Legal Assistance Fund
Many of the people we serve are pursuing cases in the U.S. immigration system. Immigration proceedings are very complex, and in our work supporting asylum seekers and visa applicants, we soon learned that many needed lawyers to help them understand the process and make sure that their rights were fairly protected. Immigrants who come to this country because they fear that they will be harmed or persecuted in the places they came from have a legal right to remain here. Some immigrants and refugees we help tell us stories about the frightening violence they came here to escape, and others tell us that they have come here under federal programs that allow them to legally remain. We decided to raise money to create a Legal Assistance Fund so they can hire lawyers to present their cases.
AIJN raised over $20,000 in just 3 months for the Fund. One of the most joyful highlights of the last year was our “Fastest Servers on the Bay” event at Sandy Point with several area restaurants. Our co-sponsor was The Point Restaurant. The restaurants told us that immigrants and refugees work with them and they wanted to support their friends.
AIJN takes great care to make sure that money from the Fund is properly spent. When we can find qualified lawyers who will take cases without charge, we connect our beneficiaries with those lawyers. But there just aren’t enough of these volunteer lawyers to take on asylum applications, so we help by informing people about our Legal Assistance Fund. Each person seeking a grant from the Fund is required to submit an application giving us information about his or her situation, which allows us and lawyers we work with to assess whether the applicant has a legitimate claim. Decisions about granting funding are made by our Legal Assistance Fund Committee, which includes a lawyer and a retired judge. The lawyers we approve for funding are qualified immigration lawyers and they agree to charge low fees for their work.
The lives of our immigrant neighbors are at stake in these cases because they may be forced to return to life-threatening violence if they lose. Our beneficiaries’ need for legal help is great. As of October 2018, we have granted almost $10,000 of funding and need to raise more money to help other immigrants in need of legal assistance. The people we have granted legal defense funding include unaccompanied minors and parents.
Guidelines for the legal assistance fund can be found here.