Arielle Wisbaum

  • Hosted by New York Lawyers for the Public Interest
  • Sponsored by AIG, Sullivan & Cromwell LLP
  • Service location New York, New York
  • Law school Cornell Law School
  • Issue area LGBTQ+ Rights
  • Fellowship class year 2020
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Arielle provides holistic advocacy for transgender, gender-nonconforming, intersex (TGNCI) and/or HIV+ immigrant New Yorkers to gain immigration status and access to health care—including gender-affirming procedures—through direct immigration legal services, community partnerships, and legislative advocacy.

There are an estimated 15,000 to 50,000 transgender undocumented individuals in the U.S. Undocumented TGNCI individuals, doubly marginalized due to citizenship status and gender identity, face particular vulnerabilities: one in four transgender individuals report experiencing discrimination in health care, and one in three report verbal harassment or refusal of treatment. Disparities in care are compounded when an individual is undocumented, and as a result, uninsured. Further, TGNCI undocumented individuals are often criminalized and detained due to police profiling, targeting and harassment. If detained, TGNCI individuals are subject to conditions that lead to rapid deterioration in their physical and mental health, such as solitary confinement, inconsistent administration of HIV medication, and denial of hormones.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

During the first year of the Fellowship, Arielle has:

  • Launched the UndocuCare TGNCI+ Project and provided immigration legal representation to 25 individuals who identify as transgender and/or are living with HIV, including work permits granted for 10 clients with their correct gender marker
  • Solidified a community partnership with the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project (QDEP) and presented to members on access to health care and other public benefits for immigrant New Yorkers
  • Advocated on behalf of asylum seekers to have harmful ankle monitors removed
  • Established a mutual referral partnership with the LGBT Community Center of Manhattan, ensuring that TGNCI clients obtain access to gender-affirming health insurance navigation
  • Hosted a legal name change clinic and training with the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF) for fellowship sponsors AIG and S&C, who took on clients’ legal name change cases pro bono

Next Steps

In the next six months, Arielle plans to:

  • Ensure continued access to health care and gender-affirming procedures for clients and continue representing TGNCI clients and/or clients living with HIV in their immigration proceedings
  • Work with clients to obtain identity documents with their correct legal name and gender
  • Deepen expertise for T-visa and U-visa cases for survivors of trafficking and other crimes and increase outreach to NYC-based and sex-worker led organizations already doing this work


Introducing the 2020 Fellows Fighting for the LGBTQ+ Community

While working at the border and in immigrant detention centers outside of New York City, I saw firsthand how manageable illnesses can turn fatal in immigrant detention—especially for LGBTQ and HIV+ folks.

Arielle Wisbaum /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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Rafael Varela

Host: Community & Economic Development Clinic at CUNY School of Law

Sponsor: The Paul Rapoport Foundation