Elvis’ project aimed to address the emerging and urgent legal needs of older adults with comprehensive, free civil legal services, policy advocacy, and community education.
Over 120,000 older New Yorkers experience elder abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation each year. Elvis will address specific and common examples of elder abuse, including older adults forced to live in abusive households because family members or friends have moved into their homes, and theft of the older adults’ lifetime savings, homes, retirement funds, and SNAP benefits. Elder abuse can result in poverty, loss of sustenance and proper nourishment, risk of homelessness, and physical and psychological abuse
As a native New Yorker and the son of proud Dominican immigrants, Elvis witnessed the suffering of indigent, disenfranchised individuals in his community and continues to struggle for the social, economic, and universal rights of the most vulnerable New Yorkers on a daily basis. Elvis continued his career in public interest work and social justice by fulfilling the mission of New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) and providing high-quality legal services to the unfortunate victims of elder abuse.
Elvis tackled complex cases using a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach made possible by the Elder Justice Program. Elvis worked on a variety of civil legal issues such as financial exploitation, powers of attorney and other advance planning/authorization documents, public benefits, housing, orders of protection, and guardianship. Additionally, he built a referral network by participating in the New York City Elder Abuse Center’s multidisciplinary team meetings, which allowed him to collaborate with other supportive service providers. He also represented the NYLAG at community events and engaged in outreach and educational activities to help identify older victims of crime.
Maria provided immigration legal services to unaccompanied children through direct representation, enhanced local capacity among pro bono and other nonprofit partners, and established coordinated social services for unaccompanied children and families in the metro Atlanta area.
Unaccompanied children are not provided appointed legal representation, which forces children to find attorneys to help them in their immigration proceedings on their own. Those children released to sponsors in Georgia are particularly vulnerable given the scarce number of non-profit legal services in the area and because the path to obtaining legal relief is particularly challenging in Atlanta, one of the most difficult immigration court jurisdictions in the country. In addition, rapidly changing immigration policies and greatly increased immigration enforcement in the Atlanta area have heightened the vulnerabilities of these children. Compounding the legal challenges and demands these children face, unaccompanied children in Georgia also face hurdles in navigating their eligibility for social services in the area.
During the two-Fellowship period, Maria:
- Provided full representation to 37 unaccompanied children seeking Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), asylum, T-visas, U-visas, and DACA applications
- Provided intakes and consultations to 40 unaccompanied children, including consultations via WhatsApp as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic
- Trained over 150 lawyers in the Atlanta Metro Area and Northern Georgia to represent unaccompanied minors in immigration proceedings, and mentored over 50 cases placed with pro bono attorneys
- With the support of Microsoft and Fish & Richardson attorneys, created a manual to assist pro bono attorneys assisting children with seeking SIJS and asylum in Georgia
Maria continues to represent unaccompanied children as a staff attorney with KIND in Atlanta. She also uses her expertise to recruit and mentor pro bono attorneys who can represent unaccompanied children.