COVID-19 Unemployment Insurance and Immigration

Eligibility for Unemployment Insurance Benefits based on Immigration Status

Undocumented workers are not eligible for North Carolina unemployment insurance benefits.

In general, workers must have valid work authorization during the base period used to determine the benefit amount, at the time they apply, and through the entire period they are receiving benefits.

Unemployment Benefits and Public Charge

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security does not list unemployment insurance benefits as public benefits in public charge determinations.

Self-Employed and Independent Contract Workers

Self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers and others who would not traditionally qualify for North Carolina unemployment insurance may qualify under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program. Individuals with valid work authorization can file a claim for this program on the DES website as of April 24, 2020.

Please note there is a special hotline for PUA applicants, 866-847-72091. 
PUA applicants can also call during additional special hours on Sundays from 12 – 5 p.m.

Where can I receive additional information?

Visit the DES COVID-19 help page for more information or call Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy at 980-256-3979

Ocho Cosas Que Debes Saber Sobre Carga Pública

Tiene preguntas sobre la “carga pública”? Mire esta presentación de Elizabeth Setaro  del Centro Apoyo Legal de Charlotte para conocer cómo la carga pública y si afecta a su familia.

¿Qué es la carga publica?

La carga publica se refiere a una ley antigua de inmigración que dice que el gobierno puede negar entrada o la residencia permanente a un inmigrante que probablemente dependa del gobierno en el futuro.

¿A quién aplica la carga publica?

  • Personas que ingresan al EEUU con visas de estudiante, laborales o familiares
  • Personas con visa de estudiante, laborales o familiar que solicitan ajustar su estatus migratorio al estatus de residente permanente
  • Residentes permanentes que salen del país por seis meses o más y buscan reingresar a los EEUU

¿A quién NO aplica la carga publica?

  • Asilo o refugiado
  • Renovación de residencia
  • TPS, visa U, visa T
  • Renovaciones de DACA
  • Estado especial para inmigrante juvenil
  • Personas aplicando para ciudadanía

¿Cuáles beneficios son considerados para la carga publica?

  • Medicaid (excepto Medicaid de emergencia, menores de 21 años, mujeres embarazadas y nuevas madres)
  • Programa de asistencia nutricional, “estampillas de comida” o “cupones de alimento”
  • Programas de asistencia en efectivo (SSI, TANF, asistencia general)
  • Asistencia de vivienda como Sección 8 y Vivienda Publica
  • La mayoría de las personas sujetas a la regla no son elegibles para beneficios mencionados.

¿Cuáles beneficios NO son afectados por la carga publica?

  • Todos servicios no mencionados
  • WIC
  • CHIP
  • Mercado de salud, obamacare
  • Almuerzos escolares
  • Dispensas de alimentos
  • Asistencia de cuidado infantil

¿Qué va a pasar si uso beneficios?

  • El uso de beneficios no lo hará automáticamente un cargo publico
  • Los oficiales de inmigración deben examinar todas sus circunstancias para determinar si es probable que dependa del gobierno en el futuro.
  • Edad, salud, ingresos, educación, habilidades, otros
  • Factores positivos se pueden medir contra factores negativos

¿Use beneficios en el pasado, como me afectan los cambios?

  • Los cambios en la ley NO son retroactivos
  • Solo cuentan beneficios recibidos empezando el 24 de febrero
  • Beneficios recibidos antes de esa fecha siguen las reglas antiguas

¿Un familiar recibe estos beneficios, me afecta a mí?

  • Beneficios recibidos por los dependientes de un solicitante no pueden considerarse en la evaluación de la carga pública del solicitante
  • Incluir su nombre en la aplicación de su hijo NO significa que ha solicitado beneficios para usted

Then & Now: A Decade of Justice

In 2010 …

Charlotte was recovering from the Great Recession, which had destabilized thousands of people through job and home loss that eroded financial security.

As a result, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy saw the overall community need for legal assistance increase by 15%, including an overwhelming need from families facing foreclosure.

