AABANY Co-Sponsors a CLE Program about Anti-Asian Violence and Steps Lawyers Can Take to Combat the Issue on May 26

On May 26, the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY), along with the New York City Bar Association (NYCBA) and the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA), hosted a CLE program about the rise in anti-Asian violence during the past year. Karen King, AABANY Pro Bono & Community Service (PBCS) Committee Co-Chair welcomed the attendees. Bret Parker, the Executive Director of the New York City Bar Association introduced the program and gave his thanks to the organizers of the event as well. Karen Kithan Yau, AABANY Board Director and the moderator for the event, introduced the program’s panelists: PBCS Committee Co-Chair and Morvillo Abramowitz Partner Karen King; AABANY Board Director, Issues Committee Co-Chair, Asia Practice Committee Co-Chair and JAMS Mediator Chris Kwok; Girls Rule the Law founder Mirna Santiago; Kings County DA Office Bureau Chief Kin Ng; and Legal Aid Society Cop Accountability Project attorney Jennvine Wong.

Karen King and Chris began the presentation for the event. Karen first discussed the origins of anti-Asian racism during the COVID-19 pandemic, explaining that anti-Asian bias incidents began very early on in the pandemic. The number of incidents only tapered off due to the stay-at-home orders, before increasing once again after President Trump’s inflammatory statements blaming Asians for the outbreak. Chris also pointed out that the New York Police Department (NYPD) often neglected to fully investigate the earliest occurrences of anti-Asian hate, regarding them as minor incidents. He also presented a brief history of anti-Asian violence, beginning with the Chinese massacre of 1871 which immunized violence against Asians and ending with the Vincent Chin case. Karen then discussed the causes of the violence against Asians. She explained that societal stress, inaccurate information, underreporting, lack of cultural awareness of the discrimination that Asians face, and prosecution’s tendency to not pursue hate crime enhancements all contributed to the increase in anti-Asian incidents. Chris also noted that the NYPD Asian Hate Crimes Task Force not only lacks funding, but that its members are already assigned to other departments in the NYPD and serve on the Task Force on a volunteer basis. The Black Lives Matter and the Defund the Police movements also eclipsed the issue of anti-Asian violence through the end of 2020. Karen explained that AABANY’s report on anti-Asian violence was written to document this issue and keep it in the public eye.

After the presentation, Karen Yau opened the conversation to the rest of the panelists. She began by addressing Mirna, asking her what it meant to be an ally. Mirna explained that the feeling of “otherness” is something that all minority groups face. She also emphasized the need to break away from tit-for-tat allyship and to build a trans-racial coalition united to fight against racism and hate.

Karen then turned to Kin and asked about the reasons why any hate crimes had yet to be successfully prosecuted. Kin explained that unlike other crimes, law enforcement must not only prove that the perpetrator committed the crime, but also must prove that the perpetrator was motivated by racist sentiments. This process is often lengthy and requires a great deal of investigation. Kin also pointed out that acquiring evidence of hate speech can be prevented by the victim’s inability to understand English. He acknowledged how frustrating the process was, but also encouraged the attendees to report any incidents, as establishing a pattern aids the prosecution of hate crimes.

Karen then followed up by asking how prosecutors dealt with the difficulties of investigating hate crimes. Kin explained that establishing trust between the District Attorney’s Office and people in the community is instrumental in acquiring evidence. He also pointed out that more funding and employing more bilingual individuals to act as a liaison between the DA’s Office and the community would aid prosecution immensely.

Karen then turned to the issue of over-incarceration. Addressing Jennvine, Karen asked her thoughts about combating anti-Asian incidents without turning to incarceration. Jennvine acknowledged the issue, emphasizing how hate crime enhancements disproportionately affect other minorities who are already overrepresented in the prison system. She also asserted that criminalization would obscure the root cause of the violence, white supremacy. Rather than buy into the media’s false narrative of blacks versus Asians, Jennvine explained that many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) are subjected to violence because they are trapped in poverty and living in unsafe neighborhoods. Jennvine concluded by contending that turning to the NYPD would not offer a viable long-term solution.

