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Catholic Migration Services and Pro Bono Counsel Represent Queens Tenants in an Effort to Pursue Overcharge Claims on Their Rent Stabilized Apartment

Catholic Migration Services filed two cases in Queens County Supreme Court on behalf of tenants who allege that their landlord charged them more than the legally permissible rent for many years. Along with pro bono counsel from Simpson, Thacher and Bartlett LLP, we recently obtained a favorable ruling from an appellate court that will permit our clients’ claims to proceed.

In 2015, Beatriz came to Catholic Migration Services seeking one-on-one consultation because she believed that her rent was too high. After learning about her housing concerns, the Catholic Migration Services Tenant Advocacy Program agreed to represent her and her son with the expertise of Senior Staff Attorney, Mariam Magar.

In the course of researching the records for the apartment maintained by the Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), Mariam discovered that a rent reduction order was issued by DHCR in 1987 (and effective May 1986) had remained in effect through September 2015. This meant that Beatriz and Angel should have been paying only $348.04 per month, an overcharge of almost $1,300 per month, until then.

In February 2016 Mariam filed overcharge cases for both Beatriz and Angel in Queens County Supreme Court, asserting that they were overcharged because (1) the rent in their 2006 vacancy lease, which was more than double the rent paid by the prior tenant, was excessive, and (2) the 1987 DHCR rent reduction order limited their rent to $348.04 per month through September 2015. After filing the cases, Mariam learned about a second rent reduction order that was still in effect.

Initially, the judges in each of the two cases dismissed them, finding that the tenants had filed them too late, but with the help of pro bono counsel from the law firm of Simpson, Thacher and Bartlett LLP, we appealed to the Appellate Division, Second Department, and in June 2020, the Court issued orders reversing the two Supreme Court decisions, holding that the tenants had not filed their cases too late.

As of July 2020, the two cases are now headed back to the Supreme Court, where the tenants may once again pursue their overcharge claims with continued representation from Catholic Migration Services and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Beatriz and her son Angel, this will enable mother and son to remain in their long-time home for years to come.

Immigration Update: The Supreme Court of the United States on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program

Presione aquí para la versión en Español
Peze la pou tradui nan Kreyol Ayisyen

On June 18, 2020 the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Trump Administration’s termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2017 was unlawful, thus allowing almost 800,000 DACAmented community members, including 45,000 residents of New York, who call the United States of America home to breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the program has not been eliminated and continues to stand.

What does the decision mean?

  • The Supreme Court’s decision specifically takes issue with the way the Trump administration ended the program in 2017. The Court held that the way the program was terminated was improper. It did not hold that DACA was lawful or good policy.
  • The Supreme Court’s decision means that the DACA program should be restored completely, which means that first time applicants should be able to apply. It is unclear when the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin taking on new applications. Individuals currently with DACA continue to remain eligible to renew their DACA for two more years.
  • It is possible that Advance Parole may again allow DACA recipients to travel outside the United States and return. However, details of this are still unclear, and the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic may limit the ability to travel.
  • All DACA eligible individuals should consult with a legal service provider for information about applying for DACA for the first time, renewing their existing DACA, and/or getting screened for eligibility for other, more permanent immigration options.

This decision is an enormous victory for our immigrant communities and their allies who mobilized to protect the DACA program. However, it is important to keep in mind that the Trump administration can again attempt to end the program through other means, and that only an act of Congress can afford DACAmented community members true permanent status in the United States.

We will continue to update our website with more information as it becomes known.

To make an appointment with Catholic Migration Services for free legal assistance applying for or renewing DACA, call us at (718) 236-3000 (Brooklyn office) or (347) 472-3500 (Queens office).

Download this update as a PDF.

Virtual Immigration Town Hall

Last week Catholic Migration Services and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest hosted a Virtual Immigration Town Hall via Facebook Live. Panelists discussed how COVID-19 is impacting tenants and workers, shared helpful resources with the immigrant community during this difficult time, and took questions from the audience. If you missed it, view the video below.

*The Virtual Immigration Town Hall begins at 00:09:00

Join Catholic Migration Services and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest for an Virtual Immigration Town Hall on…

Posted by Catholic Migration Services on Thursday, May 7, 2020

The Covid-19 Rent Crisis Is Here

As hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers lose their jobs or part of their income due to the pandemic, Catholic Migration Services is assisting tenants who are thinking of going on a “rent strike” – refusing to pay rent. As of May 1st, more than 50 buildings with 1,000 tenants are on rent strike — the largest rent strike in nearly 100 years. These tenants are asking the government of New York State to cancel rent for those who cannot pay, cancel mortgages for small landlords, and cancel utility payments, in order to prevent mass displacement and evictions once New York’s eviction moratorium is lifted. In some cases, tenants may also be demanding that their landlords make urgently needed repairs and maintain their buildings adequately to prevent the spread of the virus.

