2013 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Marissa Ram

Marissa Ram

Name of Host Organization: New York Legal Assistance Group's LGBTQ Law Project
City, State: Greater New York City Area, New York
Issue area: Children/Youth
Sponsors: AIG; Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

The Project

Marissa provides direct representation, community education and policy advocacy to homeless and street-involved male youth and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth and immigrant populations who are experiencing (or at-risk for) trafficking or exploitation in both the formal workplace and street-level informal survival economies.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
Male youth and LGBTQ youth are largely overlooked in anti-trafficking initiatives. Those engaging in survival sex for food and shelter or experiencing labor exploitation often do not realize they may qualify for immigration relief, public benefits, or other legal remedies. In recent years, young men of color, immigrant youth, and transgender youth in low-income communities have been targeted through racial profiling and the policing of sex work under the New York Police Department’s “stop-and-frisk” program, driving victims of exploitation and trafficking underground and away from the legal services they are entitled to and need. Marissa’s project will expand New York Legal Assistance Group's LGBTQ Law Project to focus specifically on serving male youth and LGBTQ youth.
Highlights to Date: 
In the first year, Marissa has:
• Trained 54 legal and social services providers on employment and immigration legal remedies for youth experiencing or at risk of trafficking or workplace exploitation
• Conducted legal education workshops for 36 at-risk youth
• Provided legal advice, brief services, individual consultations, and referrals to 24 homeless youth clients
• Represented seven survivors of trafficking in applying for T visas and other forms of immigration relief
What's Next: 
In the next year, Marissa plans to:
• Increase individual consultations, direct legal services, and referrals through workshops and community-based outreach
• Engage in media and policy advocacy to increase public awareness of the legal needs of client populations
• Create training materials to increase the number of attorneys screening for and working on issues related to youth trafficking, exploitation, and low-wage labor
• Continue collaborating with partner organizations to mitigate collateral consequences of clients’ past involvement with criminal and juvenile justice systems on future employment opportunities

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