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From Mohan Kanungo:

Hello Activist Friends,

I have compiled a guide to help undocumented South Asian students in NY obtain legal status and access/finance their higher education. Many of you helped contribute to this report and I would like to thank you for your support. All of you though may know students or organizations who could benefit from this. Please photocopy/pass it along and make revisions for your own purposes. If you have any critiques or additional info pass it my way.

In Solidarity,
-Mohan
LEGAL AND FINANCIAL AID GUIDE
FOR UNDOCUMENTED SOUTH ASIAN STUDENTS IN NEW YORK
Last Updated: 12/31/08
Prepared by Mohan Kanungo
www.ParachuteTent.com / ParachuteTent@gmail.com

BACKGROUND

Undocumented youth are often brought to the states at a young age without their consent or understanding that they are breaking the law. These youth grow up and spend most of their lives illegally in the States. Though this is home, undocumented students lack rights and opportunities available to those who have legal status.

Undocumented youth of South Asian origin in New York are especially in need of information on accessing and financing higher education as well as means of obtaining legal status in the United States. This guide was compiled to serve as a resource to begin filling that gap, particularly for South Asian1 students.

This guide should be seen as a launching point for you to achieve your dreams, but don’t rely on it alone. Throughout the process of accessing/financing higher education or obtaining legal status you must remember that you are your own best advocate.

A lawyer did NOT write this guide. It has been compiled with the input of various immigration service providers and advocates though it should not be interpreted as an authoritative source on any of the topics covered. Immigration, state and federal law around higher education are constantly changing. You should consult a licensed attorney or expert in a non-governmental organization.

Please photocopy, reproduce, edit, add to or otherwise alter this document WITHOUT my permission. Additional resources, critiques or updates that improve this guide are appreciated. Special Thanks to the advocates who aided in the preparation of this guide including Khin Mai Aung, Esq., Tushar Sheth, Esq., Choua Vue, Takashi Mastumoto, and Grecia Lima.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
  1. PRECAUTIONS WHEN SEEKING LEGAL AID
  2. LAW FIRMS IN NY PROVIDING PRO-BONO (FREE) or LOW COST ASSISTANCE
  3. LEGAL GUIDES IN SOUTH ASIAN LANGUGES
  4. RESOURCES FOR SELF-ADVOCACY
  5. TIPS TO MOVE YOUR CASE ALONG
  6. ACCESSING AND FINANCING YOUR EDUCATION AS AN UNDOCUMENTED STUDENT
  7. LEGISTLATION OF INTEREST

PRECAUTIONS WHEN SEEKING LEGAL AID

(Adapted from CUNY Law School’s Immigration Services Website)

Protect Yourself Against Fraud

If you are paying someone to help you with your immigration matter, know that you have the right to demand a written contract (in English and in your primary language) identifying all costs to be paid and services to be performed. The contract should include the name, address, and phone number of the person (or the business) providing the immigration assistance to you. Also, you have the right to demand the return of any original documents that belong to you, including passports, green cards, and birth certificates.

Be aware that there are many immigration assistance providers such as attorneys, people who call themselves "notarios" or others who charge fees for services that they may not be qualified to provide. In some cases, they may be practicing law illegally. It is common for such persons to file false or inaccurate applications with the USCIS on your behalf, and the consequences for you may be severe - you may easily end up in deportation proceedings.

Be Wary Of (Parts adapted from the NY Immigration Affairs Program Website):
  • Individuals or immigration service providers who represent themselves as attorneys or who provide legal advice when they are not licensed attorneys.
  • Individuals who pretend to be agents for the federal immigration authorities and promise they can offer expedited (speedy) or special treatment services.
  • Individuals or businesses that promise immigrants employment or work visas but are not capable of doing so.
  • Individuals who produce and sell fraudulent social security cards, licenses, passports and other documents.
  • Individuals or businesses that offer housing and other services but just take your money and disappear.
  • Lawyers or service providers who do not provide or return original documents or copies of forms submitted to the immigration authorities or other government agencies.
  • Service providers who threaten to report you to the immigration authorities.
  • Service providers who ask for money upfront (before services are rendered) and only accept cash-only payment policies. Secure a written receipt for any funds paid.