In a recent article in the Wired, Agustin Pérez, a tenant leader working with Catholic Migration Services shares his experience after recently losing his job due to the COVID-19 pandemic and with two young children and a wife on maternity leave, he is doing everything he can to keep his family healthy and safe.

Read the full story in the Wired: The Covid-19 Rent Crisis Is Here

To learn more about the history and purpose of rent strikes, and what you can do as a tenant, visit www.rightotcounselnyc.org and see images from the @RTCNYC @HOUSINGFORALLNY
*Catholic Migration Services advises any tenant considering a rent strike to try to speak with an attorney before striking. If you would like help organizing a rent strike in your building, contact Amy Collado at (347) 472-3500, extension 1021. You may obtain free legal advice about going on rent strike by calling Andrew Lehrer at (347) 472-3500, extension 1026.

Legal Services NYC Sues NYC Immigration Courts for Refusing to Postpone Filing Deadlines Amid COVID-19, Putting Countless Lives at Risk

On April 29, 2020 Legal Services NYC and Catholic Migration Services as an organizational plaintiff – filed a lawsuit before the Southern District of New York against the Executive Office for Immigration Review, AKA “immigration court” (EOIR) challenging the EOIR’s requirement that all litigants with cases currently pending before it continue to meet previously established filing deadlines even in the face of a global pandemic.

What this means practically is that if a legal worker practicing before the immigration court had a filing due at any time during this COVID-19 pandemic and gubernatorial shelter-in-place, they are still required to meet that deadline or risk running afoul of a court order and more importantly causing potentially irreparable harm to their clients and their case. This case seeks to force the agency to enjoin the enforcement of all immigration court deadlines until 45 days after all shelter in place orders are lifted.

Read the full press release from Legal Services NYC: Legal Services NYC Sues NYC Immigration Courts for Refusing to Postpone Filing Deadlines Amid COVID-19, Putting Countless Lives at Risk

Click here to download the full complaint.

The Presidential Proclamation Suspending Entry of Certain Immigrants During the Recovery to the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Who does the Presidential Proclamation impact?
The Proclamation Impacts Immigrants who are:

  1. Outside the U.S. on April 23, 2020 and 
  2. Do not have an immigrant visa (meaning, had not had the consular interview and been approved to enter the United States) on or before April 23, 2020, and 
  3. Do not have travel document (advance parole, transportation letter, or boarding foil) valid on April 23, 2020 or issued after that date, and
  4. Are trying to enter the U.S. as a step in the green card process in the next 60 days. 

The Proclamation Does NOT Impact Immigrants Who:

  • Were inside the United States on April 23, 2020, or
  • Are already lawful permanent residents (green card holders), or
  • Have an immigrant visa that was valid on April 23, 2020, or
  • Have an official travel document (advance parole, transportation letter, or boarding foil) that is valid on April 23, 2020 or issued after that date, or
  • Are the spouse or under-21 child of a U.S. Citizen, or
  • Are healthcare workers, physicians, medical researchers, or other researchers combating the pandemic, or their spouse or unmarried, under-21 children, or
  • Recognized as essential workers, their spouse and unmarried, under-21 children, or
  • Have a student, temporary worker, or other non-immigrant visa, or
  • Are a member of the U.S. military or their spouse and children, or
  • Are seeking asylum, withholding of removal, protection under the Convention Against Torture, or refugee status, or
  • Are entering on Special Immigrant Visas with SI or SQ classifications, or
  • Are a prospective adoptee of a U.S. Citizen under the IR-4 or IH-4 classifications or
  • Applying for a visa through the EB-5 immigrant investor visa program, or
  • Are determined to be a person whose entry would further important law enforcement objectives, or
  • Are determined to be entering “in the national interest”

What does the Proclamation say about non-immigrant visas?
For now, the Presidential Proclamation does not affect non-immigrant visas. However, the Proclamation hints that within the next 30 days, the Trump Administration will be considering whether to include non-immigrant visas in a similar executive action in the near future.

Does this really “temporarily suspend immigration into the United States” like the President said it would? Does it impact people who are already permanent residents?
No. There are many immigrants who will continue to be able to enter the United States. The Proclamation’s effect is small especially because many government offices had already closed or reduced operations because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It does not ban immigrants who are already permanent residents. For now, the Proclamation is set to last for only 60 days, although that period could be extended.

What is the purpose of this Proclamation?
In the Proclamation, the President says he thinks immigrants would compete with U.S. citizen workers for jobs during the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the time immigrants do not compete with U.S. citizens for jobs, but instead increase job opportunities for citizens. According to the Small Business Administration, immigrants are 30% more likely to start a business. Businesses owned by immigrants hire workers. Immigrants put billions of dollars into our economy. The Presidential Proclamation is based on false and anti-immigrant beliefs. The Trump Administration seems to be trying to take advantage of the current crisis to cut immigration to the United States.

Questions?
Please contact Catholic Migration Services in Brooklyn at (718) 236-3000 or in Queens at (347) 472-3500.

Download this update as a PDF.