Yesterday, Legal Aid officially launched its new Immigrants’ Rights Legal Services Project with an outreach event at the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School. There, Legal Aid staff met with scores of individuals from the District’s vibrant immigrant community not only to celebrate the formal kick-off of its new Project, but also to announce its exciting partnership with the school.
Now more than ever, and especially in this political climate, Legal Aid recognizes that the District’s immigrant community is especially vulnerable: living not only in poverty but also in fear – and needing both immigration and holistic legal services.
The new Project, made possible through a generous seed grant from the Venable Foundation, is headed by Senior Staff Attorney Jeannine Gómez. A Legal Aid veteran who has practiced domestic violence, family, and immigration law for almost a decade, Jeannine is a fluent French and Spanish speaker. In her new role, she not only provides legal advice and representation in a wide range of immigration matters, but also coordinates the delivery of legal services for Legal Aid’s immigrant clients across all of our practice areas. In addition, Jeannine will serve our immigrant client community by organizing know-your-rights trainings and drafting family and emergency preparedness information as well as other self-help materials.
In an effort to tailor services to our immigrant community in the heart of the Columbia Heights neighborhood where many of our Spanish-speaking clients live, work, and attend school, Legal Aid entered into this unique partnership with Carlos Rosario, an award-winning school that has been nationally recognized for its superior adult education and services to the immigrant client community and speakers of other languages.
Carlos Rosario has dedicated office space for Legal Aid to conduct initial interviews every Wednesday during the school year. Since Legal Aid and Carlos Rosario began working together last spring, as many as fifteen students per day have signed up to seek advice and assistance with immigration matters, public benefits, child custody, and housing concerns. So far, Jeannine has already provided advice, brief services, or representation to over fifty clients who connected with her through the on-site office.
Yesterday’s official launch coincided with the beginning of the fall semester at Carlos Rosario. We hope that by making Legal Aid a more regular fixture and resource at the school, we will continue to build trust within the community, meet an important need, and link our work with those who need us most.