Archives

Written by Adam Jacobs

Sep 21

2020

Legal Aid Remembers, Honors Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

We mourn the loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She spent her whole career fighting for the right for all of us to live with dignity and up to our full potential.

When asked how she wanted to be remembered, she said:

Someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability. And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has.

As the pandemic and a renewed focus on the violence against Blacks and other people of color has shown us, the tears in our society are deep, open wounds, and we cannot count on any one person (no matter how notorious) to fix them. But Justice Ginsburg’s talent, determination and brilliance helped give us the tools we need to move forward in our fight for justice.

Thank you, Justice Ginsburg. Rest in peace.

Sep 17

2020

Trump Administration Closer To Ending Temporary Protected Status for More Than 60,000 Dc Residents

Legal Aid opposes the Trump administration’s efforts to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for thousands of long-term DC residents. This week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Ramos v. Nielsen to lift a preliminary injunction that was stalling the Trump administration’s efforts to end TPS for citizens of El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Sudan. The case is linked to Bhattarai v. Nielsen which involves TPS recipients from Honduras and Nepal. The decision brings the Trump administration closer to its goal of eliminating TPS for more than 400,000 individuals in the United States. It also threatens to greatly exacerbate family separation as there are more than 270,000 US citizen children whose parents are TPS recipients and fear deportation. Read more →

Sep 15

2020

DC DHS To Resume SNAP and TANF Certifications

DC’s Department of Human Services (DHS) has restarted its normal certification procedures for Food Stamps/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits. These requirements had been waived between March and August 2020 in response to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. DHS will call and/or send notices to individuals who need to recertify these benefits.

District residents who receive notices to recertify or who DHS calls to complete a phone interview should do so immediately to ensure their benefits do not stop.

Households that receive recertification notices and/or requests for verification documents may submit them to DHS online at or through the DC Access Mobile Phone App, as well as by mail, or in-person at any of the three open DHS Service Centers (Congress Heights, H Street, Taylor Street). If you receive TANF or SNAP (or work with individuals who receive these benefits) and you are unsure about whether you need to recertify, you should contact DHS at 202-727-5355 or download the DC Access Mobile App.  Anyone whose benefits are terminated can contact Legal Aid for assistance.

Sep 15

2020

D.C. Court of Appeals Overturns Marijuana Conviction; Decision Has Implications for Record Sealing

The D.C. Court of Appeals recently reversed the conviction of a man who had been convicted of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance after the police found 1.76 ounces of marijuana during a traffic stop. This decision interprets an initiative adopted by D.C. voters in 2014 that decriminalized the possession of less than two ounces of marijuana. Despite this law, courts continued to convict individuals found with less than two ounces of marijuana if they were found to have an “intent to distribute,” even if defendants had not actually made the marijuana available for sale. This decision ended that inconsistency, holding that possession of a small amount of marijuana, coupled with the intent to distribute, fell within the class of conduct that the statute decriminalized. Read more →

Aug 27

2020

Bold Action Is Required to Stem the Tide of Evictions in DC

In the last month, researchers at nine national organizations and institutes have released analyses estimating the devastating wave of evictions facing tenants across the U.S. The National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel and the consulting firm Stout Risius Ross, LLC released a new tool that allows users to easily view relevant Census Bureau data related to eviction by state. According to Stout’s tool, currently 36.6% of Washington, DC’s renting population will be at risk of eviction when the eviction moratorium expires in December, which is equivalent to around 57,000 households. They report that the District’s estimated rent shortfall is currently a staggering $79 million. And these numbers will only go up with time. Read more →

Jul 31

2020

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

2020

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

2020

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 13

2020

New Immigration Policy On International Students Is Unnecessarily Strict

UPDATE: On Tuesday, July 14, the Trump Administration announced that it will rescind the policy referenced in this post, which would have barred international students from the United States if their colleges canceled in-person instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic, following several lawsuits filed by universities and states.

On Monday July 6th, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a new policy that puts international students at risk of being deported if their classes are fully online in the fall. With a half-dozen colleges and universities in the DC metropolitan region, and many more within a short commuting distance of the District, many individuals in Legal Aid’s client community will shoulder the impact of this policy change, which is unnecessarily strict and places an undue burden on international students. Read more →

Jun 24

2020

Outcomes of Remote Hearings Must Be Studied by Courts

“Zoom Court” is the new norm. As with all other aspects of life, justice is now being delivered virtually. According to the National Center for States Courts, all fifty states plus the District of Columbia have either suspended or given localities the option to suspend in-person proceedings. In Texas, hundreds of courtrooms have been operating remotely over Zoom, with live streamed proceedings. In Florida, a major voting rights case, about whether Florida residents with felony convictions must pay back court fines and fees before regaining their right to vote, was heard via video conference. Here in the District, some courtrooms in the Criminal, Probate, and Family Court Divisions are also operating remotely. The Civil Division is prioritizing hearing emergency and urgent matters remotely, with some additional types of hearings depending on availability of the Court and parties. High volume courts, including the Landlord and Tenant Branch, will start to hear some matters remotely. Read more →