Making Justice Real

The Official Blog of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia

Jul 31


District passes emergency legislation to protect workers from COVID-19

Since May 29, 2020, when some District businesses began to reopen, many jobless workers contacted Legal Aid for advice. These workers’ concerns were two-fold: they feared being required to return to jobs that might not yet be safe, which could risk their health and the health of their household members, and yet they also feared being “reported” by their employers to the unemployment office for refusing work, which could jeopardize the unemployment benefits they needed to survive the pandemic. Black workers, immigrants, and workers with limited English proficiency reported feeling especially vulnerable. Indeed, a recent nationwide survey demonstrated that employers disproportionately retaliated against Black workers for raising safety concerns with their employers. Read more →

Jul 31


Public charge rule blocked during public health emergency

On Wednesday, July 29, 2020, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction and temporary stay that enjoins the federal government from implementing or enforcing the public charge rule. The Trump Administration first proposed the public charge rule in September 2018. The rule would make it more difficult for immigrants to obtain legal permanent resident status if they had received or applied for federally-funded public benefits. Members of the immigrant and immigrant-allied communities – including Legal Aid – vehemently opposed the proposed rule. However, despite ongoing litigation, the public charge rule went into effect on February 24, 2020. Read more →

Jul 27


Sealing Criminal Records Is Harder Than Ever

At long last, our society has begun to reckon with the devastation that over-policing has wrought, particularly on communities of color. Many District residents have known for years that one of the costs of a police encounter can be a life-changing criminal record. Once burdened with a criminal record, individuals encounter obstacles to getting employment, housing, public assistance, and education. Sealing those records, therefore, can be invaluable. Unfortunately, even before the public health emergency, D.C. had one of the most restrictive record-sealing processes in the country. Now is the time to make criminal record sealing easier; but, in D.C., it is only getting harder. Read more →

Jul 17


Legal Aid Submits Objection to Trump Administration’s Proposed Asylum Rule

The Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia submitted comments this week strongly opposing a U.S. Department of Justice and Homeland Security proposed rule that would severely and unfairly restrict the number of individuals who can obtain asylum relief. If implemented the rule would represent a sweeping change to the current U.S. asylum policies and processes. Among those affected will be many Legal Aid clients, including survivors of gender-based persecution, as the proposed rule would effectively eliminate gender-based persecution as a basis for asylum.

The proposed rule would effectively gut asylum relief by allowing sweeping categorical denials, severely restricting eligibility, and imposing potential bars to relief on nearly every asylum seeker. For example, adjudicators could deny relief due to persecution based on “retribution,” “interpersonal disputes,” or “private criminal acts.” The proposed rule would, therefore, effectively eliminate the ability to obtain asylum based on any private actor harm, including gang violence, intimate partner violence, or other gender-based persecution. Read more →

Jul 15


Chemonics International Announces $100,000 Donation to Legal Aid

Chemonics International, a private international development firm based in DC, announced a $100,000 commitment to Legal Aid today, as part of our Making Justice Real Campaign. It is the largest single donation in the Campaign’s 30-year history.

“Chemonics has been promoting meaningful change around the world for 45 years, but given the movement for racial justice happening in the District and around the country, we wanted to make a difference here at home,” said Jamey Butcher, President & CEO of Chemonics. Read more →