The Recession’s effects continued to be felt throughout the decade to shape our community, to define the issues of economic mobility and inequity we fight to address, and to steadily impact the people the Advocacy Center serves today.

As we mark the passing of a critical decade for Charlotte, we’re taking a look back at the work we’ve done to build a more just community for everyone in the Charlotte region.

Then

Our name was Legal Services of Southern Piedmont, a name we had been operating under since 1978.

Number of staff: 19

Now

Today we are Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy! In 2017, we changed our name and celebrated 50 years of service.

Number of staff: 50

Our new name reflects our commitment to providing both individual legal representation and systemic change to advance our mission of pursuing justice for those in need.

Growth to Address Systemic Problems in a Changing World

Since 2010, we’ve launched several projects to meet increased demand for assistance, creatively address the root causes of poverty and support our community’s most vulnerable populations, including:

Access to our legal system

Life altering decisions are made every day in our civil legal system that directly impact a person’s chance at a stable life and opportunity.

Despite the gravity of these decisions, no one is guaranteed legal representation in civil legal cases, leaving only those who can afford an attorney with true access to justice.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and legal service organizations across the country fight to provide equal justice for all in a legal system that is currently inaccessible for those who lack the money and resources to navigate it.

Federal funding for legal service organizations through the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) peaked in 2010. The funding increase was necessary to support legal service organizations assisting an increasing number of people while having lost key funding resources during the Recession. Funding has not increased since, despite the fact 25 percent more people qualify for legal assistance today than in 2007.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy does not receive LSC funding (learn why), but we advocate for sustained and increased funding for our partners that do, such as Legal Aid of North Carolina.

A 2014 impact report from the N.C. Equal Access to Justice Commission showed that 2.2 million North Carolinians qualified for civil legal aid services and 80 percent of civil legal needs of low-income people went unmet.

Despite these unmet needs for civil legal aid, the N.C. General Assembly eliminated $1.7 million in funding for the Access to Civil Justice Act that enabled the state’s legal service organizations, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, Legal Aid of North Carolina and Pisgah Legal Services, to help people navigate their way out of crisis.

Today, the gap between access and justice is still wide:

  • 1 in 3 Mecklenburg County residents is low-income.
  • 71 percent of low-income people experienced at least one civil legal problem in the last year,
  • Only 14 percent received the legal help they needed to address their problem.
  • In Mecklenburg County, there ONE legal aid attorney available to every 11,500 low-income residents between the Advocacy Center and Legal Aid.

Learn about the justice gap and how you can help

Affordable housing and protection from housing displacement

By 2010, the Advocacy Center was assisting families who were fighting foreclosure and trying to put their financial lives back together in the wake of the global financial crisis. When the housing crisis peaked in 2009, more than 12 million homeowners were experiencing negative equity across the U.S.

Today, the Advocacy Center helps families and communities navigate Charlotte’s affordable housing crisis as more people struggle to find and remain in affordable places to live. That assistance includes foreclosure prevention; defense against unfair and deceptive sales and purchases; property tax relief; and impact litigation on behalf of tenants to ensure safe and habitable housing conditions under N.C. law, including a class action lawsuit on behalf of residents of Lake Arbor Apartments.

Welcoming Immigrants into Our Community

Charlotte’s Immigration Court opened in 2008 to serve applicants from North and South Carolina. The Advocacy Center’s Immigrant Justice Program began serving applicants who could not afford legal assistance in the court, which quickly gained a reputation as one of the most hostile in the country.

With the Immigration Working Group, the Advocacy Center to begin the Immigration Assistance Project in 2010 to help unrepresented people in the court, providing consultation, education and referrals to assist them in court proceedings. Since its creation, it has been a vital legal resource to thousands of people that is not available in most immigration courts.

Today Charlotte’s Immigration Court continues to be one of the most hostile courts for applicants seeking immigration relief with judges known for their high denial rates.

By 2014, violence and instability in Central America generated a wave of unaccompanied migrant children to the U.S.-Mexico border seeking asylum, safety and reunification with family already living in the U.S.

