Dear AABANY Members,
In this season of giving, we count among our blessings being part of the great community that is the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY). Our strongest asset is you, our members, and we are writing now to appeal to you for support of AABANY’s Monthly Pro Bono Clinic.
From its beginning, AABANY has sought to serve the community and to advocate for it. In that spirit, AABANY started the Monthly Pro Bono Legal Advice and Referral Clinic. By leveraging expertise and language skills of AABANY’s active and diverse membership, the Clinic effectively expands access to justice and provides the Asian American community a way to receive high-quality legal services that are also culturally sensitive and linguistically competent.
Working with community organizations, the Clinic in the last few years has provided hundreds of low-income clients with free legal advice. These clients hail from all five boroughs, with some coming from as far as Yonkers, Long Island, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Most of these clients are monolingual Chinese and Japanese speakers. This fall the Clinic began to systematically incorporate Know-Your-Rights training on topics such as employment and housing law.
The dry facts do not adequately convey the Clinic’s importance to the Asian American community, especially in these trying times. Let us share with you some recent cases that exemplify typical clients and the routine problems they face:
- An elderly woman and her son were being harassed and evicted by their landlord. The mother and her deceased spouse had raised her entire family in her apartment, and her son had spent his entire life there. The basis for the eviction was that they declined to sign leases that their landlord suddenly demanded after allowing this practice for nearly 40 years. We provided them with an understanding of the holdover process and referrals to pro bono counsel and lawyers who charge on a sliding scale.
- A woman recently was seeking a divorce from her husband who held all of their assets and frequently threatened to kill her and himself, if she ever left him. A light bulb went off in her head during the consultation when she first recognized the signs of domestic violence and abuse in her situation. Because of this community member’s cultural upbringing, she would have never termed her marriage abusive. At the Clinic, we referred her to a legal services office that specializes in representing survivors of domestic violence.
- Just last month, we counseled an employee whose employer broke its written promise of a specified salary. This employee began to suffer from anxiety and depression due to this work-related stress and sought treatment. The same employer not only declined to move her assignment closer to her home to accommodate her disability but it also publicly disclosed her mental health status to her colleagues in violation of the law.
At these monthly sessions, we are often outraged by the reports of flagrant violations of the law. We are gratified that numerous AABANY members volunteer as pro bono lawyers for two hours once a month to bring access to justice to many community members who otherwise would have continued to bear the brunt of these injustices and illegalities, without recourse or effective assistance.
The Clinic can only operate with the generosity of donors and volunteers. During this holiday season, please consider supporting this vital project that is close to our hearts by donating to the Clinic. The Clinic has grown in the last year to the point that we are sometimes seeing nearly 50 clients in a short two-hour span. Your donations will help to pay for much needed administrative support and supplies that currently come out of the limited budget allocated to the Pro Bono and Community Service Committee that is charged with running the Clinic.
AABANY’s 501(c)(3) affiliate, the Asian American Law Fund of New York (AALFNY), is accepting charitable donations and can issue a tax receipt to you for your generous support. Any amount, large or small, would help, but if you can spare $25, $50, $100 or more, it would go a long way. The community members coming to the Clinic will greatly appreciate it!
When you go to the AALFNY website to make your donation, please be sure to indicate in the memo field that you are donating to the Pro Bono Clinic. Please take a moment today to visit this link and make a donation:
Best wishes to you and yours,
Karen Kithan Yau
Judy Ming Chu Lee
Co-Chairs, Pro Bono and Community Service Committee