Friends! This May, I will (no really I will!) be running the Brooklyn Half Marathon. I'm running to support a cause I feel passionately about and a tiny organization I love: Central American Legal Assistance (CALA). I’ve said this before - training for this is humbling, even more so this time around. Once again I'm just hoping my knees survive, my ankle too (no texting while walking down subway stairs, people!), and that most of you find a 7am start time too early to come watch. (Does this all sound familiar?) But this is an organization that has inspired and supported me over the years, and far more importantly, one that has helped thousands of kids and families fleeing torture and violence who had nowhere else to turn. And I honestly can’t imagine anything more important right now. So I'm doing this thing!
This morning, I was told that a 19 year old client of mine, and her 3 year old daughter - who have both spent the past YEAR in detention, who have a guardian appointed by a family court judge in Nassau County willing to take full responsibility for their care and ensure their enrollment in school etc., have a pending petition for relief, and nonetheless are being denied release - were going to be placed on a plane back to El Salvador. To nearly certain death. It took all day and a team of dozens, but thanks to a federal judge and an amazing collaboration between folks on every level they are safe for today (well, they are in a detention center that has been denied state certification as actually “safe” for kids, but hey) - but this is the kind of thing that CALA lawyers and staff do every day, with virtually no resources.
CALA has been operating out of a church basement in Brooklyn since 1986, when it opened its doors to serve the thousands of war refugees fleeing Central America and facing deportation back to countries where they faced civil war and massacre. Today, CALA is one of the city's largest providers of free deportation defense. Its clients are survivors of torture and trauma: women fleeing gender-based violence, LGBTQ individuals, children who have watched their peers fall victim to senseless murder, and resilient individuals who have fought to keep their communities safe from increasingly powerful criminal and trafficking organizations.
CALA's very limited resources go directly to serving as many indigent clients as possible, with inspiring lawyers working on very meager salaries and a whole lot of passion, dedication, and experience. Despite CALA's small staff and budget, its case load rivals even the most well-funded and staffed organizations in the city. And better yet - they usually win! Each weekday, they see every single individual who comes to their door seeking legal assistance. This makes them unique in a city full of immigration service providers with closed intakes and months-long waiting lists.
You all know how much this work means to me, and what a privilege it has been for me to represent youth and families like those CALA serves. Time and time again, I've seen what an incredible difference this organization makes in the lives of individuals who have fled persecution and are working to build a new life and give back to their community here. Please help me in supporting them! I am confident that every dollar I raise will be stretched to the maximum to serve a very vulnerable population.
Thank you so much in advance for any support - whether a donation in whatever amount you can or sending much-needed positive vibes my way as I again run (stumble) through my beloved borough from Prospect Park to Coney Island.
Much love and gratitude,
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