What is Asylum?
Asylum is the legal process by which people fleeing persecution, or who fear persecution in their country of origin, can seek safety here in the United States.
Why is an Asylum Clinic Needed?
There is no right to counsel in immigration proceedings. Most people with asylum claims are left to navigate this complex and changing area of law without a lawyer. However, representation can mean the difference between life and death. With the increasing rate of denials for asylum seekers, the need for counsel has grown more crucial than ever.
Asylum cases are complex and require significant research, writing and investigation. Generally, those seeking asylum have few resources and cannot pay attorney fees, which may be upwards of $10,000 in the private sector. This is a sum unattainable for even a financial stable family, let alone those most recently arrived and fleeing unimaginable atrocities. In Wisconsin, there are very few low-cost/pro-bono legal services for immigrants, and no program is specifically dedicated to representing this vulnerable and under-served population.
Civitas Law Group, is a non-profit legal service provider whose mission is to promote access to justice. We envision a clinic that works in partnership with community health providers, social service organizations, and students to provide low cost or pro bono representation to Wisconsin's asylum seekers.
Civitas' managing attorney, Michelle Velasquez, will lead the project. She has experience in immigration matters, is fluent in Spanish, and has spent time volunteering at the border. As a founder of Civitas, she will be able to build upon existing partnerships to develop a comprehensive clinic that ensures clients get zealous representation.
Immigration attorney Gabriela Parra, of Layde &Parra, who is experienced in asylum matters will provide program support and guidance. Mental health and social service organizations will partner to meet the needs of clients and provide documentation and assessment needed to advance claims. Finally, the clinic envisions working with law students who are passionate about this area of law to assist in preparing briefs, affidavits, and research.
How Can You Help?
Civitas Law Group receives no grant or foundation funding. In order to provide free representation for asylum applicants, we need your help! Our goal is to raise $140,000 to cover the cost of salary, overhead, and materials (research, copying, certified records, travel) for two years. We envision being able to begin taking cases once a full year of funding is secured. During that time Atty. Velasquez and the collaborating agencies will work to secure future funding, which may include nominal fees from clients over a period of time. However, no client with a meritorious claim to asylum will be turned away due to an inability to pay.
Please use the link below to make your donation via pay pal and select asylum clinic. Civitas is a non-profit organization and donations are tax deductible.
Thank you for your support and generosity!