LAW FIRMS IN NY PROVIDING PRO-BONO (FREE) or LOW COST ASSISTANCE

(Compiled from searches with Lawhelp.org and Idealist.org)

The following is a list of organizations providing pro-bono or low-cost legal assistance for immigration needs. There may be more organizations or private volunteer attorneys, so don't limit your search to this list alone. Before accepting anyone as your attorney you should verify they are an actual attorney and are legally able to represent you. Consult the NY BAR Association to verify a lawyer is an actual lawyer that has passed the NY Bar. Call 212-428-2800 or search online https://iapps.courts.state.ny.us/attorney/AttorneySearch

Advocates for Children of New York, Inc.
www.advocatesforchildren.org
151 W. 30th Street, 5th Floor New York, NY 10001
Phone: (212) 947-9779 (866) 427-6033 Fax (212) 947-9790 info@advocatesforchildren.org
Languages Spoken: French, Mandarin, Spanish, plus access to interpreters in 140 languages
Income Guidelines: Provides advice to all, regardless of income, but only takes on the full range of representation for those families that make no more than 250% of the poverty level.
Wheelchair Accessible: Y Access for the deaf: In process of installing a TTY line
Other Reqs: Must be under 21 to get help.
AFC's mission focuses on helping children who are at the greatest risk for academic failure due to poverty, ethnicity, disability, homelessness, immigration status/limited English proficiency, involvement in the child welfare or juvenile justice systems, domestic violence, sexual orientation, or teen parenting. *NOTE: AFC focuses on problems related to education.

Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF)
www.aaldef.com
99 Hudson Street 12th floor New York, New York 10013
Phone 212-966-5932 Fax 212-966-4303 info@aaldef.org
AALDEF focuses on high impact litigation (cases involving lots of people) important to the Asian and Pacific Islander community including 9/11 disaster response, Affirmative Action, Anti-Asian Bias, Anti-Trafficking Initiative, Economic Justice, Equal Access to Services, Immigrant Right’s, Leadership Development, and Voting Rights.

Catholic Charities of New York
Dept of Immigrant and Refugee Services
1011 First Ave., 12th Floor New York, NY 10022-4134
Phone: (212) 419-3700
Languages: Spanish, Haitian-Creole, Mandarin, Cantonese, French, Russian, Polish, Albanian, Greek, Macedonian, Serbo-Croatian, Arabic, Turkish, Bosnian, Amharic, Italian, Hindi, Urdu, Punjab, Vietnamese, Portuguese, Thai
Provides assistance to asylum seekers including T (trafficking) and U Visa (victims or witnesses of violent crime) applicants and VAWA (victims of domestic violence) petitions. They may charge a nominal fee.

Catholic Migration Office
http://www.dioceseofbrooklyn.org/ministries/migration
1258 65th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11219
Between 12th and 13th Avenues
Phone: 718-236-3000 Fax: (718) 256-9707 Email: migration@dioceseofbrooklyn.com
Directions: Subway - D train to 62nd Street, Brooklyn; N train to New Utrecht Avenue
There is another office in Queens at 51-27 Queens Blvd., Woodside (near the corner of 51 Street). For an appointment, please call (718) 651-5490. Wheelchair Accessible: N
Languages Spoken: French, Haitian Creole, Mandarin Chinese, Polish, Italian, and Spanish
Other Requirements: Do not serve prisoners or in detention centers.
The Catholic Migration Office assists immigrants in the following areas: green cards, family petitions/adjustment of status, family unity (legal status for family members of "Amnesty Applicants"), conditional residence removal, overseas visa appointments, temporary and permanent labor visas, extension of temporary visa, citizenship, political asylum, special immigrants (religious workers, juveniles, abused spouses of U.S. residents or citizens), travel documents (reentry permit, advance parole), visa lottery (Diversity Visa Program), photographs, and consultation on any immigration problem. The Catholic Migration Service also offers English as a Second Language (ESL) and citizenship test preparation classes and occupational training.

City Bar Justice Center (Formerly City Bar Fund)
http://www.abcny.org/citybarfund/index.htm
42 West 44th Street New York, NY 10036
Phone: (212) 382-6710
Languages: Spanish and French.
Services are limited to individuals seeking asylum, domestic violence survivors seeking legal status, and human trafficking victims. Their website includes a number of resources including a guide for accessing public benefits.

Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM) – Azaadi Legal Defense
www.drumnation.org
72-26 Broadway, 4th Floor Jackson Heights, NY 11372
Phone: (718) 205 3036 Fax: (718) 205 3037 Email: info@drumnyc.org
Languages: Bangla, Hindi, Urdu, and Gujarati
Azaadi (meaning ‘Freedom’ in Urdu & Hindi) Legal Defense provides multi-lingual immigration services including referrals for free and low-cost immigration lawyers for deportation cases, deportee family advocacy referrals for housing, status adjustment, public benefits. They are able to advocate with DHS/ICE officials and support South Asians being deported from Canada.

