency on attorneys who may be inaccessible to immigrants seeking legal help for monetary and other reasons.
Daijavad stated that although there is no present solution, advocacy and support for change within the system alleviates the magnitude of the issue at hand.
This report was compiled by Anabelle Ortiz on March 4th, 2019, and edited by Jamin Chen.