Living in Fear: Report Documents the Harm Inflicted on Immigrant Families, Children in Charlotte Area, Carolinas

Every day, immigrant families live in fear of separation and suffer from chronic stress while struggling to build a stable life in a community that keeps them on the fringes.

These are the findings of a recent report documenting the harm of the Trump administration’s deliberate attacks on immigrants living in the Carolinas and across the U.S.

In collaboration with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and South Carolina Appleseed, the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) has released its findings based on interviews with a range of professionals serving the immigrant community—including childcare providers, nursing home visitors, health and mental health care providers, health insurance navigators, nutrition assistance providers, and legal service providers.

“The Trump Administration has repeatedly shown indifference to the effects of its policies and rhetoric on children across the country and in some cases is deliberately using harm to immigrant children as a political lever,” said Madison Allen, co-author of the Carolinas report and senior policy analyst/attorney at CLASP. “We found that parents are altering their daily lives and avoiding public health, nutrition, and education programs because of these relentless attacks. We heard stories about parents being detained in front of their children, kids who are afraid to go outside and play, and chronic stress that will have long-term consequences for many children.”

Charlotte’s foreign-born population makes up 10 percent of the total population, with most individuals coming from Latin America (50 percent) and Asia (31 percent). This population has grown significantly over the past 10 years.

With one in four children having at least one immigrant parent, the report illustrates the deliberate detrimental impact this administration’s rhetoric and policies are having on children and, by extension, our greater community.

Through interviews conducted between January and March 2020 in the Charlotte metro and Columbia, S.C. areas, recurring themes echoed the harmful and deep impacts families experience because of the Trump administration’s harmful rhetoric and zero-tolerance enforcement tactics.

Interviewees shared stories of how the constant, looming fear of immigration enforcement dramatically impacts daily life for immigrant parents and children in their communities.

Parents and caregivers are afraid to leave their homes to work or take care of everyday necessities out of fear that they will not return home to their families. That fear is not limited to adults either. Children of all ages are also experiencing and internalizing chronic stress and anxiety that impacts their health and wellbeing in ways that will linger for years.

Providers shared concerns about the children who are living at homes with chronic ongoing stress and what that means for their future. As a nurse practitioner explained, “the increase in cortisol and the inflammatory markers that go along with stress precipitates a lot of chronic disease.”

Families are also avoiding publicly funded health and nutrition services for which they are eligible specifically due to the administration’s new Public Charge rule. The rule, which went into effect Feb. 24, expands the types of benefits considered in the “public charge” immigration test administered to immigrants entering the country or seeking permanent residency to determine if they will become primarily dependent on the government for financial support.

The rule has faced several court challenges since going into effect with decisions just in the last month that have put it on hold and then resumed it again, adding to confusion about what options families have.

Immigrants without legal status do not qualify for most public benefits. Most immigrants with status who do qualify for public benefits along with all U.S. citizen family members are not subject to the rule. Also, several types of public benefits are not included in the assessment, such as WIC, NC Health Choice and Emergency Medicaid. This hasn’t stopped families from withdrawing from stabilizing programs out of fear.

In the report, Advocacy Center staff shared several stories of families choosing not to enroll in benefits.

One story involved a woman from Mexico who had been a U.S. citizen for 20 years. During a meeting to enroll in health coverage, a health insurance navigator shared that the woman was eligible to sign up for food stamps (SNAP benefits) based on her income. The woman declined “… because of the public charge, she thought it applied to her … and she was just really scared.”

Medical-Legal Partnership coordinator Elizabeth Setaro has been leading the Advocacy Center’s efforts to help families fight fear with facts.

“Through education and outreach, we are making sure families understand what they’re entitled to receive and have access to the necessary resources that ensure they remain stable during these uncertain times,” Setaro said.

On top of policy threats at the federal level, immigrant families in the Carolinas face added barriers when accessing safety net programs like Medicaid due to shortcomings in the state eligibility software and training for social services staff. These systems are difficult for most people to effectively navigate without assistance, especially when English is a second language.

CLASP’s research found that conditions for immigrant children and their families in the Carolinas were exacerbated by confusion, misinformation and limited availability of legal services, specifically in South Carolina.

In the Charlotte region, the Advocacy Center is the largest provider of free and low-cost legal services for immigrant families, but additional options for legal assistance are limited beyond hiring a private attorney.

Private immigration attorneys are often not well versed on immigrant eligibility for public benefits, which also adds to confusion and uncertainty.

The Advocacy Center fights to ensure equal access to resources under the law for immigrant families. That includes working with service providers and the immigrant community to help families understand and access local resources that are available, while also holding administrative and government systems accountable to provide services families are entitled to receive.

The report’s findings illustrate the need for policies that equitably ensure safety, economic security and stability for all families, including immigrants.

Such policies would enable all people to live their lives as productive citizens engaging in civic and economic life without fear and build a strong community that allows families to thrive.

Learn more by reading the report, “Trump Administration Immigration Policies Are Harming Children and Families in the Carolinas”.

