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The Hudson Independent featured Radina Valova, Senior Staff Attorney from Pace Energy and Climate Center in "Mothers Out Front Posts Video from Candidate Forum"

06/08/2020

The Hudson Independent featured Rad­ina Val­ova, Se­nior Staff At­tor­ney from Pace En­ergy and Cli­mate Cen­ter in "Mothers Out Front Posts Video from Candidate Forum"

The mod­er­a­tor, Rad­ina Val­ova, Se­nior Staff At­tor­ney from Pace En­ergy and Cli­mate Cen­ter, bril­liantly led the can­di­dates through ques­tions, some sub­mit­ted by com­mu­nity mem­bers in­clud­ing a lo­cal Sleepy Hol­low high school stu­dent and a five year old from Tar­ry­town.

Spon­sors for this event in­cluded: Pace Uni­ver­sity, the NY League of Con­ser­va­tion Vot­ers, the Sleepy Hol­low En­vi­ron­men­tal Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee, Tar­ry­town En­vi­ron­men­tal Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil, and Bike Tar­ry­town.

At­ten­dees were treated to mu­sic by lo­cal artists and en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists, Fred Gillen, Jr. and An­drea Galassi, LL.M. (Pace Law).

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"The Hudson Independent" featured Law Professor Vanessa Merton in "Local Immigrants Face Changes"

03/06/2018

"The Hudson Independent" featured Law Professor Vanessa Merton in "Local Immigrants Face Changes"

Vanessa Merton is tired. Not end-of-a-long-day tired, but rather the deep exhaustion from a day that never ends. Professor Merton directs a small team at the Immigration Justice Clinic of the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University. Armed with caffeine and the rule of law, they offer free advice and representation to eligible immigrants seeking to prove their legal status. “Things are massively different than a year ago,” says Merton, and not just for undocumented immigrants.

Merton tells the story of a Marie (not her real name), a client who went through the immigration court system years ago. Marie has worked legally for over a decade, but now fears being deported. “She had a classic asylum case,” Merton says. Before coming here, Marie ran a bakery in Haiti. Government officials demanded that she fire her experienced staff and hire politically connected replacements. She refused. “One night,” Merton says, “they drove trucks into her house. Banging and shooting. She threw her children under a mattress. She doesn’t know how they made it through the night.” Marie had a valid visitor visa, and used it to come to the United States to apply for asylum. Immigration Court granted her a “Withholding of Removal” status, allowing her to stay. Her children are citizens, and she is being sponsored for citizenship. “She’s 59 and works as a home health aide for disabled persons,” Merton says. “Old, settled cases like hers are being re-opened daily. Many don’t even know they have become illegal.”

These re-opened cases are being added to an already crowded court calendar. At the end of 2017, 4,789 Westchester residents were awaiting immigration hearings, part of a national backlog of over 667,000 cases. In Greenburgh alone, 321 residents are waiting an average of 3.2 years for their cases to be processed.

To Merton, this docket is a sign of “the endless struggle to get the federal government to follow its own laws.” Some people being deported have legal status; some are even citizens. She describes one 17-year-old boy who cried out to her in a detention center. “Lawyer! Lawyer! They are going to deport me. I don’t know how this can be happening.” The boy’s father, an American citizen who had raised him here, had recently died. Born in Guinea, his birth certificate listed only his mother’s name. Merton had “a video of him delivering the eulogy at his father’s funeral. Innumerable affidavits. Finally, I told them we’re going to exhume his father, do DNA testing, and you’re going to pay for the whole thing. Only then did the court agree he was a citizen. It would have cost him over $15,000 if he could even find a lawyer to spend seven years on one case.” Merton worries about the hundreds calling her clinic that she cannot help. She knows that some of those callers have, or could prove, legal status but may be deported without a lawyer.

Increasingly, a lawyer is no guarantee of an orderly process. In January, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued new guidelines expanding the ability to make arrests at courthouses, including of people appearing for their legalization hearing. Westchester County District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino, Jr. reacted to this change, “We need members of the immigrant community to feel they can be fairly processed and be willing to come forward as both witnesses and victims of crime. If they cannot feel confident in their treatment in our courts, justice will not be served.”

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