The DOOR
www.door.org
121 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10013
Varick and Broome Streets (entrance on Broome Street)
Phone 212-941-9090, extension 3280
Directions: Subway - 1, 9, or A to Canal Street; C, E to Spring Street. Bus - M6 or M10 to Broome Street; M8 to 6th Avenue
Membership to Door’s services is free, but you are required to make an appointment for an interview. If your problem is an emergency such as imminent removal of children by the Administration for Children's Services, deportation within a week, imminent danger of losing housing or public benefits, and serious physical danger the Door may be able to help.

Goeken Law
www.goekenlaw.com
233 5th Ave New York, NY 10016
Phone 212-518-3302 and Fax 646-706-7574
An LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) friendly law firm that focuses on wills, adoptions, domestic partnerships, and immigration. Goeken works with AALDEF to occasionally offer pro-bono or low cost legal assistance.

Legal Services NYC
www.legalservicesnyc.org
89-02 Sutphin Boulevard Jamaica, New York 11435
Phone: (718) 657-8611 Fax: (718) 526-5051
*Several more offices exist throughout the city
Provides free or low cost legal services to low income New Yorkers who need support in the civil legal system. This includes family (divorce, custody) benefits (food stamps, welfare, Medicare) consumer and education (unlawful, excessive and arbitrary suspension of students). LSNY has several offices throughout the city, some of which take on special projects that address the needs of seniors, victims of domestic violence (restraining orders, petitions for relief under VAWA), victims of predatory lending practices (foreclosure assistance), immigrants (family based immigration petitions, green card and work permit renewals, naturalization applications and appeals), and people with HIV (denial of housing or other benefits).

Legal Aid
www.legal-aid.org/en/ineedhelp.aspx
199 Water Street
New York, NY 10038
Phone: (212) 577-3300 and (212) 577-3456 -Immigration Law Unit Main Office
*Several more offices exist throughout the city including the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center, 262 Kingston Avenue, and Brooklyn, 718-773-6886
Languages: Offers a number of translation services, including American Sign Language
Legal Aid is a federally funded program that provides pro-bono assistance to people who are low-income in criminal, civil and juvenile matters. Legal Aid helps U (victims of violent crime) or T (trafficking victims) Visa applicants, asylum seekers, or VAWA petitioners who are in the process of obtaining legal service. Coordinates with the Juvenile Immigration Representation Project for persons aged 18 and under in removal proceedings. A self-help guide is available online with answers to common legal questions.

New York State Youth Leadership Council
www.nysylc.org
137-139 West 25th Street, 12th Floor New York, New York 10001-7277
Phone: 212-627-2227 ext. 248
The goal of the NYSYLC is to develop a grassroots movement led by immigrant youth and children of immigrants through leadership development, advocacy, and organizing. We believe that improving access to higher education and creating equal opportunity for immigrant youth are a means to fulfill our mission. We will be awarding scholarships to undocumented students.

NORTHERN MANHATTAN COALITION FOR IMMIGRANT RIGHTS
www.nmcir.org
665 W. 182nd Street New York, NY 10033
Phone: (212) 781-0648 Fax: (212) 781-0943 Contact: Mayra Angelica Rios
Languages: Spanish
Legal services are limited to non-detained cases (people who are not in immigration detention facilities/prison.

Safe Horizon – Immigration Legal Services
www.safehorizon.org
74-09 37th Avenue, Room 308 Jackson Heights, NY 11372
Phone: (718) 899-1233 ext. 129
Languages: Spanish and Russian
Offers legal services relating to asylum for survivors of domestic abuse, persecution, and/or torture. SH represents those with non-violent criminal offenses. May charge nominal fee.

RESOURCES FOR SELF-ADVOCACY

In addition to accessing pro-bono or low cost legal assistance it is vital you research information on your own. Lawyers have a huge caseload so they usually cannot spend a lot of time with you. It helps if you are honest, bring all documents to your first meeting and continually shared important information with them to move the case along.

The following are a list of agencies that release information you continually follow up with in order to stay informed on the latest news and policy changes relating to immigration law. If something seems relevant to your case, learn as much as you can about it and talk about it with your lawyer or write him/her letter explaining how you think it might help your case.

NOTE: Lawyers generally appreciate clients who don't rely on the lawyer to do everything but take responsibility for their case, meaning they are proactive about finding out and sharing information related to the case. Never act like you know more than him/her. If you feel your lawyer is not representing you fairly you have the right to terminate your relationship and/or seek another attorney. You might liable for any fees of services rendered.