New Driver’s License Restoration Program gets N.C. Residents Back on the Road to Opportunity

Driver’s License Restoration Program Builds on Statewide Effort to Forgive Fees, Minor Traffic Issues

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy has launched a Driver’s License Restoration program to help low-income individuals who have lost their driver’s licenses due to minor traffic violations and failure to pay court fees. The program builds upon the momentum of an initiative undertaken by the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office to forgive court fees for more than 11,000 Mecklenburg County residents now listed in the NC Fair Chance database.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is working to help those with suspended licenses understand their eligibility for fee forgiveness, and provide direct legal assistance to others. The goal of the organization’s Driver’s License Restoration program is to help Charlotteans drive legally, improving their access to employment, education and opportunity. 

“Speeding tickets and court fines are a relatively minor expense for many of us,” explained attorney Lashieka Hardin who coordinates Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Community Redevelopment project. “But for many Charlotte residents, those expenses compete with critical priorities like putting food on the table and keeping the lights on.”

One in seven North Carolina residents has had their driver’s license suspended, most often for simple violations that include running stop signs, speeding and failing to pay court fees and fines. Without the ability to legally drive to school, work or appointments, community members with suspended licenses face significant barriers to economic mobility. Without access to representation and funds to pay court fees and apply for restoration, these residents can face misdemeanor convictions and even incarceration. 

Several government and community partners are tackling this problem from different angles to help North Carolina residents, and Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is filling in the gaps. The Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office has forgiven fees for more than 11,000 residents who have lost their licenses.

Those whose offenses were two years old at the time were added to a web-based database compiled by NC Fair Chance, a project of the North Carolina Pro Bono Resource Center, the North Carolina Justice Center and district attorney partners across the state. While the database can be an easily accessible and user-friendly first step for the residents listed, it does not include all who may qualify. 

To check if your traffic fine or court fee was eliminated, please check the North Carolina Fair Chance database.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy will provide support for those listed in the database, and help those not listed understand their eligibility for debt forgiveness. For those whose driver’s licenses have been suspended for other reasons, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy may be able to provide direct legal services and representation. Once fees are forgiven and legal issues resolved, the organization will complete the process of restoring clients’ driver’s licenses, putting vulnerable Charlotteans on a path to better opportunity.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Driver’s License Restoration program is available to Mecklenburg County residents who earn less than 200% of the federal poverty level and do not have any pending traffic charges.

Those who have lost North Carolina driver’s licenses can call 704-376-1600 ext. 523 for more details. Clients will receive a free copy of their statewide driving record, and if eligible, their cases will be placed with a staff or volunteer attorney to complete the process of driver’s license restoration. 

Learn more about the Driver’s License Restoration Project.

Action Alert: A Second Chance for N.C. Residents

Roy Cooper and the N.C. Legislature give people with criminal records a second chance  

Yesterday, Gov. Roy Cooper signed the Second Chance Act (SB 562) into law after its unanimous passage in the N.C. General Assembly. This “clean slate” legislation expands eligibility for N.C. residents to have nonviolent criminal offenses removed from their records through expunctions.

This is welcome news for Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and the people it serves because it eliminates barriers to safety, economic stability and family security.   

Through its Community Redevelopment Project, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy helps eligible citizens get expunctions, which seal criminal records from public view and give people a second chance at a life as law-abiding citizens without barriers to opportunity.    

More than 2 million North Carolinians have a criminal record. Dismissed charges and old convictions have lasting consequences on individuals that impact their access to employment, housing and other opportunities.   

“The Second Chance Act is a welcomed fresh start for millions of North Carolinians with criminal records who would like a clean slate.”   

Lashieka Hardin, attorney, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy

“This legislation is also a significant step toward addressing the severe disparities that exist in our justice system that disproportionately impact people based on income and race,” Hardin said.   

The Second Chance Act is a critical step in the process of improving racial justice and equity in our society. The NAACP reports that a criminal record can reduce the likelihood of a job offer by almost 50 percent, and the negative impact of a criminal record is doubled for Black people. A Black person with a criminal record has a 10 percent chance of getting a call back compared to white men who have a 22 percent chance.

The Second Chance Act will provide Black men and women who are disproportionately charged and convicted of crimes the chance to pursue opportunity without a criminal record holding them back.  

What the Second Chance Act Will Do:

  • Automatic relief for certain misdemeanor and felony charges that are dismissed or disposed “not guilty.”
  • Relief for Juvenile offenders by allowing the expunction of misdemeanor and Class H or I felony convictions that occurred when a person was either 16 or 17 and before December 1, 2019.
  • Gives prosecutors the power to petition for the expunction of dismissed charges and charges disposed “not guilty” as well as “Raise the Age” convictions.
  • Expands eligibility by allowing individuals to petition for the expunction of nonviolent misdemeanor criminal convictions after seven years of good behavior.

If you think you qualify for an expunction or have any questions about the process, call Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy at 704-376-1600 ext 501. Also, tune in to our Facebook Live on Tuesday at noon for more detailed information about the Second Chance Act.    

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy believes all people deserve second chances at opportunity, and we’re glad to see that after many years, the state of North Carolina has taken a step toward that goal. 

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Governor Roy Cooper signed the Second Chance Act today, granting millions a second chance at opportunity.    

Share this message with your networks and encourage those who may qualify for an expunction to contact Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy for more information on what to do next.  

Learn more information about Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s work on expunctions through its Community Redevelopment Project.   

Celebrating Juneteenth

On June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas, the last group of enslaved people in the U.S. learned they were free two years after the Emancipation Proclamation ending slavery was issued. 