The Advocacy Center launched the Safe Child Immigrant Project to ensure these children had an advocate.

Without our intervention, these children would have had not have had legal assistance to make their case for asylum, special immigrant juvenile status or other forms of relief they were entitled to receive.

Due to an overwhelming backlog, the first green cards from many of these cases were finally granted in 2018, allowing these children and their families to remain safely in the U.S. without fear of return to dangerous situations in their home countries.

This victory is a stark comparison to the current reality for thousands of children seeking relief at the U.S. border. They will not see the same outcome under current federal immigration enforcement, even though they have endured the same hardships and have the same valid claims for relief as these new green card recipients.

The Advocacy Center remains a presence in Immigration Court serving as a legal resource for individuals who otherwise would not receive any assistance and an advocate fighting to ensure dignity, fairness and due process for applicants.

Economic mobility

The Advocacy Center fought to maintain public benefits that stabilize families, while also ensuring access to them with increased demand for social support after the Recession, including SNAP benefits (food stamps) and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Today, the Advocacy Center is still fighting cuts and policies that destabilize families at the federal and state level, while helping families understand what is available under changing laws and policies.

Since 2018, the Advocacy Center has fought changes to the federal Public Charge rule to consider use of public benefits to determine approval for people seeking to immigrate to the U.S. or applying for a green card to become legal permanent residents. Confusion and fear surrounding the rule change has led local families who are eligible to receive public benefits to forego support out of fear. Federal courts halted the rule’s implementation in October 2019, and the Advocacy Center continues to monitor ongoing litigation.

Our Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic is educating N.C. taxpayers on new regulations stemming from federal tax reform passed in 2018, while continuing to help taxpayers protect themselves from scams and fraud.

In conjunction with a new state law changed the waiting period for expunging non-violent misdemeanor and felony criminal convictions in 2017, the Advocacy Center began helping Mecklenburg County residents apply for removal of non-violent, eligible offenses from their criminal records. This project sought to remove barriers to economic mobility that come with having a criminal record. In FY19, we assisted 217 people to expunge criminal records in N.C. and advocated for passage of expanded eligibility for expungements in the N.C. General Assembly.

In 2016, the Advocacy Center partnered with Central Piedmont Community College’s Single Stop program to provide legal assistance that helps students overcome barriers to their education and pursue economic opportunity. In the first two years, the partnership provided $72,855 in legal assistance while obtaining or preserving $103,462 in public benefits for students and their families.

Access to quality, affordable health care

The Advocacy Center has been litigating to ensure families have the health care they are entitled to receive under the law through major cases, including:

  • Pashby v. Cansler, later Pettigrew v. Brajer: The lawsuit, initially named Pashby v. Cansler, was filed in 2011 by the Advocacy Center, Disability Rights N.C. and the National Health Law Program, alleging that the state violated federal Medicaid law and the Americans with Disabilities Act by determining eligibility for personal care services under more restrictive criteria for people living at home than for those who live in institutional settings known as adult care homes. A settlement was reached in 2016, allowing vulnerable citizens who need health services to safely remain in their homes and have their services restored.
  • Pachas v. NCDHHS: The Advocacy Center brought the case on behalf of a terminally ill man, who had been the primary provider for his wife, two young daughters, and elderly in-laws. Pachas was trying to support his family on Social Security disability benefits before eventually qualifying for Medicaid benefits that covered his medical treatment for a stroke and a brain tumor. Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services determined Pachas’ income was above the federal poverty level based on the level of an individual, not for a family, and required him to pay a large deductible on his Medicaid benefits. In 2018, attorneys argued before the N.C. Court of Appeals that the state was violating federal Medicaid law in applying its definition of family size to determine eligibility for benefits. The N.C. Supreme Court heard arguments on the case in 2018 and unanimously ruled in favor of the Center to vacate the Court of Appeals ruling. The case is now with the Court of Appeals for a ruling on the merits of the case.
  • Hawkins v. Cohen: The Advocacy Center and the National Health Law Program filed a lawsuit in federal court in 2017 to stop illegal terminations of Medicaid benefits in North Carolina that resulted in a preliminary injunction and a certified class action.  The improper actions included due process violations, failure to reasonably accommodate the disabled, and creating barriers to access for recipients with limited English proficiency. The class action is ongoing. As a result, the state changed its computer system earlier this year to stop Medicaid coverage from automatically terminating when a county worker does not timely complete a required eligibility review. Under this programming change, Medicaid coverage for more than 124,000 cases was extended in the past two months that would otherwise have been terminated without notice.

