Bianca Smith

The Project

Through the Crime Victims Justice Corps, Bianca helped victims of financial crimes, including  victims who have been affected by identity theft and domestic abuse. 

The Inspiration

The Inspiration

The Project

Madeline provided direct legal services and outreach with the goal of obtaining legal status for immigrant children, including victims of violence, those who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected, and DREAMers—individuals eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Immigrant children are often isolated from legal resources that could enable them to obtain legal immigration status. Cultural, economic, and language barriers, common to all immigrants, are compounded for a child. Undocumented immigrant children, many of whom are fearful of having their status discovered, are unable to plan for their future. This project provides direct immigration legal services to children in Northern Virginia—a region experiencing rapid growth in its immigrant populations and a lack of services adequate to meet the need—so that these individuals do not fear deportation and can grow up to be successful adults.

Highlights to Date

In the first year, Madeline has:

  • Helped 32 immigrant children obtain relief from deportation and legal immigration status, including T-Visas, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and prosecutorial discretion
  • Provided legal consultations for 150 clients
  • Collaborated with local private attorneys who work with children to educate them on the remedies available for undocumented immigrant children
  • Worked with other service providers to expand services available to undocumented immigrant children
  • Conducted trainings on Special Immigrant Juvenile Status for guardians ad litem
  • Identified a way to sustain her project beyond her Fellowship term

The Project

Jessica provided legal services, outreach, and advocacy in the areas of housing, education, and access to healthcare to low-income families in Washington, D.C. (DC) who are confronting health-harming legal barriers to managing their children’s asthma. This fellowship extends Children’s Law Center’s (CLC) existing medical-legal partnership (MLP) with Children’s National Health System’s IMPACT DC, Mary’s Center for Maternal and Child Health Care and Unity Health Care Minnesota Avenue Clinic by focusing on asthma.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project

One in five children living in DC has asthma, a rate substantially higher than any state in the nation. Additionally, children living in poverty are at greater risk of acute and severe asthma attacks that lead to more emergency room (ER) visits, hospitalizations and death. In large part this risk is due to substandard housing, lack of access to critical preventive health care, and schools who are not providing adequate supports. Health providers are the first responders for children with asthma, and as such are best positioned to screen for non-medical issues that are impacting a child’s health. Ensuring that a lawyer is part of the treatment team for low-income families strengthens the team’s capacity to impact a child’s health. Embedding legal services within the clinical intervention team helps to ensure children are not denied access to necessary medications, healthy housing and accommodations in school.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Jessica has:

  • Represented and advocated for families of children with severe asthma to ensure that the children can access their education, live in a safe home and to help eliminate other barriers to health
  • Successfully negotiated for repairs and for clients to move to new homes with no housing code violations
  • Developed training materials and conducted training for medical and community partners and families
  • Participated in a working group which successfully advocated for ground-breaking mold legislation in DC
  • Began development of an asthma advocacy toolkit that will provide useful information for families in DC to navigate legal barriers to managing their children’s asthma

Where are they now?

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Jessica plans to:

  • Continue to provide legal services, outreach and advocacy for families of children with asthma seeking legal assistance as a Staff Attorney at CLC
  • Finalize and disseminate an asthma advocacy toolkit
  • Work on-site at a medical partner clinic, conduct trainings and provide 1:1 consultation with clinicians

The Project

Emily Bachman Brock represented children aged 15 and younger in immigration court. These children are recent arrivals, many of them victims of violence and persecution in their home countries, and they have traveled here alone. Additionally, Emily supported pro se respondents who are outside the age limitations of the justice AmeriCorps program with “Know Your Rights” presentations, assistance in finding pro bono counsel and helping to support pro bono counsel on children’s cases.

The Project

Marques worked to end modern-day debtors’ prisons in the greater DC area, through direct representation and policy advocacy for individuals subject to overly onerous fines, fees and jail time for minor offenses.

Many state and local governments increasingly rely on excessive fees and fines levied against people entangled in the criminal justice system. Courts often use unconstitutional tactics to collect these fines and fees, including the arrest and jailing of those who cannot afford to pay without providing a hearing to determine ability to pay or offering alternatives to payment. Although bail can only be used to secure a defendant’s appearance, many jurisdictions now use bail as a tool to detain individuals who cannot afford to pay, or to extract high bond fees, in situations where there is no public safety benefit to keeping the person detained. Individuals in the greater Washington, DC area are spending time in jail because they are unable to pay overly onerous fines, fees, and bail. Sending people to jail because they are unable to pay is unconstitutional and has significant collateral consequences, including job loss and threats to housing and family stability.

Fellowship Highlights

During the Fellowship period, Marques has:

  • Developed a legal strategy to attack the incarceration of individuals for failure to pay court fees
  • Researched and analyzed the legal framework for challenges to improper fees and fines
  • Created a court watching program that identifies practices that criminalize low-income individuals
  • Built a partnership with the Maryland Office of the Public Defender to identify and attack practices that criminalize low-income individuals
  • Created a Coalition that led the effort to decriminalize the practice of arresting DC residents who were jailed because they could not afford to pay the metro fare
  • Prepared testimony against the proposed amendment to a drivers license suspension bill to help end the predatory practice of suspending licenses solely because individuals cannot pay their fines

What’s Next

Now that his Fellowship is complete, Marques will continue the work of his project with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee. He will also be filing an impact case aimed at addressing the detention of low-income defendants who are unable to pay Electronic Monitoring Fees.

Media

Chief Newsham is wrong. Police oversight is essential.

DC Pro Bono Week 2019: Pro Bono in Protest: Protecting First Amendment Freedoms in the District

The Project

Heather addressed the needs of individuals who may not meet the qualifications for the oath of citizenship waivers currently available but, because of their disability, are unable to complete the naturalization process with the accommodations offered.