Today, Juneteenth marks this historic moment of celebration and deliverance. But 155 years later, here in 2020, there is still much work to be done for freedom.

In the face of police brutality and racism that we challenge today, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy stands with the Black community and its allies across the country in the movement to make change.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy has chosen to close its offices to observe Juneteenth as a small but important step toward racial reconciliation for our country. We observe this day to show support for our Black neighbors, colleagues and clients who deserve to be treated equally as human beings.

We celebrate Independence Day as a nation even though enslaved people were deliberately excluded from the ideals of freedom laid out in the Declaration of Independence.

We celebrate Juneteenth and imagine what our country could be if we prioritized racial justice and equity to build a truly inclusive democracy that realizes the ideals our country was founded upon.

Today also encourages dialogue around the deferred dream of freedom that has always existed for Black people in the United States. Though these people finally learned that slavery had ended 155 years ago, they were not truly free then, and neither are Black Americans today.

At Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, we fight for equal justice under the law every day for our clients, a majority of whom are people of color disproportionately impacted by poverty. Racial justice and equity are core to our work.

Black people were not included when the phrase “justice for all” was originally coined, yet equal justice for all is impossible to realize without eradicating the systemic racism that pervades our society.

We recognize the critical role our organization plays in building a more just community. Doing so requires taking a hard look at our practices and making sure that everything we do lives up to our standard of justice—one that truly ensures equity and opportunity for all.

Happy Juneteenth from Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy.

“[Recognizing Juneteenth] was an important, positive statement that is part of a larger demonstration of our agency to work toward racial reconciliation.”

Executive Director Kenneth Schorr in the Charlotte Observer: Amid anti-racism protests, Charlotte businesses make Juneteenth a paid holiday

Celebrate Juneteenth with us:

Educate yourself: Spend the day reading about Juneteenth’s history, including how black families felt after being emancipated. Watch the documentary 13th on Netflix, or engage with other movies, shows, books and podcasts about systemic racism.

Participate in online Juneteenth events: Tune in to the virtual Juneteenth music festival or online gala, the following contains information on local events  

Reflect: While slavery ended in 1865, systemic racism continues to this day. Use June 19 as a day to reflect on critical issues that perpetuate discrimination against black people in America and throughout the world.

Place a sign in your front yard: Raise awareness and show your support for Juneteenth by decorating a sign for your front yard or door. This is a great way to help educate younger kids in your neighborhood who may not know about the holiday.

Celebrate with a barbecue: Gather your friends and family together (safely) to celebrate freedom.

Keep the spirit of this special day alive by continuing to fight for justice for ALL!

Action Alert: Supreme Court Sides with DACA Recipients, Providing Relief for Immigrant Youth and Their Families

This decision emphasizes that DACA is right, and that for DACA recipients and their families: home is here.   

Today, the Supreme Court ruled to uphold the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in a 5-4 ruling that said the Trump administration’s reasoning for ending the program was “capricious and arbitrary.”  

In the decision for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote: “We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies. We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action.” 

Chief Justice Roberts added that the administration could try again if it provided adequate reasons for shutting down the program.

A joint statement from Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, Comunidad Colectiva, the Hispanic Federation, Action NC and Latin American Coalition:  

Today’s decision is a testament to what happens when directly impacted communities demand change. The Supreme Court sided with the American people- who overwhelmingly support the DACA program- and rejected the decision to deport immigrants who are American in every sense except by law.

This decision protects the lives of nearly 700,000 current DACA recipients, including more than 24,000 in North Carolina, and their families from deportation-for now. This decision affirms what we have always known: immigrants make America great. It comes as our country continues to struggle under COVID-19. During this time, DACA recipients and immigrants broadly have played critical roles in supporting our health systems and economy. 

Currently, 29 percent of all physicians, 38 percent of home health aides and 23 percent of retail-store pharmacists are foreign-born. Immigrants also make up a large proportion of essential staff in grocery stores, hospitals, sanitation and transportation. According to the Department of Homeland Security, nearly one-third of DACA recipients work in these essential jobs.
With this decision, DACA recipients and their families can continue to live safely in our community. Nearly 250,000 children in this country have a parent with DACA status. Since the Trump administration rescinded the program in 2017, immigrant youth, their families and allies across the country have been fighting to protect DACA. While this decision gives needed relief for DACA recipients and their families, immigration and deportation threats are far from over. 

Charlotte immigration advocacy groups including the Latin American Coalition, Hispanic Federation, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, Comunidad Colectiva, and Action NC call on the Trump administration to respect the decision of the Supreme Court and not try to end the program again. The administration must also instruct U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) not to share information that DACA recipients and their families have voluntarily given to the government with ICE.  

As we celebrate today’s decision, we also acknowledge how much more fighting for change there is still to do. While this decision is a welcome relief for many, there is still much to be done to protect the DACA program and its beneficiaries. One step is for people to make their voice heard by voting in the November election.  

This decision follows weeks of courageous organizing and protests from Black people and allies across the country to demand an end to police brutality, white supremacy and a call to reallocate police resources in ways that strengthen our community safety net. We stand with the immigrant and Black community and commit to fighting for their stability and safety.