Karen then returned to Kin, asking if the new discovery laws had any effect on the prosecution of hate crimes. Kin explained that the new laws would allow the alleged perpetrator’s defense attorney to call witnesses in their homes because the defense is entitled to interview witnesses. This change has resulted in some individuals being less willing to testify, making underreporting more severe.

Karen then moved the conversation to bail reform. She described one incident where, due to the pandemic, the alleged perpetrator of a bias incident was not put on trial and walked free without an order of protection for the alleged victim for several months before going to court. Jennvine responded by emphasizing the importance of bail reform and how previous bail laws only gave victims a false sense of security. She also pointed out that orders of protection are typically granted and also tend to only give protection in name. Kin also noted that the large gap between the report of the incident and the court date was due to the extraordinary circumstances caused by the pandemic. The absence of an order of protection was due to the lack of a court hearing until the later date.

Karen then addressed Chris, asking about his experiences in speaking with the media. Chris explained that when the report was published in February of 2021, mass media was not aware of the basic facts about anti-Asian violence. When the media coverage began to recede in March, the Atlanta shootings gave new gravity to the situation, though much of the nuance about the issue was lost in the popular narrative which pits blacks against Asians. Nonetheless, Chris also noted that the attention Asians have received in the media is unprecedented.

Karen then turned back to Mirna, asking to what degree the conflict between Asians and blacks is real. Mirna emphasized the need to educate others and to reconsider our own bias when being an ally. She also highlighted Grace Lee Boggs, an Asian woman who was extremely active in the fight for black civil rights in the 1960s. She closed by reiterating the need for listening and empathy across communities.

Karen then inquired about the importance of symbols, such as swastikas, in prosecuting hate crimes. Kin responded that since Asian cultures are extremely diverse, finding a single symbol that could be employed as a hate symbol against Asians would be difficult. Kin also reiterated that the police’s ability to prove a connection between race and the crime depends largely on the amount of effort the police are willing to put into the investigation.

Karen’s final question was about the possibility of a program where alleged perpetrators could receive counseling from victims. Karen King disagreed, questioning its practicality, but supported counseling perpetrators. Mirna concurred, stating that it should never be the burden of the victims to help their perpetrators. Chris also emphasized the importance of education and cultural competency in combating racism and building solidarity.

Kin and Chris then closed the panel discussion by reemphasizing the need for reporting incidents, as the issue of anti-Asian violence would remain invisible unless victims and witnesses stepped forward to bring the issue into the spotlight.

The President of the NYSBA, Scott Karson, concluded the event by thanking the organizers, panelists, and attendees for participating in the event, and reiterated NYSBA’s solidarity with the Asian community. Karen Yau also encouraged attendees to volunteer for AABANY’s Hate Eradication Active Response Team (HEART), an initiative which would allow volunteers to connect community members who had experienced a bias incident with legal and mental health resources.

To learn more about the HEART initiative click here. To view the full video of the program, click here.

AABANY AAVTF Holds a Briefing on Anti-Asian Violence on May 25

On May 25, the Asian American Bar Association of New York’s Anti-Asian Violence Task Force (AAVTF) hosted an information briefing about the AAVTF’s activities and about the rise in anti-Asian violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. The speakers for the event were AABANY President Terry Shen; Board Director, Issues Committee Co-Chair and Asia Practice Committee Co-Chair Chris Kwok; Board Director and past Pro Bono & Community Service (PBCS) Committee Co-Chair Karen Yau; PBCS Committee Co-Chair Karen King; Prosecutors’ Committee Co-Chair Joseb Gim; and Executive Director Yang Chen.

Chris and President Shen gave the opening remarks, introducing the event, and thanking all the attendees for coming.