With the first open enrollment season for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Advocacy Center launched the Health Insurance Navigator project to help consumers understand their options and get the health care they needed under the new law.

Since 2013, we’ve helped thousands of people understand their options and get health coverage, while reducing the state’s uninsured rate. The navigator project has been recognized as a national model and received a visit from Sylvia Burwell, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, in 2015.

At the end of 2019, our health insurance navigators completed their seventh open enrollment season, helping residents in Cabarrus, Mecklenburg and Union counties understand their coverage options in a changing healthcare landscape to select health plan that meet their individual needs and budget.

The ACA included opportunity for states to expand their Medicaid programs and close the coverage gap for low-income people to insure all Americans. The Advocacy Center began advocating for expansion of the state’s Medicaid program in the N.C. General Assembly, which has failed to act. Expansion would insure an estimated 500,000 NC residents who make too little to afford private health coverage but too much to receive financial assistance paying for coverage. Expansion also would have lowered overall health costs for residents and spurred an estimated $2.9 billion in business growth by 2020.

Today we are still urging the N.C. General Assembly to expand Medicaid so that more residents have access to health care. Residents like Allan.

The N.C. General Assembly approved changes to the state’s Medicaid program in 2015 that privatized the administration of the program. The Advocacy Center has been working with providers and beneficiaries to make sure they understand what the change means and how to continue receiving health care. The Advocacy Center is also monitoring the change to ensure access under the law. The implementation of the new program was supposed to take place in fall 2019, but it has been delayed due to the legislature’s inability to pass a budget.

Protection from exploitation

To improve quality of life and ensure independence, the Advocacy Center has worked to empower seniors through education, legal representation and specific services that enable them to remain self-sufficient, their property unencumbered and their finances protected through Legal Services for the Elderly program and other projects.

The Advocacy Center’s Consumer Protection program has continually worked to protect low-income people from scams and bad actors taking advantage of vulnerable groups who lack access to resources to understand their rights as consumers.

Immigrants have historically been targets for exploitation in our country. The current administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy toward immigrants who are undocumented has exacerbated their vulnerability and stoked fear in families, regardless of immigration status.

For 12 years, Mecklenburg County’s 287(g) program facilitated hundreds of deportations by assisting federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in implementing federal immigration enforcement at the local level. The voluntary program directed police to target, arrest and hold residents living in our community without a legal immigration status.

This practice tore families apart, made immigrants vulnerable targets and eroded trust of law enforcement, all while diverting local taxpayer funds away from public safety to enforce federal immigration policy, which is outside the jurisdiction of local law enforcement agencies. The Advocacy Center has long believed this policy has harmed our community by undermining public safety, depriving individuals due process, wasting county resources, and exposing tax payers to potential legal settlements.

Mecklenburg County Sheriff Gary McFadden ended the 287(g) program in late 2018 after winning election on the issue. In 2019, Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the N.C. General Assembly’s mandate that local sheriffs cooperate with ICE and honor detainer requests. The Advocacy Center continues to monitor local and state policies that negatively impact immigrants in our community.

In 2018, the Advocacy Center fought against ICE presence in our courts after officials arrested a woman and her 16-year-old son at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse, leaving her 2-year-old child behind in the court’s day care center as they took her into custody and placed her in deportation proceedings. This woman, Maria, and her son are survivors of domestic violence who were appearing for a hearing in their case.

The arrest became part of a national dialogue on how ICE activity in courthouses negatively impacts public safety and the ability for crime victims, especially victims of domestic violence, to seek justice.

