The Ark Immigration Clinic at CBST
CBST’s Ark Immigration Clinic trains volunteers and attorneys to assist with asylum and work permit applications, translation, accompaniment to USCIS interviews, direct support for our immigrant neighbors, and more.
If you would like to volunteer with the clinic on Wednesday evenings, or if you would like to refer an immigrant friend to our clinic, contact Clinic Director Noah Habeeb at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also subscribe to our weekly Ark clinic newsletter to learn about upcoming online Continuing Legal Education (CLE) courses for attorneys and training sessions for non-attorneys!
Our work is possible thanks to support from both individual donors and grants, including the Jonathan Grindell Memorial Fund for Social Justice, the Tikkun Olam Foundation, UnBound Philanthropy, and the City of New York. Contribute to support our work.
Current volunteers can find clinic resources and links here.
We are proud to offer mentoring and support to new clinics in the five boroughs and beyond. If you lead or work with a clinic providing similar support to asylum seekers, we invite you to join our New York City Pro Se Collaborative. We convene representatives of NYC-based clinics on a semi-regular basis to strengthen connections and learn from each other. Contact Noah Habeeb for more information and to join the group.
We are thrilled to celebrate our 31 asylum grantees as of August 2023!
Our friends who win asylum all have long-term support from CBST’s Ark clinic volunteers and staff on this journey. Make a donation to our mutual aid fundraiser in their honor and help us help more of our immigrant friends in NYC!
Adriana, our 17th immigrant friend to win her asylum case, shared this beautiful message with her volunteer team, Helen Feuer, Lizzie Reis, Patrick Johnson, and Cally Guasti. We share it here with her permission:
“I left Peru with fears but with conviction. My story is the story of thousands of trans women in the world. When I went to you I faced my sad memories, which I tried for many years not to remember, in order to continue living. Seeing your love and dedication to help others committed me even more to my dreams and missions. I have within me a deep sense of satisfaction, the merit is not mine, it is yours. Sometimes I have missed those Wednesdays where I found those wonderful human beings that you were, I give the first place in my heart to love that is shown in a thousand ways and you did it every Wednesday and how many more days and I without knowing it. I am committed to my pure essence, to give from now on my best years to this great country that has welcomed me. I also apologize for not being able to communicate in English, although we had an angel who translated everything for us. I am still studying English to be able to speak it fluently. My loyalty and gratitude to each one of you and do not lose heart in your desire to return smiles and peace to vulnerable human beings.”
CBST became a Sanctuary synagogue in January 2017, and in May 2019, we started a weekly immigration clinic for asylum seekers. Our clinic now functions entirely online. In coalition with Seeking Asylum Finding Empowerment (SAFE), RUSA LGBT, and UnLocal, and inspired by the New Sanctuary Coalition (which ceased operations in 2021), attorneys and non-attorneys build community with asylum seekers to support our friends and neighbors as they navigate the immigration system.
What has CBST’s Ark Immigration Clinic accomplished?
- We have welcomed over 1,200 immigrant friends from all boroughs of New York City.
- Our immigrant friends have come from more than 50 different countries.
- Around 70% of the friends we’ve welcomed are LGBTQ+ and/or HIV+.
- We have helped over 180 immigrant friends file asylum applications pro se (self-representing), and have connected over 100 of our friends to legal representation.
- As of August 2023, 31 of our friends have been granted asylum!
- We have disbursed over $50,000 from our mutual aid fund to help our immigrant friends during the pandemic, and our mutual aid team and social work interns have helped connect many of them to additional forms of financial and other assistance.
What is Sanctuary?
According to T’ruah, Sanctuary is “the movement and the work of defending immigrants and standing up for their rights.” CBST is actively engaged in Sanctuary work, protecting and supporting our immigrant friends as they face our complex and challenging asylum process, and advocating for undoing the damage caused by the previous administration.
- The New York Immigration Coalition (of which we are proud members) advocates for laws and policies to improve the lives of immigrants and all New Yorkers, cultivates immigrant civic leaders and community organizers by offering fellowships and leadership programs, and offers multilingual community education materials for new immigrants as well as training and support for community groups and legal providers.
- RUSA LGBT supports asylum seekers and organizes social events to increase acceptance and inclusion of LGBTQ people within the Russian-speaking public. We fight for social justice, human and civil rights for LGBTQ people in America and in the former Soviet Union. RUSA LGBT advocates for justice for asylum seekers and for equality worldwide!
- SAFE (Seeking Asylum and Finding Empowerment) empowers immigrants and vulnerable populations who have been marginalized due to sexual orientation, gender identity, and other factors to reach their fullest potential by providing humanitarian assistance while fostering understanding and cooperation among diverse communities.
- UnLocal is a community-centered non-profit organization that provides direct immigration legal representation and community education to New York City’s undocumented immigrant communities. UnLocal aims to address the fundamental injustices and structural inequities that disproportionately impact immigrant communities.
- The Synagogue Coalition and Downtown Jewish Life is a group of synagogues and Jewish non-profits coordinating and amplifying efforts to engage more deeply. The group collaborates with organizations like HIAS and T’ruah to advocate for and assist refugee and immigrant families. By partnering with them we are creating a louder voice for justice and equality.
- Faith in New York is a significant multi faith organization that advocates for a number of different issues, including supporting immigrants.
Articles & Resources
- To learn more about the Jewish response to sanctuary, read the T’ruah guide for synagogues interested in doing this important work.
- Jewish groups step up as NYC declares no more room for migrants, eJewishPhilanthropy, August 2023
- This Passover, Let’s Free Them All, by Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Common Dreams, April 2020
- Read a Letter to the Latinx Community from over 500 Jewish Leaders, including CBST clergy, August 2019
- N.Y.C. Synagogue’s Legal Clinic Offers Migrants Help and a Welcome Dose of ‘Rehumanization’, Haaretz, July 2019
- LGBTQ Congregation Launches Weekly Immigration Clinic, Fordham Law News, June 2019