After these remarks, Chris began the presentation, explaining how the publicity about anti-Asian violence generated in mainstream media has suddenly catapulted Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) into the public consciousness. Unlike before, Asians are now viewed as a group that experiences discrimination and violence, just like any other minority. Chris explained that these realizations politically empower AAPIs to make change in the political system as Asians become more aware about race and the ways in which it affects them. The AAPI identity has also been recreated through artwork, publications, and other initiatives. Asian non-profits have also begun receiving a large influx of donations that have great potential to aid the AAPI community. Chris also discussed the history of AABANY’s report and how Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric about the virus incited a wave of anti-Asian hate and violence during early 2020. These events culminated in the report’s publication in February 2021. Karen then discussed the report’s publication process which involved the feedback and support of bar associations, law firms and other organizations. The subsequent publicity generated by the report was cemented by the anti-Asian shootings in Atlanta. Ever since, Karen explained, AABANY has frequently been requested to speak at numerous events and on many media outlets. Many initiatives proposed by the report have also since been implemented.

Yang then went on to discuss the genesis of the AAVTF, made up of members of the Academic Committee, Issues Committee, Legal Referral and Information Services (LRIS) Committee, PBCS Committee, Prosecutors Committee, and Student Outreach Committee as well as Immediate Past President Sapna Palla, President Shen, and President-Elect Will Ng. Yang also explained how the AAVTF was founded to realize the goals outlined in the report, focusing on three prongs of action: education/communication, research, and advocacy. Ever since, the AAVTF has pressed for hate crime prosecutions in DA Offices, published Know Your Rights Brochures for community members on what to do if they face an anti-Asian bias incident or hate crime, organized speaking engagements, begun data tracking for incidents, formed the Hate Eradication Active Response Team (HEART), and much more to raise awareness and combat anti-Asian violence.

Joe Gim, prosecutor and the Chief of the new Hate Crimes Bureau at the Nassau County DA Office next discussed the role of the Prosecutors’ Committee in the AAVTF, which was primarily to shed light on criminal statutes and on the gaps between law enforcement’s understanding and implementation of these statutes. This information, Joe explained, is used to strengthen AABANY’s initiatives and advocacy efforts.

Chris affirmed this statement, reiterating his thanks to the AAVTF and the indispensable support it provides in leading the conversation about anti-Asian violence. Chris also pointed out that any movements that fight back against hate, regardless of which group is targeted, are fighting against a common enemy of structural racism.

Yang and Karen Yau went on to promote the Turning the Tide (T3) Project, which is hosted at the Asian American Law Fund of New York (AALFNY) to raise money for the AAVTF’s initiatives, research, and advocacy combating anti-Asian hate and violence. Karen King also gave a special shoutout to the HEART initiative, encouraging the attendees to volunteer their time to help connect victims of anti-Asian violence with legal aid and other resources. She also encouraged attendees to involve their law firms as sponsors for projects and events.

Chris then closed the presentation by pointing out how the police’s lackluster response to hate crimes is in part due to the historical invisibility of the AAPI community. He also explained how this invisibility has its roots in the 1853 People v. Hall case where George Hall, a white man, was convicted but then released after murdering a Chinese miner. Chris explained how Hall appealed his release on the basis of a California statute which prevented people of color from testifying against whites. Chris also emphasized that supporting the Black Lives Matter movement does not detract from support for the AAPI cause. To illustrate the importance of building a multi-racial coalition, Chris recounted an interview he had with the celebrated documentary director Spike Lee for his film about New York City and race that will be released in September 2021. Lee explained that he had chosen to interview Chris because “people were asking where the Asians were. And I listened.”

After the presentations, the discussion was opened to the attendees for a question and answer session. 

Karen Lin, PBCS Committee Co-Chair asked whether or not AABANY would advocate for including AAPI history in the public school curriculum. Yang answered by reiterating AABANY’s support of any educational initiatives, pointing to AABANY’s trial reenactments project as an example. 

AABANY member Jennifer Luo then pointed the discussion towards the lack of successful hate crime prosecutions. Joe explained that law enforcement currently lacks sufficient resources and infrastructure to investigate hate crimes. As hate crimes are unique in that the prosecutor must prove that the perpetrator was motivated to commit the crime due to racial bias, this process requires more investigation and information which the police currently lacks. To address this issue, Joe also proposed creating a database of hate crimes and bias incidents that would allow law enforcement to easily access information and also to enable community members to report incidents more efficiently. He also mentioned the newly minted COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which would allocate funding towards combating hate crimes. Chris also added that AABANY is planning a Candidates’ Forum that would give AABANY and its members an opportunity to ask about measures being considered to protect the AAPI community from violence. 