The Charlotte Immigration Court later terminated her deportation case with the support of ICE, allowing Maria and her family to remain in the U.S. as they pursued a U-Visa, which provides protected status to victims of crime. The victory came after months of negotiation with ICE through the partnership of Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, Comunidad Colectiva and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild.

In response to increased ICE activity since 2017, the Advocacy Center has partnered with community groups, including the Action NC, Comunidad Colectiva, El Puente Hispano and the Latin American Coalition to help individuals understand their civil rights and provide emergency planning for families in the event of family separation through arrest and deportation.

A decade of justice

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy has covered a lot of ground over the  last 10 years, but the gap between access and justice remains wide.

In the decade ahead, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy remains committed to closing that gap by building a more just community where all are treated fairly and have access to legal representation to meet their basic needs and thrive.

In 2020 and beyond…

We will always fight to ensure

  • Access to our legal system
  • Affordable housing and protection from housing displacement
  • All feel welcome in our community
  • Economic mobility
  • Access to quality, affordable health care
  • Protection from exploitation

While the means to accomplishing our mission will change with the needs of our community, our resolve to pursue justice for those in need remains constant. Because we believe …

justice lives here.

Marles Recognized as YWCA Emerging Leader

Natalie Marles

YWCA Central Carolinas recognized Natalie Marles with the Emerging Leader Award during its Woman of Achievement Awards event Oct. 17 for her work ensuring marginalized people have access to health care, knowledge and justice. 

The annual awards event honors three generations of women who exemplify the YWCA’s mission of eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.

An immigrant from Bogotá, Colombia, Marles is committed to social justice, merging her work life as a paralegal-advocate for Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and personal life working for the needs of the Hispanic and Latinx community with the goal of fostering inclusion within the greater Charlotte-Mecklenburg community.

Marles helps low-income individuals get their criminal records expunged through the Advocacy Center’s Community Redevelopment Project, which focuses on improving economic mobility, stable housing and entrepreneurship in targeted communities in the Charlotte area. Criminal record expungements expand economic mobility by clearing misdemeanor offenses that often prevent individuals from pursuing employment and housing opportunities.

Through the Advocacy Center’s Know your Rights and Power of Attorney community workshops Marles has helped immigrants understand their constitutional rights and worked to ensure these rights are upheld.  She has become a trusted face in the immigrant community through her professional and personal work.    

Marles joined Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy in 2016 as a health insurance navigator helping individuals and families, including immigrants and Spanish speaking residents, understand their health coverage options to enroll in plans that best fit their individual needs under the Affordable Care Act.

After finding limited health services for the Hispanic community in Cabarrus County, Marles established a nonprofit organization called El Puente Hispano (the Hispanic bridge) with other community leaders in 2017 to provide programs that provide support and improve physical and mental health for the Hispanic community in the Charlotte area.

Marles began her local volunteerism serving as a triage nurse and health promoter for Bethesda Health Center after moving to the area from Miami in 2009. She also spent two years volunteering as a Guardian Ad Litem, giving children impacted by abuse, neglect and abandonment a voice in Cabarrus County. 

Marles is a member of the Enlace Charlotte, formerly The Latin American Council, board of directors. She is also part of the Mecklenburg County Latino civic engagement and last year helped launch the campaign “Latino tu voto cuenta” (Latino your vote counts) encouraging people to understand the importance of civic engagement and participation in the democratic process. 

9-30 Recap of Healthcare Hot Topics: Access to Care in N.C.

When it comes to health care in North Carolina, a lot is changing. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and CareRing recently hosted a policy update to help residents understand what’s changing and how we can protect access to care in our community. Learn about what is happening and use these resources to stay informed.

Medicaid Transformation in North Carolina

North Carolina’s Medicaid program is changing. The state has contracted with private health insurance companies to manage health care for most N.C. residents who receive health coverage through Medicaid and NC Health Choice (CHIP). Find out what you need to know to prepare your family or your patients for these changes.

Find out what these changes mean for you and your family and what you need to do to continue receiving your Medicaid benefits.

