Callen (they/them/theirs) will represent low-income immigrants in New York City who are entangled in the immigration and criminal legal systems on workers’ rights and related immigration issues through direct representation, systemic litigation, and policy reform.
Immigrant workers in low-wage and informal jobs in New York City face exploitative working conditions with little recourse. For immigrant workers who are also entangled in the immigration and/or criminal legal systems (“crimmigration systems”), the consequences are dire: deadly workplace conditions, discrimination, wage theft, financial instability due to job loss, and the ever-looming threat of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
While NYC law affords workers many protections, low-wage immigrant workers are unable to enforce these rights without legal representation, and fear of repercussions often prevents immigrant workers from asserting their rights. When these workers are arrested, even when charges are dismissed, immigration and workplace consequences may remain. Located within a public defense office, the project will provide representation for low-wage immigrant workers entangled in the immigration systems who are otherwise isolated and hard to reach.
Callen will represent immigrant workers at Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS) involved in the immigration and criminal legal systems on issues of worker safety, paid leave, wage theft, and discrimination via administrative agency enforcement, litigation, arbitration, and mediation. For undocumented workers, Callen will work with BDS’s immigration practice to file U and T Visa applications for clients whose work conditions make them eligible for this form of immigration relief. Additionally, Callen will create materials to educate attorneys working within the immigration and criminal legal systems about common workers’ rights claim their clients may have.
I was drawn to Brooklyn Defender Services because of their commitment to building worker power for those who are often most excluded from safe, equitable workplaces.
Callen Lowell /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow
August ( they/them/theirs) will help low-income LGBT elders thrive by providing culturally responsive legal services, outreach, and education in the areas of housing and estate planning. Due to lifetimes of discrimination and formative development characterized by stigmatization, many elders who are members of the LGBT community face greater economic, social, and legal disparities as compared to their non-LGBT peers. Accordingly, LGBT elders need more legal resources to ensure equitable access to housing and to secure their chosen family and final directives.
However, LGBT elders in Chicago lack legal resources that are culturally responsive to their particular needs. While some resources in Chicago serve seniors generally, many LGBT elders are hesitant to access these services out of fear of harassment, discrimination, or invalidation. August’s project will meet this unmet need by establishing the first resource in Chicago specifically designed to provide culturally responsive legal advocacy to low-income LGBT elders.
August went to law school because of their desire to advocate for vulnerable, marginalized members of the community, especially elders and individuals living with disabilities. August developed this project because their identity as a queer, non-binary person as well as their professional legal experiences helped them recognize that elders in the LGBT community face intersectional marginalization and therefore need more culturally responsive legal resources to ensure LGBT elders can age equitably and with dignity.
August’s project will establish mobile legal clinics at LGBT-supportive organizations where LGBT elders can receive culturally responsive legal services, including assistance completing estate planning documents, and representation in state court proceedings concerning issues including housing, eviction, and landlord-tenant disputes. Additionally, August’s project will develop a pro bono initiative in which volunteer attorneys in the Chicago area will help LGBT elders complete advance directives and power of attorney documents in workshops hosted at LGBT-supportive locations. Finally, August’s project will develop and implement an interactive educational campaign to provide LGBT elders with a culturally responsive space to access and discuss information about common legal issues.
As a member of the LGBT community, I wanted to work to ensure that the elders of my community have the resources and support they need to age with dignity and pride.
August Hieber /
2019 Equal Justice Works Fellow
Rebecca developed replicable strategies to dismantle the Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline through policy advocacy, trainings, education, collaboration with local stakeholders, and engagement of girls in DC trapped in a cycle of victimization.
For girls, sexual abuse is one of the primary predictors of entry into the juvenile system due to the criminalization of their reaction to trauma. The most common coping mechanisms for abuse—running away, substance abuse, and truancy—are also the most common crimes for which girls are arrested. When girls are released into the community with their trauma untreated, their coping behaviors resume, they are arrested again, experience further traumatization and disconnection from their community, have more serious system involvement, and the cycle of victimization continues. This is the Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline (“Pipeline”). While there has been national policy conversation about the plight of girls involved in the juvenile justice system and the need to develop strategies to dismantle the Pipeline, no concrete steps to protect girls from this cycle have been made on a local level and more collaboration is needed across systems, service providers, and communities.
In the past two years, Rebecca has:
- Co-created the LOUD Brown Girls, later renamed Life of Girls, workshop series to empower girls who had touched the juvenile justice system and spearheaded all of Rights4Girls youth engagement work
- Educated over 1361 allies, partners, and service providers about the Pipeline through workshops, panels, presentations, and webinars
- Served as lead faculty for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) judicial institute, where she trained judges on domestic child sex trafficking
- Served as one of the lead editors of the “I am the Voice” publication which uplifts the visual and written work of girls in the juvenile justice system.
Now that the Fellowship is complete, Rebecca plans to continue her work at Rights4Girls as a Staff Attorney and build upon the project she started during her fellowship to engage vulnerable youth and empower them to be powerful advocates for change. She also plans to continue her work training judges and service providers about the unique needs of girls in the juvenile justice system.