Pro Bono Net

New York, NY

Pro Bono Net works in close partnership with nonprofit legal organizations across the United States to increase access to justice for the millions of poor people who face legal problems every year without help from a lawyer. We do this by (i) supporting the innovative and effective use of technology by the nonprofit legal sector, (ii) increasing participation by volunteers, and (iii) facilitating collaborations among nonprofit legal organizations and advocates working on similar issues or in the same region. Pro Bono Net’s immigrants’ rights initiatives, which are the focus of this project, include the Immigration Advocates Network, an online training and technical assistance resource for nonprofit immigration advocates;, which supports thousands of attorneys representing asylum seekers on a pro bono basis; and the Defending Immigrants Partnership, an online resource that supports public defenders in representing indigent noncitizen defendants.

Project Description: 

Project Details:
Pro Bono Net has the opportunity to significantly increase its support of nonprofit immigrants’ rights organizations in the next several years. These efforts will focus on the effective use of technology to support collaboration, communications and online training and technical assistance in the immigrants’ rights sector. As immigrants and their communities continue to face massive worksite raids, increased state and local enforcement and deteriorating detention conditions, Pro Bono Net seeks to redouble its efforts to support immigration advocacy and legal support organizations across the country. Specifically, Pro Bono Net’s work in this area will focus on continuing to develop and support web-based tools and resources to 1) increase the capacity of nonprofit advocates and pro bono attorneys to serve low-income immigrants, 2) provide nonprofit immigrants’ rights organizations with tools and support to facilitate more effective advocacy and communications, and 3) foster collaborations among nonprofit immigration legal services providers, pro bono programs, private bar associations and social services agencies.

Need for the Project:
Pro Bono Net identified this project as an area of strategic importance for several reasons. We have invested in a number of immigration-related projects over the last ten years and believe that these projects provide value to the organization and communities that we serve. Pro Bono Net strives to identify and provide services that support its mission both by developing and supporting cutting-edge technology and by extending into areas of the law, like immigration, that are under-resourced and yet rapidly growing. It is essential to Pro Bono Net’s strategic growth that we be responsive as an organization to emerging areas of need. With immigration currently a topic of national debate and potential legislative activity, the time is right to increase our presence and impact. Finally, Pro Bono Net has a strategic interest in modeling the successful use of technology, sharing best practices and replicating successes throughout our network. Being able to showcase and support projects that represent innovation helps to sustain Pro Bono Net financially and bolster its role in the community.
In determining our specific needs for supporting this work, we arrived at several conclusions. First, in order to sustain our work in the immigrants’ rights sector we need to have sufficient staffing and resources. Second, we need to invest in human capital that can continue to build the capacity of the immigrants’ rights sector. Third, the likely changes in immigration law and policy over the next several years will require us to be capable of responding quickly to changing needs. We believe that the CTC Vista program allows us to meet each of these needs and strategic goals.

The timeliness of this project is reflected in current attempts by political leaders and immigrants’ rights advocates to prepare the way for comprehensive immigration reform and Pro Bono Net’s recognition that it needs to cultivate its ability to support this work with increased staffing and support. Any comprehensive immigration reform will likely include a legalization program, which will provide a meaningful path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants. Given the volume of potential applicants and the need to keep immigration advocates informed about changes in the law, Pro Bono Net believes that the effective use of technology is key to any large-scale response by the nonprofit sector. This project will help, in part, to establish a framework for responding to changes in the law, but will not be engaged in any legislative or advocacy efforts around immigration reform.

Community Engagement:
This project will allow Pro Bono Net to more fully engage with existing partners that work on immigration issues and increase its impact in the nonprofit immigrants’ rights sector as a whole. It will also expand Pro Bono Net’s immigration-related activities with specific partner organizations in New York and California, which are states that are particularly relevant given their large immigrant populations and also states where Pro Bono Net has staff.

How the Project Relates to Other Pro Bono Net Activities and the Community:
This project relates to other Pro Bono Net activities in several ways. First, it will serve as a model for our organization and the community on supporting the effective use of technology in a specific sector. Second, it will provide capacity to other Pro Bono Net projects, staff and partners indirectly by creating an online toolkit and training curriculum that can be shared and also used as a model in other areas of our work. Finally, this project will help to increase Pro Bono Net’s exposure in the community, strengthening our credibility with partners, funders and users, and will connect our partners with a new resources and opportunities.

A VISTA member would work with Pro Bono Net staff to define short and long-term strategic outcomes for immigrants’ rights initiatives, create a project plan, and support Pro Bono Net and its partners in achieving outcomes defined in the project plan. Because each of these initiatives uses technology to benefit low-income immigrants, we believe that the project’s focus aligns well with the mission of the CTC VISTA program and that VISTA members applying through this program will be interested in the innovative technology solutions that we use to expand and support the nonprofit immigrants’ rights sector. A dedicated, technologically savvy VISTA member will be able to work closely with Pro Bono Net staff to make our programs more responsive to the needs of the nonprofit immigrants’ rights sector and the critical work being done by our partners to protect the rights of low-income immigrants and their communities.

Project Tangibles: 
Part of this project will focus on creating a toolkit to support the effective use of technology in the nonprofit immigrants’ rights sector, which will be distributed to advocates through the Immigration Advocates Network and our partners. Additionally, a set of online and in-person trainings will be offered to assist nonprofit immigration legal services organizations in using technology to support advocacy and more efficient services delivery. This project will also help Pro Bono Net to identify best practices in developing projects with dedicated resources that focus on a specific sector in critical need of support, which will help guide our approach to other areas of poverty law in the years to come.

Supported Projects

Marketing and Outreach

Stephanie Lin

A VISTA member would work with Pro Bono Net staff to define short and long-term strategic outcomes for immigrants’ rights initiatives, create a project plan, and support Pro Bono Net and its partners in achieving outcomes defined in the project plan. Each of these initiatives uses technology to benefit low-income immigrants.

Goal 1: To provide strategic guidance and technical support for Pro Bono Net’s immigrants’ rights initiatives
Goal 2: Work with Pro Bono Net staff and partners to develop a training curriculum and toolkit to support the nonprofit immigrants’ rights sector
Goal 3: Research, implement and support new technology projects

Stephanie’s primary focus was to develop a marketing database and other technology tools to expand our membership. In the year that Stephanie spent with us we increased our membership by approximately 1/3.

Stephanie’s efforts lead to a significant increase in membership as well as developed a robust marketing and outreach database that will continue to be a valuable tool for our project.

Stephanie took on a number of ad hoc research and other projects based on her interest in immigration law and policy. She also helped to support our social networking initiatives and overall content management.

Transmission Project