Contact Charlotte Center
for Legal Advocacy
Becca Friedman (English)
Johanna Parra (Español )

Learn more about Medicaid Transformation in NC

Access to Care Under the Affordable Care Act

Despite misinformation, repeal attempts and significant budget cuts for outreach and advertising, the Affordable Care Act has enabled thousands of North Carolinians to receive affordable health insurance with protections from pre-existing condition exclusions and limits over the last nine years.

More North Carolinians would have access to affordable health coverage and care if the state were to expand it’s Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act by 2020, which would have provided $21 billion in federal tax dollars to the state and created 43,000 jobs.

Because the state has failed to expand its program, at least 200,000 N.C. residents fall into the Medicaid Gap, where their income is too high to qualify for the current Medicaid program while also being too low to qualify for financial assistance to purchase health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

Despite N.C.’s failure to expand Medicaid, the state’s uninsured rate is at 11 percent and continues to decrease. Last year, Mecklenburg County had the highest number of enrollments in the state with 60,229 residents enrolling in a Marketplace plan; 53,878 received financial assistance, and 16,655 enrolled for the first time.

There are still more than 1 million N.C. residents who remain uninsured but eligible for coverage with financial assistance.

Open Enrollment Nov. 1 – Dec. 15 2019

Navigators are available Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. across Cabarrus, Mecklenburg and Union counties, with enrollment events every Wednesday and Saturday. Make a free appointment today:

  • Call 1-855-733-3711

Learn more about the Health Insurance Navigator Project

Immigrant Access to Health Care in North Carolina

Over the last two years, immigrant families have been targeted by policy changes that have impacted their safety, security and stability.

As advocates for health care and immigrant families, we have the opportunity to fight fear with facts.


Immigrants — including naturalized citizens, lawfully present non-citizens and people who are undocumented — make up 13 percent of the U.S. population. The vast majority of children in immigrant families are U.S.-born citizens, which means they have access to the same health care and benefits as other U.S. citizen children.

Shift in Federal Immigration Policies

  • Increasing immigration enforcement
  • Removal of legal protections
  • Reducing access to public benefits

Impact on Health Care Access

  • Immigrant families, including those with lawful status, are experiencing resounding levels of fear and uncertainty.
  • Increased fears are having significant negative effects on the health and well-being of children that have lifelong consequences.
  • Immigrant families have growing concerns about participating in public programs.

What you can do

  • Understand these policies and how they impact our community
  • Help patients understand their health coverage options.
  • Make your voice heard! Hold policy makers accountable to protect and expand access to health care in our community.

Questions? Contact Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy

Conozca Sus Derechos

Usted tiene derechos. Sin importar su estado migratorio. Para protegerse usted y su familia, es importante saber sus derechos.

You have rights regardless of your immigration status. To protect yourself and your family, you must know your rights.

Nuestras organizaciones reconocen que la incertidumbre sobre el futuro puede causarles inquietudes a las familias inmigrantes. Esperamos que estos recursos puedan brindar las familias herramientas necesarias para convertir las angustias en acción.

Our organizations understand that uncertainty about the future creates anxiety for immigrant families. We hope that these resources below can give families tools to transform fear into action.

Juntos, podemos construir una comunidad más acogedora y justa para todas las personas.

Together, we can build a more welcoming and just community for all people.

El Centro de Apoyo Legal de Charlotte
La Coalición
El Puente Hispano
Action NC
Comunidad Colectiva

Recursos/Resources

Guia De Planeación De Emergencia para la COMUNIDAD INMIGRANTE / An Emergency Planning Guide for the Immigrant Community

Conozca Sus Derechos: Guia sobre sus derechos / Know Your Rights: Guide to your rights

12 Cosas que usted y su familia deben recordar en cualquier situacion / 12 Things for you and your family to remember in any situation

Tarjeta Roja de Derechos Constitucionales / Red Card Outlining Constitutional Rights

Evite el Fraude de Notarios Públicos / Avoid Notario Fraud

Judge Promoted by Trump Administration Threatened a 2-Year-Old With an Attack Dog

On March 30, 2016, in an immigration courtroom in Charlotte, North Carolina, a 2-year-old boy was doing what you might expect: He was making some noise. But Judge V. Stuart Couch—a former Marine known to have a temper—was growing frustrated. He pointed his finger at the Guatemalan child and demanded that he be quiet.