David Ahn then asked about AABANY’s plans to monitor hate crimes going forward. Chris answered by citing AABANY’s involvement in a case in Flushing, Queens where the perpetrator, despite revealing his racist sentiments in a text sent to the New York Times, was not charged with a hate crime. After AABANY’s advocacy in the DA’s Office, the perpetrator was charged with a hate crime. Chris also added that, though not every case would lead to a hate crime enhancement, AABANY is continuing to monitor the news and other outlets for advocacy opportunities. Yang also explained that the HEART initiative would help AABANY keep track of the incidents, connect with the community, and improve AABANY’s advocacy efforts. Karen Yau also pointed out that there are other alternatives to criminal prosecutions that victims would be able to pursue if they wished.

Chris then shared his own experiences with anti-Asian violence growing up, recounting a story where his friends were assaulted by a white supremacist gang while exiting a movie theater in Queens. He also described his efforts to reconnect with them hoping to preserve their stories and voices as a part of the history of anti-Asian violence.

AABANY Treasurer William Hao also discussed his own involvement in the aftermath of the Atlanta shootings while on a call with former U.S. Attorney Byung J. (“BJay”) Pak, the FBI, and local law enforcement. Will shared that even though the media had severely twisted the narrative by promoting the perpetrator’s claim that he had not been motivated by racism, the call served to give Asians a voice in revealing the truth of the events and reshaping the story. Will concluded by emphasizing the importance of AAPI representation in government and law enforcement.

Marilyn Go (USMJ EDNY, ret’d) then asked about AABANY’s ability to speak out during majority political forums. Chris answered by pointing out the difficulty of entering majority forums, but also noted that events recorded on Zoom would allow AABANY to hold candidates accountable for their words. Yang also referenced the City Council District One Candidates’ Forum which did take questions from AABANY regarding the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force. Jennifer then asked about the possibility of keeping a record of candidates’ responses regarding issues of anti-Asian violence. Chris responded that AABANY’s future plans to hold a Manhattan DA Candidates’ forum would allow AABANY to record responses from the candidates on that issue.

AABANY thanks all of the attendees for their time and their commitment to serving the AAPI community. To view the recording of the event, click here.

AABANY Offers Application Aid to LEP Applicants Seeking Section 8 Housing and Emergency Rental Assistance

volunteer assisting with application

AABANY announced on May 28, 2021, that through the Pro Bono & Community Service (PBCS) Committee, Government Service & Public Interest (GSPI) Committee and the Student Outreach Committee (SOC), it established a phone line to aid limited English proficient (LEP) applicants in applying for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) and Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program, also known as Section 8. Section 8 is a government rental housing program that allows low-income families, the elderly and disabled to rent privately-owned and safe housing. Applicants will be selected by the New York State Homes & Community Renewal (NYSHCR) agency’s Section 8 Voucher Waitlist Lottery. The deadline for application is May 28, 11:59 AM ET. As for ERAP, the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) is offering a program that provides rental and utility assistance to eligible New York residents who owe arrears. Households will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis, as long as funds remain available.

When applying for housing and aid, many LEP applicants have had difficulty finding language assistance. AABANY hopes to help LEP applicants who do not have electronic access in completing the application by telephone. Interested applicants may contact (929) 251-3022 or probono@aabany.org to schedule a time with an AABANY volunteer to receive aid in contacting HCR and the OTDA.

To view AABANY’s flyer about the Section 8 Waitlist Lottery, click on the image above.

To read more about AABANY’s efforts to aid the Chinese LEP community, click here.

AABANY Hosts 2021 Annual Meeting of Members on Remo

On Tuesday, February 9, 2021, AABANY held its Annual Meeting of Members on Remo. President Sapna Palla called the meeting to order and established quorum. Elections were held for the 2021 Board of Directors and Officers.

President Sapna Palla presented the Year in Review and Executive Director, Yang Chen, presented the report of the Committees. Following the reports, awards were presented to honor AABANY leaders and committees for their dedication to AABANY over the past year. While these presentations were occurring, Immediate Past President Brian Song and President-Elect Terrence Shen tallied the votes.

