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Universal Right to Counsel for tenants effective next month

This week two Right to Counsel bills became law citywide. Local Laws 53 and 54 — strengthen existing protections and expedite universal access to legal representation for tenants facing Housing Court proceedings. Lauren Springer, a tenant leader at Catholic Migration Services, said that help from Catholic Migration Services helped her and her neighbors organize to fight against their landlord’s “predatory practices which targeted the most vulnerable.”

“Later, we joined the fight to ensure the passage of landmark legislation guaranteeing legal representation to all eligible tenants facing an eviction in housing court. That right is even more critical given our current housing crisis made worse by the COVID pandemic,” Springer said. “It is truly momentous that the Mayor has signed into law two bills that would not only make the right to counsel immediately accessible citywide, but would also fund community-based organizations to get the word out.”

Read the full story in the Queens Daily Eagle: Universal Right to Counsel for tenants effective next month

Paid Sick Leave Enhanced for New York State 

Claudia (right), was assisted by the Workers’ Rights Program during the pandemic.

Beginning on January 1, 2021, workers across New York State could begin accruing leave to take paid time off to care for themselves or a family member with illness, attend a doctor’s appointment, or seek services related to domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or human trafficking. While New York State responded swiftly at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to provide paid sick time to those who were impacted by a mandatory quarantine or isolation order, this is the first time New York State has ever required employers to provide general paid sick leave. Now New York State has caught up with New York City, which has provided general paid sick leave for seven years, and workers across New York State can request paid time off to care for themselves and their family members. Claudia, a recent client of Catholic Migration Services speaks to the importance of the new law: “It’s not our fault when we get sick, so now we can work knowing that this law protects us.”

Claudia fell ill herself and was hospitalized after contracting COVID-19. She contacted Catholic Migration Services’ labor hotline when her employer refused to pay her for her time away from work. As an essential worker, Claudia worked in a laundromat that supplied laundry services to healthcare facilities during the pandemic. Catholic Migration Services contacted Claudia’s employer and helped her secure two weeks of wages. Prior to the pandemic, Claudia had never taken a sick day the 4 years she worked there. “It was a huge relief – that pay helped me with my rent. And they don’t give it to you if you don’t ask.”

Since March of last year, the Workers’ Rights team at Catholic Migration Services has provided assistance to hundreds of low income and immigrant workers regarding workplace violations related to COVID-19. In collaboration with workers’ centers and community-based organizations citywide, the Workers’ Rights Program works towards strengthening the enforcement of workers’ rights through affirmative litigation, policy reform, individual representation, and community education.

Catholic Migration Services represents low-wage workers in all five boroughs free of charge. The Workers’ Rights Hotline, our hotline providing workers’ rights information and assistance is open to all residents of New York. To speak with a member of the Workers’ Rights Program, please call (877) 52-LABOR (52267) Monday through Friday between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. ¡Hablamos Español!

How to Stop an Eviction Case Until at Least May 1, 2021

In December 2020, New York State enacted the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020. Among other things, that law stopped most pending eviction cases through February 26th and established a procedure for stopping such cases, and new cases commenced after the law was enacted, through at least May 1st.  The law does not apply to cases in which the landlord alleges certain nuisance conduct.

To stop an eviction case through at least May 1st, a tenant must fill out a form called a “Tenant’s Declaration of Hardship During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”  If a tenant has not already received a Hardship Declaration from the landlord or from the Housing Court, they can obtain one by visiting the New York State Office of Court Administration website at www.nycourts.gov/eefpa/.  The declaration is available in many languages.  

Tenants may also fill out a Hardship Declaration online at EVICTIONFREENYC.ORG.

Completed Hardship Declarations may be mailed to the landlord, the landlord’s attorney, or to the Housing Court. If there is a pending court case, Queens tenants may email them to QueensHardshipDeclaration@nycourts.gov; Brooklyn tenants may email them to KingsHardshipDedclaration@nycourts.gov.

Catholic Migration Services represents low-income New Yorkers living in Queens free of charge. If you have questions about how to file a Hardship Declaration or whether you should file one, please call Catholic Migration Services at (347) 472-3500, extension 1027.

Immigration Update Pertaining to Venezuela and the Designation for Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

Presione aquí para la versión en Español

On March 9, 2021 the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designated Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months, until September 9, 2022.

Catholic Migration Services urges anyone who may be eligible to receive TPS for Venezuela to call our office and schedule an appointment for a free legal consultation.

What is Temporary Protected Status (TPS)?
The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may designate a foreign country for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may grant TPS to eligible nationals of certain countries (or parts of countries), who are already in the United States. Eligible individuals without nationality who last resided in the designated country may also be granted TPS.

What does this announcement mean?
This new designation of TPS for Venezuela allows Venezuelan nationals (and individuals without nationality who last resided in Venezuela) currently in the United States to file an initial application for TPS, as long as they meet eligibility requirements. Individuals who are TPS beneficiaries or eligible for TPS are not removable from the United States, can obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) or work permit, Social Security Number, and may be granted travel authorizations. TPS may be renewed as long as Venezuela is designated a Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) country.

When can I apply for TPS?
Eligible individuals can apply now. The TPS registration period for Venezuelan nationals (and individuals without nationality who last resided in Venezuela) began March 9, 2021 and will remain in effect through September 5, 2021. Individuals should file applications in time to have it received by USCIS before that date.

How do I apply?
We recommend consulting a lawyer to determine if you are eligible to apply for TPS and to learn more about what documents you may need to include in your application.

If you have any questions or concerns, please call Catholic Migration Services in Brooklyn at (718) 236-3000 or in Queens at (347) 472-3500 between 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. from Monday through Friday.

For additional information, you can also contact Action NYC at (800) 354-0365 – Monday through Friday, between 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. – to connect with City-funded, free and safe immigration legal help.

Download this update as a PDF.

What Happens When a New York City Landlord Threatens to Call ICE?

Many New York tenants have questions about losing their homes during the pandemic. The same is true for undocumented New Yorkers. Recently, The City teamed up with Documented to answer questions submitted by readers in these situations and the Tenant Advocacy Program of Catholic Migration Services explained tenant rights in the middle of a health crisis.