When the boy failed to obey his command, the threats began. “I have a very big dog in my office, and if you don’t be quiet, he will come out and bite you!” Couch yelled.

Couch continued, as a Spanish-language interpreter translated for the child, “Want me to go get the dog? If you don’t stop talking, I will bring the dog out. Do you want him to bite you?” Couch continued to yell at the boy throughout the hearing when he moved or made noise. 

Kathryn Coiner-Collier, the only independent observer in the courtroom that day, says her mouth was on the floor as Couch made his threats. She sometimes saw Department of Homeland Security dogs sweeping the court building, and it was completely plausible to her that dogs could have been there that day. Coiner-Collier, then a coordinator for a project run by the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy to assist immigrants who couldn’t afford attorneys, says she “ferociously scribbled everything” Couch was saying. Soon after, she wrote an affidavit containing the dialogue above, and Kenneth Schorr, the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s executive director, submitted a complaint to the Justice Department in April 2016.

Read more at Mother Jones

Additional coverage

New York Times, Kristof: Our Children Deserve Better

Univision: Un juez promovido por Trump amenazó a un niño de 2 años con soltar a un perro si no guardaba silencio en la corte

WCNC: Charlotte immigration judge threatened to sic “big dog” on child during hearing

Ignoring Flores to Detain Families is Inhumane

Because Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy defends migrant adults, families and children in Charlotte’s Immigration Court, we are extremely concerned by the Trump administration’s recent decision to indefinitely detain migrant children who cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

This week, the Trump administration announced a new immigration rule that attempts to override policy set by the Flores settlement to allow the administration to keep families in detention facilities while they fight their asylum cases.

The Flores settlement has prohibited the U.S. government from detaining migrant children for more than 20 days. The Flores settlement was reached because of the inhumane conditions in detention centers and because of the special psychological and emotional vulnerability of children.

The administration’s unilateral repeal of the Flores settlement is a shameful attempt to prevent Central Americans from availing themselves of our country’s asylum laws and to punish them and their children for seeking asylum by keeping them incarcerated. It is unacceptable.

The new regulations will further erode families’ ability to seek legal assistance, which is critical for anyone seeking relief in our immigration courts. Most detention facilities are in remote areas where few, if any attorneys practice, making it difficult for detained people to get representation. Only those who can afford an attorney can get the legal assistance they need.

All migrants, even children as young as 3 and 4, are expected to fight their own immigration cases against the government if they cannot find or afford an attorney.

The administration has claimed it is pursuing this policy in order to avoid “having to separate families [and] allow families to be released as they wait for their cases to be heard.”

There is no law that requires the Department of Homeland Security to hold asylum seekers pending trial. Contrary to what this administration would have us believe, the Department of Justice’s own statistics show that most respondents show up to their hearings in immigration court.

Those rates were even higher for respondents who participated in the Family Case Management Program, a program that was started in 2016. Instead of incarcerating immigrants at the cost of hundreds of dollars a day, immigrants were released and assigned a case worker who made sure they understood how immigration court works and what their rights and obligations were. The program cost about $36 per person per day and had a compliance rate of 99 percent. The Trump administration discontinued the  Family Case Management program in favor of incarceration.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy believes all people, especially vulnerable children, deserve legal assistance when their safety is on the line. That’s why we advocate for migrant adults, families and children, most of whom, have been subjected to some form of trauma over the course of their young lives.

Their cases will take years to process through an overburdened immigration court system. Now this administration wants to detain them indefinitely as they wait for their day in court.

This is unacceptable. As a community and nation of immigrants, we can do better.