Each of our advocacy groups are here to support dreamers and DACAmented individuals during this time. On Thursday, June 18 at 7 p.m., Comunidad Colectiva will hold a Facebook Live with more information about what this decision means and what to expect as we move forward.  This victory is for the youth and their families who are fighting the good fight. Today, the Supreme Court stood with the immigrant community, protecting their right to work and thrive in the place they grew up, the place they call home. 


Our Asks for Next Steps 

  • Demand that USCIS immediately begin accepting new DACA applications and continue DACA renewals, restoring the program to its original state before termination.
     
  • Call on Congress to pass permanent protections and solutions that help these beneficiaries, including extensions of TPS work permits, protections from deportation for immigrants, and benefits in any future stimulus package to address COVID-19.
     
  • Call on state and local leaders to get ICE and CPB out of our communities and sign onto our pledge as well as working to provide free COVID-19 testing, treatment and services for all, regardless of immigration status.
     
  • In solidarity with Black people, we call for the investment in community initiatives that strengthen Black and Brown communities, as well as changing laws and enforcement policies to end the systemic mass incarceration of people of color.
     
  • An immediate suspension of the Public Charge rule

Share this message 

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of upholding the DACA program today, but the fight to protect DACA continues. 

Share this message with your networks and encourage those who need assistance with DACA to contact Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy for more information on what to do next.  

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Katten Attorney Joins Advocacy Center to Support Community Redevelopment

Katten Muchin Roseman LLP has allowed one of its attorneys to join the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s staff this summer to support efforts to provide stability for families in the Charlotte metro region.

Max Swindle joined Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy May 26, as part of a three-month attorney loan program. Swindle, a real estate attorney specializing in commercial real estate finance, is working with the Advocacy Center’s Consumer Protection Program to help people clean up their criminal records and get drivers licenses restored.

For the more than 2 million North Carolinians with a criminal record, finding jobs, housing and opportunity is an uphill battle. And one in seven N.C. adults has a suspended drivers license, leaving them unable to effectively get to work, school or run everyday errands without a car.

These issues disproportionately impact people based on income and race, which is why the Advocacy Center’s Community Redevelopment Project seeks to eliminate these barriers to opportunity and promote equity in our community.

“I am so excited to have Max join us to do this important work,” said attorney Lashieka Hardin, who manages the Community Redevelopment Project. “I look forward to seeing all the great things we do together as team over the next few months.”

Adding a full-time attorney to focus on these two practice areas is an innovative approach that enables the Advocacy Center to serve more people in need, provide stability and promote economic opportunity.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Diana Godoy interviewed Swindle during his first week on the job. Learn a bit more about him in his own words:

About Max Swindle …

“I grew up in North Carolina, went to UNC-Chapel Hill for undergrad and then stayed there for law school. I graduated law school in 2017, and I moved out to Denver, Colorado to work. I was there until December 2018. And then my wife , who I met in law school, and I moved back to North Carolina. She’s originally from Charlotte. I’m from Winston-Salem. So, we just decided to move home.”

What he does at Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP …

“Since graduating law school, I have been working as an attorney for Katten Muchin Rosenman and their real estate finance practice group. I represent lenders, different commercial banks and investment groups and originating new loans for the commercial mortgage backed securities market.”

Why he came to Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy …

“With the COVID-19 outbreak, my practice area has been very slow the last few months, really ever since March. Our office managing partner and our deputy general counsel had been in contact with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy to see if they could use some help over the next few months with the expunction and driver’s license restoration programs.

They asked me if [joining the Advocacy Center staff] was something I was interested in. And I said, ‘Yeah, that’ll be great.’ I just hope I can pitch in and pick up on these new areas of practice as quickly as I can to be of use.”

What he will be doing …

“For this first week, I’ve been working on a few cases in-house with Lashieka Hardin to kind of get my feet on the ground, kind of understanding how this all works.

And then I believe starting next week, I’m going to start helping with a new driver’s license restoration project. We look at clients that have already been in contact with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, and they have either some misdemeanor or felony charges on their record that could be eligible to be removed if they meet certain criteria. We review those, figure out what we can do, and we file petitions with the different [N.C.] counties where those charges show up.

We hope to get these charges off people’s records because having different charges listed can hinder people getting housing, getting jobs, getting loans, things like that. And I think that’ll continue throughout the summer. I think some of it will be  helping coordinate clinics and with outside pro bono attorneys, kind of helping them handle different client interactions.”

What he’s looking forward to …

“Just getting to interact with a great group of attorneys who are very, very good at what they do. I’ve been a part of the few video meetings this first week with the Consumer Protection group. Everyone’s super nice, super passionate about what they’re doing. The work is great: helping people with complex problems that that can really affect your everyday life.

It’s about just getting to work with such great people and give back to the community. I don’t have as much time as I would like to do this work in my normal firm job, so this has been a great opportunity.”

What he hopes to get out of this experience …

“I’m going to try and just absorb as much information as I can so that hopefully when these few months are over, I’ll be able to maybe come back to Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy as a pro bono attorney to help out with things like expunctions or maybe this driver’s license restoration project later on. I would like to stay involved. I’m just hoping to learn as much as I can so that I can continue to be necessary.”

Thank you to Katten for partnering with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy in our mission to pursue justice for those in need. We are glad to have Max on our team!

Black Lives Matter.

