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 Immigrant Populations, LGBTQ+ Rights
  • Fellowship class year 2020
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Arielle provided holistic advocacy for transgender, gender-nonconforming, intersex (TGNCI), and HIV+ immigrant New Yorkers to gain immigration status and access to healthcare—including gender-affirming procedures—through direct immigration legal services, community partnerships, and legislative advocacy. This project worked to overcome barriers to obtaining and sustaining meaningful access to gender-affirming healthcare and HIV/AIDS services by providing immigration legal services and pursuing public benefits 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

During the two-year Fellowship, Arielle:

  • Provided full immigration representation to 31 individuals who are of transgender or gender-diverse experience, or who are living with HIV
  • Helped five individuals become eligible for full New York State Medicaid or an Essential Plan, insurance which covers gender-affirming medical procedures and advocated for numerous others to obtain the public benefits for which they are eligible
  • Worked with the counsel from sponsors AIG and Sullivan & Cromwell to host a legal name change clinic, resulting in twelve clients being granted a legal name change to a name that aligns with their gender identity 
  • Conducted brief services, provided advice, and gave referrals to 47 individuals, and gave several presentations to community-based-organizations and healthcare providers throughout the city about access to benefits for immigrant and TGNCI New Yorkers
  • Advocated for the removal of harmful immigration surveillance devices, referred to by members of the community and advocates as “ankle shackles,” for 10 of her clients, and participated in broader advocacy to limit the use of such devices

Next Steps

Arielle will remain at her host organization as a staff attorney in the health justice program, where she will continue to zealously represent TGNCI immigrant community members and those living with HIV in their asylum, U- and T- visa applications.


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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