Our DC Pro Bono Week activities have won an award from the ABA’s And Justice for All: An ABA Day of Service initiative.
By Michael Lukens As part of this year’s DC Pro Bono Week, the Capital Area Immigrant’s Rights (CAIR) Coalition teamed up with area law firms to provide immigration-focused “Know Your Rights” presentations to students and families at three DC high schools. Lawyers from Baker Botts visited Theodore Roosevelt High School, lawyers from Covington & Burling visited Cardozo Education Campus, and lawyers from Sutherland Asbill & Brennen visited Bell Multicultural High School. At each school, students and their families received information about the rights, legal options, and potential pitfalls for noncitizens living in the United States. Topics included how immigration courts work, how to respond to police requests for identification, and how to avoid legal scams. Presentations were made in both English and Spanish. The attendees were delighted and full of questions—peppering some of the presenters long after the allotted time with questions about living as a noncitizen in Washington, DC. One young woman, intent on going to college, asked wonderful questions about how an immigrant could gain lawful status while also protecting her family. At another school, we learned that the process for going from a green card holder to citizen is not very well understood in the community—we were able to clarify the process and provide relief to some concerned attendees. The Know Your Rights presentations are a unique way for attorneys to get into the local community and provide a much-needed legal service without taking on a full pro bono case. Without these types of sessions, local communities often don't know where to find accurate immigration information. CAIR Coalition and Washington Council of Lawyers are grateful for the time and dedication of the attorneys and school officials involved.
Residents in four rent-controlled buildings in the Congress Heights neighborhood of Southeast DC fear losing their homes to redevelopment, the Post reports. As housing costs increase across the city, residents worry that plans for a new housing complex near the proposed Washington Wizards practice facility in Ward 8 will force them out of some of the last affordable housing in the city. Of the 47 units in the current complex, only 19 are currently occupied; residents claim the property owners are failing to make repairs in an attempt to "push people out." Although denying any attempt to force residents to vacate units, the owners confirm that they are "not currently making capital improvements" to the buildings in anticipation of the development project. Meanwhile, 19 families will likely soon be searching for affordable housing in a city that's increasingly inhospitable to low-income residents. According to Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless attorney Will Merrifield, who is representing the Congress Heights residents, the DC rental market "is so out of control that if you’re displaced from a rent-controlled apartment, it is essentially impossible to find housing." Similarly situated Ward 8 residents recently won abatement of unsanitary, unsafe housing conditions in a Congress Heights neighborhood, with the help of pro bono services from Howard and Catholic University law students.