George Floyd, 59. Breonna Taylor, 26. Ahmaud Arbery, 25. Eric Garner, 43. Eric Reason, 38. Atatiana Jefferson, 28. Antwon Rose II, 17. Botham Jean, 26. Sandra Bland, 28. Philando Castile, 32. Jordan Davis, 17. Trayvon Martin, 17. Tamir Rice, 12. Aiyana Stanley-Jones, 7. Emmett Till, 14. Addie Collins, 14. Denise McNair, 11. Carole Robertson, 14. Cynthia Wesley, 14. 

. . .  

Today, we lift up the names of African Americans whose lives were cut short by systemic racism and police brutality in our society, but the list does not end here.  

We mourn with the family and loved ones of these individuals and countless others who have been lost.  

Say their names.  

We applaud protesters in Charlotte and across the country who are braving a pandemic and taking to the streets to call for real and lasting change so that our national principle of “life, liberty and justice for all” rings true for all people in the United States—not just Americans of a certain skin tone. 

These murders are tragically nothing new or shocking for our neighbors, clients, colleagues and friends. Both despair and anger have festered for generations as Black people have endured intentional, targeted violence and subjugation without recourse, all while persistently fighting for their right to be valued as equal human beings.  

Now that a spotlight burns on their plight for all to see, we as Americans can no longer turn a blind eye, and the events of the past two weeks should not be a surprise given how we got here. 

The society we know today has been shaped by generations of policies that have deliberately perpetuated the notion that some lives are more valuable than others.  

We’ve seen countless instances where white people have used our white supremacist societal norms to their advantage and abused our police system to further intimidate and terrorize Black people. 

The most recent example happened in New York City’s Central Park last week, when a white woman called the police claiming she was being threatened by a Black bird watcher after he asked her to follow the park’s regulations and put her dog on a leash. This story echoes the calculated actions and tactics used to justify the lynching of Emmett Till in 1955. 

These same protections are not afforded to Black people as demonstrated when Atatiana Jefferson’s family turned to police for a wellness check on their loved one. Instead, she was murdered.  

To be clear: Black lives matter.  

Our nation was built by the hands of enslaved and exploited people, and that legacy lives on today. The wealth and power our country enjoys comes at the expense of deliberate exclusion, imprisonment, and marginalization of Black people and other people of color.  

This system enables the murders of these innocent individuals to take place. And it also actively promotes vast disparities in income, health, housing and employment that cut people of color off from socioeconomic opportunity. 

As our country burns, we must recognize that we started the fire. 

Dismantling our racist system starts with condemning police brutality head on while speaking truth to power. It is our communal responsibility to hold our public authorities accountable to ensure this need is met. We need to seek to understand and embrace the differences that enrich our community rather than use them as a means to divide.  

At Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, we believe that ALL people should have access to legal assistance and resources that ensure stability and promote opportunity. We fight for equal justice under the law every day. Racial justice and equity are inherent to this work. 

Black people were not contemplated when the phrase “justice for all” was originally coined. Equal justice for all is impossible to realize without eradicating the systemic racism that pervades our society. 

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy condemns the police brutality we have witnessed. We stand with those exercising their right to protest in efforts to enact significant change.  

We are doing a lot of introspection. We are listening. We are trying to recognize our individual blind spots to our own ignorance. We are trying to understand, and we will continue to work toward our mission of pursuing justice, every day, with all we have. 

All of us have a role to play in building a more just community.

Will you answer the call? 

¿Ha Perdido Su Trabajo O Esta Trabajando Menos Horas Por COVID-19?

¡El Centro de Apoyo Legal de Charlotte y Asistencia Legal de Carolina del Norte estan aquí para ayudarle!

Hay 5 formas en que le podemos ayudar a usted y a su familia a mantenerse estable:

1. Beneficios de Desempleo:

  • Debe aplicar para recibir beneficios de desempleo lo más pronto posible. Puede aplicar por internet en la página web, des.nc.gov o puede llamar a 1-888-737-0259. Si no puede hablar con alguien enseguida, siga intentándolo y documente todos sus intentos.
  • Recuerde completar las certificaciones semanales en la página web des.nc.gov o llamando todas las semanas al 1-888-737-0259, incluso si su aplicación no ha sido aprobada todavía o si ha sido descalificado para beneficios y ha sometido una apelación.
  • Si trabaja por su cuenta propia, no ha trabajado recientemente o está aplicando para recibir o ya recibe beneficios por incapacidad, usted puede ser elegible para recibir beneficios de desempleo si no tiene trabajo o esta impedido para trabajar debido al COVID-19. Esto incluye a padres que tienen que quedarse en casa porque los niños no están en la escuela.
  • Durante esta emergencia, la cantidad de beneficios de desempleo ha aumentado a $600 semanales hasta el 31 de julio del 2020. También puede recibir los beneficios por más semanas.
  • Inmigrantes con autorización de empleo pueden ser elegibles para recibir beneficios de desempleo. Desafortunadamente, inmigrantes indocumentados no son elegibles.
  • Llame al Proyecto de Seguro de Desempleo en Respuesta a COVID-19 del Centro de Apoyo Legal de Charlotte al 980-256-3979 si tiene preguntas sobre beneficios de desempleo, ha tenido dificultades aplicando o le ha sido negado los beneficios.

