November 1, 2013
CUNY Law alumna Terri Nilliasca (’11) was recognized by the Legal Aid Society of New York, when they presented her with the 2013 Pro Bono Publico Award. And rightly so.
Nilliasca, who works as a project director for the United Auto Workers, is a long-time volunteer at Damayan Migrant Workers Association, a grassroots organization in New York City and Jersey City that works with Filipino im/migrant workers. Led by Filipiono women domestic workers, the group’s mission is to “educate, organize and mobilize low-wage Filipino workers to fight for their labor, health, gender and im/migration rights; contribute to the building of the domestic workers’ movement for fair labor standards, dignity and justice; and help build workers’ power and solidarity towards justice and liberation.”
As a volunteer, Nilliasca has handled two cases of severe labor trafficking.
In one case, Nilliasca helped a Filipino woman who had been working as a nanny in the United States for seven years. During that time, the woman worked 14-hour days for a family in New York, cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the children. Without a bed of her own, she was forced to sleep on the floor next to the children. She earned $300/month, most of which she sent to her four children in the Philippines.
When she ultimately found her way to Damayan, Nilliasca, along with with Legal Aid lawyers, helped her file for a T-visa, which helps individuals who are victims of human trafficking remain in the United States with authorization to work.
After nearly a year and a half, the client finally received her T-visa. She is now working as a nanny in a better situation and is receiving a fair wage. She has even joined the board of Damayan and speaks publicly about her experience to help other workers in similar situations.
“I love being able to work as an advocate for the rights of Filipina domestic workers,” said Nilliasca. “Being of Filipina descent, these hard-working women remind me of my own mother and my titas (aunts). It brings me great joy to stay up working late into the night crafting their story so that a judge or immigration officer can hear their stories and give a modicum of justice. I am honored to tell their story and advocate for their legal rights.”