Asian American and Pacific Islander DREAMS (AAPI DREAMS)
www.aapidream.com
AAPI Dreams is a California based online forum for undocumented students. The site promotes the sharing of stories and support. You can make your own post and learn from an online community of undocumented students advocating for improved access to higher education.

Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs and Language Services
http://www.nyc.gov/html/imm/html/home/home.shtml
The MOIALS promotes the interest and needs of immigrants and provides language-related services to immigrants in collaboration with community-based organizations.

Law Help
http://www.lawhelp.org/NY/
Get free legal advice on a number of immigration resources.

American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)
http://www.aila.com/
Produces newsletters and updates on policy changes and developments in immigration law.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
www.uscis.gov
USCIS is the office that releases and processes forms relating to immigration. They regularly release important updates on changes in immigration procedure or policy through their website.

TIPS TO MOVE YOUR CASE ALONG

Typically lawyers are busy people, but organizations providing pro-bono (free) or low cost legal support are often overwhelmed with more people they can help. There are a number of things you can do to help get your case heard and move it along faster:
  1. Collect all immigration related documents such as visas, passports, I-94s, notice to appear for a hearing or deportation notices (even documents appear repetitive or unnecessary keep them) relevant to your entry and stay here in the states. Bring these to the first meeting you have with your attorney and keep photocopies of all your documents.
  2. Write a biography or bullet point description of everything that has happened to you relating your immigration status. Include exact dates, reference legal forms/documents, and past consultations with immigration attorneys, outcomes of hearings in front of an immigration judge, filings with the court and any judgments. Include names, case numbers, and any other detailed information relevant to your case.
  3. Ask a non-profit, community based organization or advocate your work with to write a letter on your behalf to a volunteer attorney or legal service.

LEGAL GUIDES IN SOUTH ASIAN LANGUAGES


The following sites include information about consumer, family and juvenile, housing, individual rights, workers rights, seniors, disability, health, immigration, public benefits and taxes.

Arabic
http://www.lawhelp.org/NY/StateForeignLanguages.cfm/County/%20/City/Queens%20Village/demoMode/%3D%201/Language/1/State/NY/TextOnly/N/ZipCode/%20/LoggedIn/0/viewlanguage/27

Bengali
http://www.lawhelp.org/NY/StateForeignLanguages.cfm/County/%20/City/Queens%20Village/demoMode/%3D%201/Language/1/State/NY/TextOnly/N/ZipCode/%20/LoggedIn/0/viewlanguage/16

Farsi
http://www.lawhelp.org/NY/StateForeignLanguages.cfm/County/%20/City/Queens%20Village/demoMode/%3D%201/Language/1/State/NY/TextOnly/N/ZipCode/%20/LoggedIn/0/viewlanguage/18

Hindi
http://www.lawhelp.org/NY/StateForeignLanguages.cfm/County/%20/City/Queens%20Village/demoMode/%3D%201/Language/1/State/NY/TextOnly/N/ZipCode/%20/LoggedIn/0/viewlanguage/10

Urdu
http://www.lawhelp.org/NY/StateForeignLanguages.cfm/County/%20/City/Queens%20Village/demoMode/%3D%201/Language/1/State/NY/TextOnly/N/ZipCode/%20/LoggedIn/0/viewlanguage/11

ACCESSING AND FINANCING YOUR EDUCATION AS AN UNDOCUMENTED STUDENT

(Adapted from CUNY Law School’s Immigration Services Website)

QUALIFYING FOR INSTATE TUITION

All students, including undocumented students, benefit from a 2001 New York State law that expanded who can qualify for resident tuition. That law allows students, including undocumented students, to pay resident tuition if they:
  • Were enrolled in CUNY for the Fall 2001 semester, and qualified for in-state tuition at that time
  • Attended a New York State high school for two or more years, graduated, and applied to attend a CUNY institution within five years of receiving a New York State diploma; or
  • Attended an approved New York State program for the GED exam preparation, received a Graduate Equivalency Diploma (GED) from New York State, and applied to attend a CUNY institution within five years of receiving the New York State GED.
Individuals qualifying based on the 2001 state law are eligible for in-state tuition even if they have not resided in New York State for one year. CAUTION: To get in-state tuition, undocumented immigrants must file an affidavit stating that they have applied to legalize their status, OR that they will apply to do so as soon as they are eligible. Your college can provide you with a sample affidavit.