2. Pagos de Estímulo

  • La mayoría de la gente debe recibir un pago de estímulo del IRS (Servicios de Ingreso Interno) de $1,200 por cada adulto y $500 por cada niño menor de 17 años. Puede recibir este pago incluso si no tiene la obligación de presentar una declaración de sus impuestos.
  • Tiene que ser autorizado para trabajar en los Estados Unidos para ser elegible para recibir estos pagos. Típicamente, esto significa que usted tiene un número de seguro social que es válido para empleo. Desafortunadamente, esto significa que muchos inmigrantes pueden no ser elegibles para recibir un pago de estímulo.
  • Si no ha recibido su pago, llame a la línea de impuestos del Centro de Apoyo Legal de Charlotte al 980-202-7329

3. Desalojo, Juicios Hipotecarios, Servicios Cortados y Pagos de
Préstamos Estudiantiles

  • Usted no puede ser desalojado por su propietario o tener su casa embargada hasta que tenga una audiencia en la corte. Estas audiencias están aplazadas por lo menos hasta junio del 2020.
  • Si usted tiene un préstamo de hipoteca con una entidad del gobierno como Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, VA, USDA, FHA o Home Equity Conversion mortgage (“Hipoteca Inversa”), puede tener derecho a dos periodos de 180 días de gracia para sus pagos hipotecarios sin tarifas por pagos atrasados.
  • Se prohíbe la desconexión de servicios, incluyendo electricidad, gas y agua para las personas que no pueden pagar durante la pandemia de COVID-19. También está prohibido cobrar tarifas, multas o interés por pagos atrasados hasta junio. Clientes residenciales tienen por lo menos seis meses para pagar facturas pendientes.
  • Algunos préstamos estudiantiles pueden ser suspendidos hasta septiembre del 2020.
  • Es posible que el Centro de Apoyo Legal de Charlotte y Asistencia Legal de NC puede ayudarle a prevenir su desalojo, juicios hipotecarios o desconexión de servicios. Llámenos al 704-376-1600.

4. Seguro Médico

  • Usted y sus hijos pueden ser elegibles para Medicaid.
  • Si no puede conseguir Medicaid, es posible que pueda inscribirse para cobertura en el Mercado de seguros/Obamacare con ayuda financiera si ha perdido su seguro médico o si ha tenido cambios en circunstancias recientemente. Tiene 60 días después de la pérdida del seguro o cambio en circunstancias para inscribirse.
  • Si ya está inscrito en el Mercado de seguros/Obamacare y no puede hacer sus pagos mensuales es posible que pueda calificar para primas más bajas.
  • El proyecto de navegadores de seguro médico del Centrol de Apoyo Legal de Charlotte puede ayudarle encontrar las mejores y más asequibles opciones de cobertura/seguro médico para usted y su familia. Podemos ayudarle a llenar una aplicación, actualizar su cobertura del Mercado de seguros/Obamacare o contestar preguntas que tenga usted o su familia. También podemos ayudarle si le han negado seguro o servicios. ¡Llame al 980-256-3782 para programar una cita gratis por teléfono hoy!

5. Asistencia con Comida

  • Puede ser elegible para estampillas de comida. La cantidad de beneficios de estampillas de comida ha aumentado y los límites de tiempo/requisitos de empleo han sido eliminados para algunas personas durante la pandemia del coronavirus.
  • Centrol de Apoyo Legal de Charlotte le puede ayudar a aplicar para estampillas de comida por teléfono. También podemos ayudar si le niegan la aplicación. Nuestra ayuda es gratis. Llámenos al 980-256-3782.
  • Hasta familias que no son elegibles para estampillas de comida recibirán una tarjeta de EBT por correo que puede ser usada para comprar comida si sus hijos califican para comida gratis o a bajo precio en la escuela. Su estatus inmigratorio no afecta su elegibilidad para recibir este beneficio. Si no recibe esta tarjeta, llámenos a 704-376-1600.
  • Familias sin ingreso también pueden recibir asistencia en efectivo para sus hijos de Servicios Sociales bajo el programa de Work First. La cantidad de beneficios de Work First han sido aumentados y los requisitos de empleo han sido eliminados durante la pandemia. Puede aplicar por teléfono si llama a Servicios Sociales al 704-336-3000. Si le niegan la aplicación o no puede aplicar, llámenos al 704-376-1600.

Meck Bar Recognizes Access to Justice Pro Bono Attorneys

The Access to Justice Pro Bono Partners Program is proud to recognize its 2020 recipients of the Mecklenburg County Bar’s pro bono awards.

The Mecklenburg County Bar recognized these committed individuals May 21, during its Annual Meeting, which was held virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These attorneys and advocates enable us to serve more people in need, to narrow Mecklenburg County’s justice gap, and to build a stronger, more just community for us all.

This year’s recipients include attorneys, advocates and firms supporting Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Legal Aid of North Carolina through their joint pro bono program, as well as Council for Children’s Rights and the Mecklenburg County Bar.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy

Blas P. Arroyo,
Alston & Bird LLP

Blas P. Arroyo is a skilled advocate and outstanding mentor who is generous with his time and considerable expertise. As a part of his Senior Counsel status at Alston & Bird LLP, Arroyo has dedicated several hours each week to work with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy clients as part of the Consumer Protection Program. 