Action Alert: “Show Me Your Papers” Bill Threatens Community Safety

Yesterday, the N.C. House approved a bill that strips local authority from sheriffs’ departments by requiring them to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and assist in enforcing federal immigration law.

The legislation now goes before Gov. Roy Cooper for consideration after the N.C. Senate passed the bill in June.

House Bill 370, the “Show Me Your Papers” law, would require all N.C. sheriffs and jails to comply with immigration detainer requests made by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, even though these detainer requests are not considered valid warrants, which means sheriffs should have full discretion within their local authority to not recognize them.

The bill also requires police to determine the immigration status of any person arrested for a criminal charge and to notify ICE if the person is not a legal resident or citizen and forces jails to wait for federal approval before releasing an individual being held, even if the person is eligible for release under North Carolina law.

It would allow anyone to sue their local government if they believe it is not cooperating with immigration enforcement activities or breaking state law related to immigration.

HB370 is a direct response to local sheriffs across North Carolina, including Mecklenburg County Sheriff Gary McFadden, choosing to end federal 287(g) programs in their counties, which ended the requirement of local law enforcement to cooperate with and assist ICE in detaining undocumented residents.

Mecklenburg County participated in 287(g) for 12 years. During that time, the program diverted our local public safety resources away from protecting our community toward carrying out federal immigration enforcement policies.

Instead of addressing and preventing violent crime, the program incentivized local law enforcement officials to actively seek out undocumented residents with no criminal history through procedures that border on racial profiling and erode trust in the immigrant community.

Mecklenburg County Sherriff Gary McFadden was elected to office on a wave of local support for ending the 287(g) program.

Now the N.C. General Assembly is trying to override the will of Mecklenburg County voters to assert its own control over how our local law enforcement officials do their jobs.

Is this the best use of tax-payer dollars to keep our community safe? We don’t think so.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy believes this bill is a detriment to community safety, local autonomy and family unity for all Mecklenburg County residents.

We urge Governor Roy Cooper to veto this legislation.

287(g) facilitated thousands of deportations by arresting individuals for minor traffic infractions or misdemeanors. This practice has torn families apart, made immigrants vulnerable targets for exploitation and eroded the trust of law enforcement in the immigrant community.

None of these ramifications made our community safer and neither does a systematic dragnet that targets communities of color. Instead, it forces people to withdraw from their communities, from working, attending school, seeking medical care and reporting crime out of fear.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy continues to stand with our immigrant neighbors, advocating for inclusion and fairness under the law to ensure their safety, security and stability in our community.

What you can do

Contact Gov. Roy Cooper’s office by phone
(919) 814-2000 or email or sign this petition to express your concern for HB370 and call on him to veto the legislation.

Our community deserves safety, local autonomy and protected family unity.

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Santana Receives Liberty Bell Award

Courtesy of the Mecklenburg County Bar

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy team member Ruth Santana is the 2019 recipient of the Mecklenburg County Bar’s Liberty Bell Award.

Santana, who works with the Advocacy Center’s Immigrant Justice Program as a BIA accredited paralegal-advocate, received the award in recognition for her advocacy on behalf of immigrants seeking legal assistance in Charlotte’s Immigration Court.

Santana is a tireless champion for immigrants in our community, fighting to ensure they have the legal assistance and information they need to defend themselves in Charlotte’s Immigration Court.

Her work is critical because no one has the right to representation in immigration court, since immigration cases are civil matters.

That leaves those who can’t afford an attorney, including children, alone to defend themselves in an overwhelming and confusing system with scarce resources.

For hundreds of clients, Santana is a stabilizing and supportive advocate, guiding families in crisis through frightening uncertainty and fighting for their right to due process.

The Mecklenburg County Bar’s Liberty Bell Award, which has been awarded annually since 1966, recognizes non-lawyers serving the community in ways that strengthen the American system of freedom under the law.

Santana joins a long list of community leaders who have received the award, including former Advocacy Center paralegal-advocate and CMS Board of Education leader Arthur Griffin (2004), local historian Tom Hanchett (2011) and Harvey B. Gantt (2018), Charlotte’s first African American mayor.