Melanie Cuevas


Margarita’s project focused on extending civil legal services to mentally ill Spanish-speaking persons who are either marginally housed or homeless. She helped clients to obtain public benefits and housing and she identified appropriate issues for class action suits on behalf of the community.

The Project

Molly provided direct representation and legal education to abused, abandoned, and neglected undocumented youth and their caregivers in proceedings before the New York City Family Court and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project

This project was a special opportunity to proactively identify, counsel, and represent some of the tens of thousands of undocumented students in New York. Due to their undocumented status, many talented immigrant students forego higher education, become victims of workplace abuse, and fall prey to immigration consultant fraud. A unique visa called Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) provides lawful permanent residence and a pathway to citizenship, for vulnerable young people. SIJS has been underutilized due to misinformation and fear of court involvement, meaning that many eligible students miss out on educational and employment opportunities – a huge loss for our society and economy.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Molly has:
• Obtained lawful permanent residence (“green cards”), for seven New York City students who were abandoned and neglected by a parent
• Obtained Family Court Letters of Guardianship or Custody Orders to legally recognize the relationship between 29 students and their caregivers
• Collaborated with other non-profits to accept case referrals from parts of New York City where there is a severe shortage of free or affordable legal representation

Where are they now?

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Molly plans to:

• Recruit, train and mentor attorneys from New York City’s best law firms to represent Special Immigrant Juvenile Status-eligible students pro bono

• Conduct outreach and “know your rights” presentations for York City public school staff and families so that students eligible for permanent immigration relief are identified before that opportunity is lost