He has invested countless hours into Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s criminal records expunctions work, including reviewing records for hundreds of clients and serving as an expert at dozens of expunctions clinics since joining the organization in 2017.

In addition to helping with existing programs, Arroyo also connected Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and The Relatives and launched a partnership to help the teen and young-adult clients of The Relatives receive advice and representation on expunctions. He has also helped litigate several consumer-protection cases. Arroyo is always willing to take the extra time to mentor and share his advice and wisdom. He is incredibly talented and compassionate and has made a deep impact on the programs and clients at Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy.

Emma C. Merritt,
Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP

Emma C. Merritt has been a pro bono volunteer with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy since 2017, when she began serving clients with Medicaid and Social Security denials through the Medicaid Appeals Project at her firm, Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP. She has secured over $200,000 in benefits on behalf of clients through these cases.

While continuing these cases, Merritt added a major pro bono activity to her plate in 2018 when she joined Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Health Insurance Navigator Project as a healthcare “champion” leading volunteer efforts to support health insurance enrollment for Advocacy Center clients as part of the Charlotte Triage Pro Bono Partnership.

Merritt consistently approaches her role with enthusiasm and is always willing to give her time and resources. During her first year with the Navigator Project, Merritt was there to enroll clients in coverage all day on the last day of the 2018 Affordable Care Act Open Enrollment period—a day that is often long and busy for navigators. During the most recent open enrollment, Merritt helped with consumer appointments, check-ins at enrollment events, and enlisted her assistant to compile 1,000 healthcare information packets for consumers. We at Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and our health access clients are fortunate to have Merritt on our team!

Legal Aid of North Carolina-Charlotte

Paul R. Kinny

After a long career as a lawyer with Duke Energy, Paul R. Kinny spent 10 weeks volunteering with Legal Aid during his time off from his teaching position with Queens University last summer.  Although he is not licensed in North Carolina, Paul helped where he could on housing cases in numerous ways:  interviewing clients, negotiating with landlords, conducting research, and drafting pleadings and discovery.  Kinny has now been approved by the N.C. State Bar to represent clients in court and plans to continue his volunteer work with Legal Aid.  His dedication has resulted in better outcomes for many clients and eased the burden on Legal Aid’s housing attorneys.

Legal Aid is proud to recognize Moore & Van Allen, PLLC as this year’s recipient of the firm award for its work supporting access to housing.  Last year, 10 attorneys from Moore Van Allen volunteered to take on housing cases to protect tenants’ rights to decent housing.  Those attorneys spent a total of more than 300 hours working for those clients.  In addition, one of these volunteers continued to serve clients as one of three housing “champions” with the Charlotte Triage Pro Bono Partnership and placed dozens of housing cases with other pro bono attorneys at other firms in that role.

Council for Children’s Rights

Mandy Schuller was an obvious choice for this year’s pro bono award, as she is the epitome of a champion for Council for Children’s Rights. Schuller has been volunteering with CFCR in its Custody Advocacy Program for over 6 years, where she serves as a best interest attorney for children caught in the middle of high-conflict custody cases. In that time, she has successfully represented 14 children across 6 challenging, time-intensive cases.

Schuller has always gone above and beyond as a volunteer for our child-clients. If we have a difficult case that needs an experienced, dedicated, and passionate volunteer, we know we can always turn to her. For the last 3 years, Schuller, a member of Wells Fargo’s Legal Department, has been our point-person for the pro bono partnership between Wells Fargo and CFCR. She recruits and encourages talented Wells Fargo employees to volunteer with CFCR, and she is our liaison for matching up volunteers with children in need. We are so grateful to Mandy and all she does for CFCR, and we are so impressed that she does it all while being a busy lawyer and mom!

We are excited to announce Randi Guinn-Shirley as the recipient of this year’s pro bono award. Her passion to serve children and young adults is undeniable. Prior to relocating to Charlotte, she worked in New York representing children in matters involving custody and visitation, child protection, and juvenile delinquency to ensure their interests were protected and wishes expressed to the court. In January 2008, Guinn-Shirley and her family moved to Charlotte, and at that time she turned her focus on raising her children, one with special needs, and caring for her family.

When Guinn-Shirley reached out to Council for Children’s Rights about her interest in volunteering with the Special Education Advocacy for Kids (SpEAK) Volunteer Program, she seemed like a natural fit. She completely understood the need for students in foster care to have someone able and willing to make special education decisions on their behalf, especially for students who do not have anyone naturally involved in their life able to serve that role.

In May 2019, she was among the third group of volunteers to go through the SpEAK Volunteer Program training. Shortly thereafter, Guinn-Shirley was appointed to serve as the Special Education Decision Maker for a sibling group of seven, ranging from first grade to sixth grade. During this school year, she has dedicated countless hours (over 150!) to advocating for appropriate educational services for these seven students. She has become intimately involved, getting to know their schools, their teachers, their foster parents, their therapists, and most importantly these students. They have greatly benefited from her enthusiasm, commitment, and consistency. We are so grateful to Randi for her dedication and passion to this work!

