The September 2019 issue of Contra Costa Lawyer features an article co-authored by Mélody Saint-Saëns, Immigration Regional Counsel at BayLegal, and Juliana Morgan-Trostle, Equal Justice Works Fellow (sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP), regarding the importance of a comprehensive approach to legal services for low-income immigrant survivors of interpersonal violence. Our immigrant clients include survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and child abuse.
Mélody and Juliana argue that obtaining immigration relief through special immigration remedies for survivors is crucial to ensuring their safety. They write, “[t]he mere act of applying for immigration relief can result in survivors’ immediate eligibility for certain public benefits to meet their basic needs, such as food and shelter, and access to health care coverage to help them heal from the trauma they endured.” The granting of immigration relief through these processes further advances clients’ stability and security: they are thus allowed to remain with their children in the United States; they are often able to obtain work authorization, thereby lessening their chances of exploitation; and in some cases, they can bring family to the United States.
Through an array of community partnerships, BayLegal is able to provide a holistic model of service to immigrant survivors that accounts for the legal, medical, civil, and behavioral services necessary to secure their safety and stability. For example, the navigators at the Family Justice Center work to connect our clients to a network of shelter, counseling, safety, and emotional support services. A branch of BayLegal’s Medical-Legal Partnership operates out of the West County Health Center in San Pablo, providing free civil legal services to low-income patients referred by their healthcare providers. In less than two years, this program has assisted more than 200 low-income patients with a variety of civil legal needs: immigration law, family law, housing, consumer law, and the provision of public benefits.
As one client explained, “I never would have known that I could talk to a lawyer, in Spanish, for free, if my doctor hadn’t told me.”
Read the full article to learn more about this interdisciplinary approach to legal services, and the inspiring clients that it has reached.