HOUSTON, TX – December 6 – Qualified Memorial Assistance Ministries (MAM) clients may receive representation through its Immigration Legal Services Program thanks to a $5,000 grant from the Texas Bar Foundation. The clients who qualify for humanitarian-based petitions fall at or below 150% of the US Federal Poverty Guidelines. This is the second year in a row that MAM has received this grant.
MAM’s Immigration Legal Services Program provides information, education, and legal assistance on a variety of matters, including family-based petitions, renewal of lawful permanent resident cards, naturalization/citizenship applications, and adjustment of status for refugees, Cubans, and asylees. The program also helps with U Visas for crime victims who have helped in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity, and VAWAs for victims of domestic violence by a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident. Low-cost information sessions are hosted once each week and include a one-on-one consultation with the immigration staff attorney.
MAM clients come from a wide variety of backgrounds. “We received a referral from a local nonprofit domestic violence organization of a client who needed help with her case,” said Paola Copeland, MAM’s managing attorney, “She was married to a permanent resident and suffered emotional and physical abuse during her marriage. She had no support or family in the United States, and only one or two friends because her abuser purposely isolated her from other people. When she became pregnant and the abuse got worse, she managed to find the courage to leave her abuser and fled to a safe place. With the help of the grant from the Texas Bar Foundation, MAM was able to offer her free legal representation and we have been able to file her application for VAWA. Due to long wait times, her application is still pending with USCIS, but we are hopeful to receive a decision soon.”
MAM’s Immigration Legal Services Program began in 2013, and provides low-cost services to the growing immigrant population in northwest Houston. What began as a two-year pilot project, in collaboration with Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, quickly grew to become the primary low-cost immigration legal services program in our service area. In early 2015, MAM hired its own immigration staff attorney and legal caseworker, establishing an independently managed Immigration Legal Services Program. Since then, MAM has provided immigration legal services to victims at reduced cost. Throughout 2016, MAM’s Staff Attorney for Immigration Legal Services and Legal Case Worker provided legal consultations to 970 individuals and contractual services to 236. A second immigration staff attorney was added this year.
Since its inception in 1965, the Texas Bar Foundation has awarded more than $18 million in grants to law-related programs. Supported by members of the State Bar of Texas, the Texas Bar Foundation is the nation’s largest charitably-funded bar foundation. The grant awarded to MAM is specifically for humanitarian-based petitions (U Visas and VAWA), including those in removal proceedings.
For more than three decades, MAM has been well known as the place to go when help is needed as the very basis of their existence is rooted in the value that neighbors help neighbors. As a client-centered organization, MAM has continually provided assistance, resources, and hope to individuals and families in the community. MAM’s mission is to assure families have the means to meet their basic needs, and their primary goal is to help families become financially stable. For more information about MAM or the Immigration Legal Services Program, please visit www.maministries.org/legal.