Mecklenburg County Bar

Fitz Barringer is a partner at Robinson Bradshaw, where he plays an active role in promoting pro bono work within the firm.  In addition to coordinating a summer associate pro bono project in partnership with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, Barringer also volunteers with Legal Aid of North Carolina on landlord-tenant matters.  His commitment to helping to serve the under served goes beyond the courtroom.  Barringer also volunteers his time advising the board of a preschool situated in a low-income area of Charlotte that offers tuition-free care and education.  In 2019 alone, Fitz reported 175 hours of pro bono work.  The Mecklenburg County Bar thanks you for setting the example and for your leadership in the community!

Lynna Moen of Moen Legal Counsel began her pro bono journey with Safe Alliance while still in law school.  She later became a Safe Alliance fellow and to this day continues to volunteer for Safe Alliance, representing domestic violence survivors.  She also volunteers with Moore & Van Allen’s Human Trafficking Project through the Charlotte Triage Pro Bono Project, the Mecklenburg County Clerk’s Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, and the U.S. State Department’s Child Abduction Project.  The Bar’s Pro Bono & Legal Recruitment Committee received an outpouring of heartfelt support for this nomination from both fellow Bar members and the leaders of the organizations with whom she volunteers. Congratulations, Lynna. The Bar and the community are lucky to have you in our midst!

Congratulations to the 2020 recipients of the Mecklenburg County Bar Pro Bono Awards!

Mecklenburg County Bar 2020 Pro Bono Award Winners

Unemployed or working fewer hours during COVID-19? 5 things to consider

Many people are trying to figure out what their options are after losing their jobs or having work hours reduced during COVID-19. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is here to help. Contact us if you need assistance figuring out your options. Here are 5 ways we can help you and your family remain stable: 

1.  Unemployment Benefits:

  • You should apply for unemployment benefits right away. You can apply online at des.nc.gov or by calling 1-888-737-0259. If you cannot get through, keep trying and document your attempts.
  • Remember to fill out the weekly certifications online at des.nc.gov or by calling 1-888-372-3453 every week, even if your application has not been approved yet or you have been disqualified for benefits and have filed an appeal.
  • If you are self-employed, haven’t worked recently, or you are applying for or receiving disability benefits you may be eligible for unemployment benefits if you are out of work or unable to work due to COVID-19. This includes parents who must stay home because their children are out of school.
  • During this emergency, the amount of unemployment benefits has been increased by $600 per week through July 31, 2020. You can also receive the benefits for more weeks.
  • Immigrants with work authorization may be eligible for unemployment benefits. Unfortunately, undocumented immigrants are not eligible.
  • Call Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Unemployment Insurance COVID-19 Response Project at 980-256-3979 if you have questions about unemployment benefits, are having trouble applying, or have been denied benefits.

2.  Stimulus Payments:

  • Most people should get a stimulus payment from the IRS of $1,200 for each adult and $500 for each child under age 17. You can get this payment even if you are not required to file a tax return.
     
  • You must be authorized to work in the U.S. to be eligible for these payments, typically this means you have a SSN that’s valid for employment. Unfortunately, this means many immigrants may not be eligible for a stimulus payment.
     
  • If you have not received your payment, call Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Taxpayer Clinic hotline at 980-202-7329

3. Evictions, Foreclosures, Utility Cut-Offs and Student Loan payments

  • You cannot be evicted by your landlord or have your house foreclosed until after a court hearing. Those court hearings are on hold at least until June 2020.
  • If you have a federally backed mortgage loan such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, VA, USDA, FHA or Home Equity Conversion mortgage (“Reverse mortgage”), you may be entitled to two 180-day forbearances on your mortgage payments without late fees being added.
  • Utilities, including electric, gas, and water services are prohibited from disconnection for customers unable to pay during the COVID-19 pandemic and from collecting fees, penalties, or interest for late payments until June. Residential customers have at least six months to pay outstanding bills.
  • Certain student loans may be entitled to have their payments suspended through September 2020.
  • Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy or Legal Aid may be able to help you prevent eviction, foreclosure, or utility cut-off. Call us at 704-376-1600.

4. Health Care Coverage:

  • You and your children may now be eligible for Medicaid. 
  • If you cannot get Medicaid, you may be able to enroll in Obamacare/Marketplace coverage with financial assistance if you recently lost your health coverage or had a change in circumstances. You have 60 days after losing your coverage or the change to enroll.
  • If you are already enrolled in Obamacare/Marketplace and cannot pay your premiums, you may qualify for lower premiums.
  • Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Health Insurance Navigator Project can help you find the best and most affordable coverage options for you and your family. We can help you complete an application, update your Obamacare/Marketplace coverage, or answer general health insurance questions. We can also help if you get denied for coverage or services. Call 980-256-3782 to schedule a free, over the phone appointment today!

5. Food Assistance:

  • You may be eligible for food stamps. The amount of food stamp benefits has been increased and time limits/work requirements for some people have been waived during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy can help you apply for food stamps over the phone. We can also help if you get denied. Our help is free. Call us at 980-256-3782.
  • Even families not eligible for food stamps will receive an EBT card in the mail to use to buy food if their children qualify for free and reduced lunch at school. Your immigration status does not matter. If you do not get this card, call us at 704-376-1600.
  • Families with no income can also get cash assistance for their children from Social Services under the Work First program. The amount of Work First benefits have been increased and work requirements waived during the pandemic. 

    Apply by phone by calling Social Services at 704-336-3000. If you get denied or cannot apply, call us at 704 376-1600.