Ottawa and Kent Counties, Michigan – Starting this May, the New Americans Legal Clinic (NALC) will kick off in Holland and Grand Rapids to help Afghan Evacuees achieve their immigration goals.
“Our team – volunteers and staff together – have had the opportunity to serve our new neighbors, and these interactions have transformed our lives as well. The most impactful thing was seeing kids of all ages, young children, toddlers, and newborns arrive with their parents. To allow parents to undergo a trauma-triggering interview, our volunteers would spend quality time with these children, allowing them to be children, and not exposing them to continued suffering. It was not unusual to see our team members walking around the office holding a baby or volunteers playing with young children,” said Eva Alexander, Executive Director of Lighthouse Immigrant Advocates. “Volunteers also conducted those interviews, showing courage and true human service for our newest neighbors.”
The program is a key part of our community’s response to the massive airlift and evacuation of Kabul in August 2021. More than 330 new Afghan neighbors have resettled in West Michigan. The NALC program will provide more than 270 clients with legal services to apply for asylum, including assistance from pro bono attorneys and Application Assistant volunteers.
Lighthouse Immigrant Advocates will operate clinics on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, serving five clients per day during all-day events. Tuesday and Thursday clinics will be hosted at Bethany Christian Services in Grand Rapids and Samaritas, who are serving the refugee’s other basic needs, including housing & employment. Volunteers are needed over the next six months to continue to make this program possible, and to deliver high-quality immigration and asylum services at an unprecedented scale.
Additional partners to the program include the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, Wayne State Immigration Clinic, and the Office of Global Michigan. Program materials, including high-quality videos are being shared with all partners, benefitting clients across Michigan.
The NALC addresses numerous issues including language barriers, legal services capacity, all while preventing clients from “slipping through the cracks”, and expense. Overall, this project will provide, at market rates, more than $3.1M of legal services at a fraction of the cost to the community. Grant investments from the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area, Frey Foundation, and Steelcase Foundation have supported an expanded legal team, including Sam Filcik, full-time specialized asylum-focused attorney, ready to address the complex asylum system alongside hundreds of clients.
Interested volunteers are invited to learn more, explore training options, and consider serving a morning or afternoon with the clinic. Previous legal experience is not required, and schedules are flexible. Please contact Lighthouse Immigrant Advocates at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit https://lia-michigan.org/volunteer, or call (616) 298-8984 for more information.
This article was last updated May 18th, 2022