WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Equal Justice Works has received an $800,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Michigan to launch the New Mexico Immigration Corps, a partnership between Equal Justice Works, New Mexico Immigrant Law Center (NMILC), and University of New Mexico School of Law (UNMSOL).
The program will deploy attorneys and paralegals to provide critically needed civil legal aid to immigrant communities throughout New Mexico from September 2016 through August 2020.
There are more than 200,000 immigrants living in New Mexico, making up approximately 10 percent of the state's population. According to national Census data, these individuals are less likely to have graduated from high school, more likely to be employed in low-wage service occupations, and more likely to be living in poverty than native-born individuals. Despite these challenges, "immigrants help increase the vibrancy of our communities and play a crucial role in fortifying our work force and stimulating economic growth" said Jennifer Landau, Executive Director of the NMILC. "It is in the best interest of our state to develop solutions to help immigrant families thrive."
Unfortunately, language barriers and unfamiliarity with the U.S. legal system can complicate successful assimilation. As a result, many immigrants do not take advantage of available public support systems, and are exposed to a myriad of legal problems such as the threat of unjustified deportation, unfair work practices, and other predatory practices.
"Access to legal counsel is the key to protecting against unwarranted deportation and creating a path to personal and financial security for immigrants and their families," said David Stern, Executive Director of Equal Justice Works. NMILC, whose Executive Director, Jennifer Landau, is a former Equal Justice Works Fellow, is the only non-profit in the state that represents New Mexicans in Immigration Court, and one of few sources of other immigrant legal services. Throughout the grant period, the Equal Justice Works New Mexico Immigration Corps will provide capacity at NMILC to serve low-income immigrants who would otherwise go unrepresented.
Beyond filling the immediate void in legal representation, this program will expand the pipeline of pre-law students, current law students, and young attorneys committed to serving New Mexicans. Over the grant period, Equal Justice Works will partner with UNMSOL to share best practices, promote public interest curricula, present internship and postgraduate employment options, and counsel students on debt relief. These sessions will help UNMSOL attract and retain top quality law students committed to public interest practice, and also create a larger pool of lawyers committed to working in public interest in New Mexico.
About Equal Justice Works
Equal Justice Works is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a just society by mobilizing the next generation of lawyers committed to equal justice. In collaboration with the nation's leading law schools, law firms, corporate legal departments, and nonprofit organizations, Equal Justice Works offers a continuum of opportunities that provide the training and skills that enable attorneys to provide effective representation to underserved communities and causes. Visit www.equaljusticeworks.org for more information.
About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.
The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Mich., and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit www.wkkf.org.
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SOURCE Equal Justice Works