The following officers were elected and will begin their term on April 1, 2021:

William Ng
President-Elect

Cynthia Lam
Vice President, Programs and Operations

Joe Eng
Vice President, Programs and Operations

Margaret Ling
Development Director

William Hao
Treasurer

Christopher Bae
Secretary

Beatrice Leong
Membership Director

The following candidates were elected as Directors to serve two-year terms starting on April 1, 2021:

Jasmine Ball
Jeff Ikejiri
Suzanne Kim
Chris Kwok
David Sohn
Bart Wu
Karen Yau
Andy Yoo

Congratulations to all the Officers and Directors who were elected to the Board.

The following awards were presented:

Committees of the Year: The Pro Bono and Community Service Committee and the Student Outreach Committee

For the numerous initiatives they organized to support the community during COVID-19, including Know Your Rights webinars, COVID Rent Relief Program application drives, and postering and social media campaigns to promote the Remote Pro Bono Legal Clinic and other community programs.

Program of the Year: Weekly Membership Mixers

For hosting more than 30 weekly mixers on Zoom and Remo since April 1, 2020 to provide an open space for members and non-members to share their feelings, see old friends, and make new connections.

Member of the Year: Bart Wu

For his outstanding work with the Legal Referral and Information Service, which he helped launch, and his work reviving the Solo and Small Firm Practice Committee.

Congratulations to all the honorees for the recognition of their achievements and hard work during the 2021 fiscal year.

Congratulations to the Officers and Directors elected to the Board to serve during fiscal year 2022 which commences on April 1, 2021.

We would also like to thank our members for attending and participating in the annual meeting.

One Case, Many Takeaways: Bei Yang’s Experience with AABANY Remote Pro Bono Legal Clinic

By Bei Yang

As an out-of-state law graduate from Tennessee, I was not familiar with any specific New York practice rules. While waiting for my bar exam results and preparing for my legal career in New York, and with the encouragement of my mentor Mr. Rocky Chin, I participated in the AABANY Remote Pro Bono Legal Clinic. The Clinic provides legal information and referrals to individuals, particularly those with limited English proficiency, with legal issues such as immigration, housing, employment, family, elder law, anti-Asian violence, and those pertaining to small businesses.

After registration, I received an email with a list of cases that was sent to all volunteers. Volunteers can choose to take on one or more cases based on interests or experience, and if you are not licensed or not experienced in a specific area, the Clinic partners you with a more experienced attorney to remotely shadow and learn from. Since I have not yet been admitted and this was my first time volunteering, I decided to shadow Ms. May Wong, an experienced volunteer attorney, on a contract law case.

Before making a callback, Ms. Wong and I knew that our client only spoke Mandarin and had been recently served with a Summons. With this limited information at hand, we discussed the legal matters that we needed to inform the client of. These matters included the risk of a default judgment if the clinic client did not respond to the service in a timely fashion (CPLR §3215: default judgment), the possible defenses the client might take, like defects in the service of process (§CPLR 308: Methods of personal service upon a natural person), and the statute of limitations (CPLR §213(2): 6 years for a breach of contract claim in New York). Ms. Wong then patiently went over the normal calling process and basic civil procedure in New York with me. Only after making sure that I did not have any more questions and was comfortable to make the call, she started our three-way phone call with the clinic client.

On the call, we explained our limited roles and asked the client to elaborate on the facts of his case. While acting as a language interpreter, I was able to ask the caller questions about his case to narrow down the issues, thus gaining useful intake skills. I learned that this case was about a family business dispute worth $25,000. The caller was not represented by an attorney and we strongly encouraged him to engage one rather than risking a default judgment, which is enforceable for 20 years and would cost him more money to vacate.

Not only did the client receive useful legal information regarding his case, but he also felt like his voice was finally heard. Volunteering with the pro bono clinic was a great experience, as I was able to learn so much about New York civil procedure rules and gain a lot of important legal experience from just one case. I look forward to continuing my volunteering experience to become an advocate to help those with limited resources and language skills.

