When refugee children began coming to Long Island in large numbers in 2014, attorney Maureen Schad provided the expertise that helped several local organizations like CARECEN organize a legal representation system.
Maureen grew up on Long Island in Rockville Centre. With the exception of her dad, who is a psychologist, everyone in her family taught public school in Nassau and Suffolk counties. “I was raised to be aware of the existence of injustice by my family and through my church, St. Mark’s Methodist,” she says. “I was never allowed to forget that my grandmother came here from Sicily and how lucky our family was to have the opportunity to live here,” she recalls. In high school, an “awesome history teacher” got her interested in the impact of United States’ intervention on the stifling of Latin American democracy. When she went to study at Harvard, Latin American history was a major focus.
As a teenager, she spent a summer travelling in El Salvador and Nicaragua. Maureen says that her time there “strengthened my conviction that we have an ethical obligation” to help the people of Central America overcome some of the obstacles to democratization that the policies of the United States had helped to create. She decided that her contribution would be to “help the people of Central America who live where I was living on Long Island.”
Maureen decided to become a lawyer because she saw it as a field where she could work with individual clients while at the same time pressing for wider social change. She now works coordinating pro bono services at the Chadbourne & Parke law firm in New York City. She sees her role there as “doing whatever I can to support the people in the field, like those at CARECEN, in providing the best legal representation for the children that they can.” Maureen says that “I remember learning about your work, and CARECEN, just as I learned about the devastating situations our policies were creating throughout Latin America. I have so much admiration for the work CARECEN has done for the community for so long.”
In her years of working with refugee children from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, Maureen has learned about the lives of her young clients. Maureen regrets that Americans “don’t understand the traumatic experiences that they have been through.” She thinks that if people imagined what it would be like as a parent to send a child on the dangerous journey to the United States, they would better appreciate the threat to the children’s lives in Central America. Maureen hopes that Long Islanders can give the child refugees security, safety, and welcome.
Maureen will by thanked for her work on December 1 at CARECEN’s annual gala.