NOTE: Several other states -- Texas, California, Utah, Illinois, Washington, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Kansas -- have passed state laws providing in-state tuition benefits to illegal aliens (undocumented students) who have attended high school in the state for three or more years. Similar legislation is pending in Florida, Hawaii, Maryland (legislation passed, but awaiting governor's signature), Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. (Connecticut and Wisconsin also passed such a law, but their governors vetoed it.) The Nevada system of higher education does not consider immigration status for in-state tuition, but does require it for a state-sponsored scholarship. Also, some schools in Georgia provide in-state tuition benefits to illegal aliens. The Texas law also allows illegal aliens to receive state student financial aid2.

FEDERAL FINANCIAL AID
(Adapted from http://www.finaid.org/otheraid/undocumented.phtml)

Federal Financial Aid is NOT available to undocumented students. If you are undocumented do not apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You may be eligible for private loans or scholarships.

If you are a US Citizen or have legal status but one or more of your parents are undocumented, you ARE eligible for federal student aid. However, if the parents supply a fake or stolen social security number (SSN) on the form, the student's FAFSA will be rejected when the parent's social security number fails to match. The FAFSA may also be rejected when the parents submit a SSN or Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) that is valid for work purposes only. If the parents do not have a social security number or the social security number fails the match, they should use 000-00-0000 as their social security number on the FAFSA form.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR UNDOCUMENTED NY STUDENTS

CUNY has limited scholarships available for undocumented students. If you graduated from a New York City high school, public or private, with a B average or better, you may qualify for a New York City Council-Vallone Academic Scholarship. To get a Vallone scholarship, you must enroll in a CUNY college within two semesters of your high school graduation. To keep the scholarship, you must maintain a B average or better in college. Also, some schools offer scholarships based on merit. Speak with an admissions counselor for further information on the Vallone Academic Scholarship, other scholarships, financial assistance, and how to apply to CUNY. Applications are also available on the CUNY web site, www.cuny.edu, and from the Office of Admission Services (Call toll-free: 1-800-CUNY-YES).

The full tuition grants of the CUNY Honors College are also available to undocumented students. The Honors College is available to only the most outstanding students. In addition to the full tuition grant, Honors College students receive a stipend and many other benefits. For additional information about the CUNY Honors College contact:

Macaulay Honors College
www.macaulay.cuny.edu
35 West 67th Street New York, NY 10023
Phone: 212-729-2900 Fax: 212-580-8130 Email: info@mhc.cuny.edu

There are also a few private scholarships for undocumented students that do not require the student to be a US citizen or resident or have a social security number in order to apply. Information about such scholarships can be found in the FastWeb www.fastweb.com scholarship search. Other good resources include the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) www.maldef.org and the Salvadoran American Leadership and Educational Fund www.salef.org. Also consult the University of Southern California’s Website at www.usc.edu/dept/chepa

Always Inquire for any Scholarship:
  • Whether they will need a social security number (don’t falsify one)
  • Deadlines (receipt or postmarked) and set appropriate benchmarks for yourself
  • How the scholarship will be paid out (check to you, directly to the school, etc)

LEGISLATION OF INTEREST


The DREAM Act would allow many of these students to earn Lawful Permanent Residency and United States citizenship by going to college or serving in the United States military. It is the only hope for millions of youth in our communities.

To support the passage of the DREAM Act consult:

United We DREAM Campaign
http://208.109.62.149/issues/immigration/unitedwedream/

Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund
www.maldef.org

National Conference of State Legislatures: Immigrant Policy Project
www.ncsl.org/programs/immig/

National Council of La Raza
www.nclr.org

National Immigration Law Center
www.nilc.org

National Korean American Service and Education Consortium
www.nakasec.org

7 comments:

  1. La Marichola said...

    Please include the NYSYLC as your reference list


    The goal of the NYSYLC is to develop a grassroots movement led by immigrant youth and children of immigrants through leadership development, advocacy, and organizing. We believe that improving access to higher education and creating equal opportunity for immigrant youth are a means to fulfill our mission.

    Our website www.nysylc.org

    We will be awarding scholarships to undocumented students and would love to partner up with you!  

  2. David said...

    this post is SO LONG  

  3. Marilla said...

    i know :(

    knowing how to to do blog "jumps" would be great... right about now.  

  4. Legal services said...

    Nice and informative post...
    Regards,
    cc

    Legal process outsourcing(LPO)
     

  5. DreamACTivist said...

    Thanks for this.

    -Undocumented South Asian kid  

  6. Anonymous said...

    keep it up  

  7. wow power leveling said...

 

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