To volunteer for the Remote Pro Bono Clinic, please email: clinic.volunteer@aabany.org.

For more information about AABANY Pro Bono Resources, please visit: https://probono.aabany.org/

Fall Conference 2020: Anti-Asian Violence and Hate Arising from the COVID-19 Pandemic

On September 26, 2020, as part of the second day of the 2020 Fall Conference, AABANY hosted a program discussing Anti-Asian Violence and Hate Arising from the COVID-19 Pandemic, which focused on trends and newly compiled statistics related to this discrimination. The panel included:

  • Karen King, Counsel at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP (Moderator)
  • Joe Gim, Deputy Chief of the County Court Trial Bureau in Nassau County
  • Russell Jeung, Professor of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University and Member of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council
  • Stewart Loo, Deputy Inspector of the NYPD Asian Hate Crime Task Force
  • John C. Yang, President and Executive Director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice
  • Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director at the Asian American Federation

First, Professor Jeung introduced “Stop AAPI Hate,” an online reporting center organized by the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council. Since March 19, 2020, the reporting center has been tracking and responding to incidents of hate, violence, harassment, discrimination, shunning, and child bullying against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in California and where possible throughout the United States. In California, there have been over 300,000 reported incidents over the eight month period. There was a major uptick in March when President Trump started calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus” and in late June when Trump started using the term “Kung Flu.” Although most of the reported incidents have been verbal, there have been an alarming number of incidents where Asian Pacific Americans (APA) were coughed or spat on.

Jo-Ann Yoo then discussed the situation in New York and emphasized that reporting is only as good as its outreach. Joe Gim specified that legally, a hate crime in New York must both involve a person selected to have a crime against them because of their identity and have that factor be a substantial part of the crime.

Next, Stewart Loo introduced the NYPD Asian Hate Crime Task Force, which gets involved with incidents of hate and discrimination when they become crimes. The task force assists victims who cannot speak English but want to report an incident. Due to cultural differences and the length and complexity of reporting a crime to the NYPD, the criminal process can be very daunting. Yoo added that many people are shy or afraid to report, regardless of a language barrier, especially to the media. John Yang then discussed the importance of media pieces in humanizing the statistics and building community strength.

Professor Jeung and John Yang also discussed how APA social status has historically been very conditional. As many APA individuals still toggle between being part of a Model Minority or a Yellow Peril, they are seen as perpetual foreigners, which adds to the rising anti-Asian hate.

The panel concluded with talking about the rise in APA youth supporting Black Lives Matter. In order to be heard on a nationwide scale, everyday citizens must fight for the respect that their communities do not already receive, whether by serving as a poll worker, speaking up in organizations, or simply voting. The panel ended with discussing how APA culture is stereotypically seen as quiet, but in order to see change now, people need to speak up and speak out.

Thank you to the panelists, Joe Gim, Russell Jeung, Stewart Loo, John C. Yang, and Jo-Ann Yoo, and moderator Karen King for leading such an inspiring and important discussion on anti-Asian violence and hate during the pandemic. And thank you to the AABANY Pro Bono and Community Service, and Government Service and Public Interest Committees for hosting the event.

Click here to access the Stop AAPI Hate website.
Click here to access AAF’s COVID-19 Safety Resources.

To view a recording of this program, please click on the video image at the top of this blog post.

AABANY and Community Land Trust Hosts Successful Rent Relief Application Drive

The COVID Rent Relief Program (“RRP”) held by Community Land Trust (“CLT”) and the Asian American Bar Association of New York (“AABANY”) concluded on July 26th, 2020 with an application drive in Chinatown. During the term of outreach, the program received over 125 voicemails and online form submissions. On the day of the drive, 25 volunteers aided over 100 walk-in applicants who had been screened for qualification. 

