Mayor Michelle Wu has awarded $711,000 in grant funding to 15 community based organizations dedicated to helping immigrants with legal services in the City of Boston.
The grants, ranging from $5,000 to $90,000, will help fund legal consultation and representation services, forms assistance, and “Know Your Rights” training, Wu’s office said in a statement.
“The immigration system is complicated, and it can be difficult and expensive to get access to qualified legal help,” Wu said in the statement released Wednesday. “I’m grateful to these organizations for stepping up to provide these critical services to our residents.”
The grants are funded by the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement’s operating budget, the statement said.
“When people don’t have access to qualified and competent legal services, they often fall prey to scams,” Monique Tú Nguyen, executive director of the office, said in the statement.
Some recipients said they are ready to put the grant funding to good use.
The Mabel Center for Immigrant Justice, a Boston-based nonprofit that provides pro bono legal services for asylum-seeking families that have been separated or detained, received a $70,000 grant, said spokesperson Erin Truex.
“A hundred percent of our clients are under the poverty threshold,” Truex said. “It’s really important to us to be able to provide these services free of charge.”
The center, which serves around 350 clients per year, may be able to serve around 400 clients this year, Truex said. The funding will go toward attorney and paralegal salaries, office space, and assisting with court filings, Truex said.
Mutual Aid Eastie, an East Boston-based community organization, received a $30,000 grant, said Neenah Estrella-Luma, a co-founder of the organization.
The funding will go toward training community members who are preparing to help undocumented residents obtain driver’s licenses, Estrella-Luma said, which is permitted under a state law starting in July.
“There’s a lot of paperwork that’s required … we are also helping people with translating those documents, so things like birth certificates, others identity documents,” Estrella-Luma said. “Later on in the process, we are going to also be helping people prepare for the (driver’s) test.”
Estrella-Luma said helping undocumented residents get drivers licenses is a form of protecting them.
“One of the ways in which a lot of immigrants, particularly undocumented or under-documented immigrants, become unsafe from a legal perspective, is that they may be driving without a driver’s license,” Estrella-Luma said. “Normally … to get all the documentation that you need and that kind of stuff, it can be expensive.”
The Immigrant Family Services Institute, which helps immigrants, including many recently arrived Haitian immigrants, apply for work permits and resources like food stamps and Social Security, said Valcourt Honore, a board member and consultant.
Honore said the Mattapan-based organization applied for the grant because there had previously not been much funding to Haitian immigrants, who recently have been coming to Massachusetts in increasing numbers.
“The organization has mostly been receiving in-kind donations,” Honore said. “But given that there is provision with the city now … it’s a bigger chunk.”
Claire Law can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @claire_law_.