The application drive held on July 26th at the Florentine School was expeditiously put together in five days, to accommodate the quickly approaching application deadline of July 30th*, by AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Service Committee and COVID Student Task Force. Most notably, attorneys May Wong, Angela Wu, William Lee, and law students Dianna Lam, Olympia Moy, Xinyi Shen, and Meng Zhang were the driving factors of the event’s success. To the volunteers, it was imperative to host an in-person event to help the community. “Many Chinatown residents cannot go on Zoom, some don’t even have online access, and, even with online access, some may not find the forms because of language difficulties,” noted Moy. The volunteers have spent tireless hours in organizing the logistics for the event, training for and then evaluating RRP applications of the community, and then following up with intakes for those who are eligible applicants. “One of the most memorable parts of our [RRP], despite all the hurdles we had to navigate through, was how much all the volunteers cared to help our community,” says Lam. Lam add: “All the volunteers patiently and calmly explained to the tenants all their options, any risks they might bear submitting their information, and sat through with each applicant until the application was either fully complete or until the tenants accepted that they did not qualify.”

AABANY again thanks all the volunteers mentioned above, as well as May Mok and Sherman Ngan of AM 1380 & AM 1480 and Jacky Wong, for advertising and covering the event; Samantha Sumilang who provided rent relief training to volunteers over Zoom the day before; Jonathan Hernandez for being on standby for any last minute needs; the APALSA COVID Student Task Force for reaching out to their members for volunteer recruiting; and all other attorney, CLT, and community volunteers who made the event possible.

The RRP was introduced on July 16th, 2020 and first administered by New York State Homes and Community Renewal. The purpose of the RRP is to distribute a $100 million fund amongst the low-income families of New York who have suffered income loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are struggling to keep their families in their homes. The $100 million fund was provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump on March 27th, 2020. The RRP declares that a household is eligible for assistance as long as at least one member in the household has U.S. citizenship or eligible immigration status. All adult household members, regardless of their income earning position, are to be listed on the application form to be considered, including household members with ineligible immigration status. This is a potential grave risk to undocumented immigrants since the federal government could get their information through the RRP. As such, it should be noted that by applying for rent relief, applicants bear the risk of being or having undocumented family members deported.

“The drive’s success is a true testament of our selflessness, passion, and commitment to giving back as a community. We find comfort knowing that our locals are better positioned to receive rent relief,” said Lee.

For additional coverage in Chinese, please see the article written by World Journal here.

*As of July 31st, 2020, the application deadline has been extended to August 6th, 2020.

Pro Bono Committee & AABANY Volunteers Promote New Remote Pro Bono Legal Clinic in Chinatown and Koreatown

On Friday, July 3, 2020, the Pro Bono and Community Service Committee of the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) launched a flyering campaign to promote the new Remote Pro Bono Legal Clinic in Chinatown and Koreatown. The event was organized by William Lee, Associate at Alston & Bird and an active member of the Pro Bono Committee. The goal of the campaign was to ensure that Asian American small businesses had access to the Pro Bono Clinic’s various resources during this time of great need. Many law students from local APALSAs, including Fordham, Cardozo, and Columbia, volunteered at the start of the 4th of July holiday weekend to assist in distributing the flyers to local businesses.

The Chinatown volunteers were led by Dianna Lam and May Wong, frequent volunteers for the Pro Bono Clinic, and those in Koreatown were led by Will Lee. Both campaigns were very successful, and Dianna Lam and May Wong were even interviewed for the “Around the Boroughs” segment of Spectrum News NY1. Dianna and May emphasized the importance of the Remote Pro Bono Legal Clinic, especially for smaller businesses impacted by COVID-19. Both groups ended the day with a volunteer appreciation lunch at the West New Malaysian Restaurant on Bowery Street. The group was able to sit at tables set up outside the restaurant, spaced out so that they could maintain a social distance.

We thank the Pro Bono Committee members, including Will Lee, Dianna Lam, and May Wong, for their leadership during this campaign. We also thank the students and volunteers who took the time to help the Remote Clinic reach more individuals and businesses in need of legal information. The Pro Bono Committee will be organizing similar campaigns in Flushing, Queens and Bay Ridge, so if you are interested in volunteering, please add your name to this document. Read AABANY’s press release about the Remote Pro Bono Clinic here. For more information on the Pro Bono Committee, see https://www.aabany.org/page/117. To find out more about AABANY’s pro bono resources, visit aabany.org/probono.