Within the body of our Community Action work in 2019, Rose Community Foundation has worked to identify opportunities to continue to support legal defense services in the Greater Denver Metro area. The staff, individual donors and board members expressed a commitment to serving vulnerable populations that would not otherwise have legal representation in our judicial system during detention and deportation cases.
The work and 2019 grant dollars totaling $152,315 outlined below not only has the purpose of creating different outcomes regarding legal immigration status but also the long-term goal that all immigrants served will be less fearful and experience less discrimination. Through this body of work, along with all work in the Community Action Fund, we aspire for immigrants to be safer, live more secure lives, be able to gain employment and provide for their families while contributing to the community.
Summaries of the six recommended grantees are provided below including a brief summary on the outcomes accomplished with 2018 grants.
Catholic Charities Immigration Services (Catholic Charities)
- $20,000 to provide 1,500 clients with legal advice and application, assistance and removal defense. Support directed to the Metro Denver immigrant and refugee community will include consultations, applications for family visa processing, visas for victims of crime and free citizenship assistance. The goal will be to provide at least 500 clients with application assistance with at least 80 percent of those clients approved for further processing. Most Catholic Charities clients are from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Peru, Colombia, Chile and Venezuela.
- Outcomes from 2018 ($15,000 grant): During the grant period Catholic Charities was able to provide representation for a total of 32 cancellation cases before the immigration court in Denver. Unfortunately, there is an ever-growing backlog of cases pending before immigration courts, but Catholic Charities did secure one removal of cancellation as well as a number of work permits for their clients. Ten of the cases have final hearing dates set for 2020 to 2022, and the remaining cases have preliminary hearing dates set for the end of 2019.
Lutheran Social Services of Colorado (Lutheran)
- $20,000 to support 60 affirmative relief application clients including applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), legal consultations for those with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) that will expire between 2019-2020 because of a change in federal policy, applications for citizenship and appeals for naturalization. Lutheran’s goal is to support 45 cases that would be eligible for DACA, family reunification or naturalization. Lutheran aims for 85 percent of the clients that receive legal support to be successful in their applications based on U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) adjudication. Most of Lutheran’s clients include nationalities from African, Spanish-speaking, Eastern European and Middle Eastern countries.
- Outcomes from 2018: Lutheran was not a Foundation grantee in 2018 but was a Denver Immigrant Legal Services Fund (DILSF) recipient. Their January 2019 interim report to the DILSF indicated that they had opened 50 Citizenship applications and 20 DACA initial and/or renewal applications which were all approved within 5-8 weeks at the halfway point of their DILSF grant.
Mile High Ministries-Justice and Mercy Legal Aid Fund (JMLAC)
- $30,000 to provide immigration services to 470 immigrants including supporting 15 removal defense cases for new clients focused on removal representation for immigrant victims of crime or juvenile immigrants with a goal that 75 percent of these cases will be successful. Additionally, JMLAC will support 100 new affirmative relief clients focusing on U Visas, VAWA benefits, permanent residency, temporary protected status and DACA or naturalization cases. JMLAC will also provide outreach to 360 immigrants through legal consultations, screenings and community education workshops focused on Know Your Rights Naturalization and Asylum workshops. Currently, 89 percent of JMALC’s clients are indigent victims of domestic abuse, 71 percent are from Latin American countries and 58 percent are Limited English Proficient.
- Outcomes from 2018 ($15,000 grant): The attorney focused on juvenile immigration was able to provide full legal representation to 20 juvenile immigrants including eight clients who received full legal representation for removal defense and 12 clients who received full legal defense for affirmative relief. The current status of these cases includes one asylum case in process, six U-Visa cases in process, 6 SJIS cases in process and five DACA applications approved. The children supported include four clients from 4-9 years old, six who were 13-14 years old and 10 who were 16-18 years old.
Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (RMIAN)
- $52,315 to provide critical legal intake and direct referrals to RMIAN’s immigration legal services to children and family members who are before the expedited Family Unit (FAMU) docket at the Denver Immigration Court. This docket focuses on children and families seeking asylum in the U.S. or who have suffered sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse or human trafficking. This expedited docket is a result of federal policy changes to 10 immigration courts throughout the U.S. including Denver. While it is typical for an immigration removal case to take several years, the FAMU cases are under mandate to be completed in less than one year.
- The project will provide free legal intake to 1,500 asylum seekers over the course of the year. At least 50 children will be placed with in-house legal representation by RMIAN or pro bono representation by a RMIAN volunteer attorney. The legal advocate will work with additional partner organizations to refer as many clients as possible to pro bono resources and representation. Most children and families from the Children’s Program are originally from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras or Mexico.
- Outcomes from 2018 ($25,000 grant): The attorney hired by RMIAN, with support from the Foundation and the Beacon Fund, provided legal representation to 52 children in deportation proceedings, including 35 applying for Special Immigration Juvenile Status (SJIS) and 17 seeking asylum. Three of these clients were granted lawful permanent residence, eight were granted SJIS, seven were granted court orders and 13 are being granted work permits. While many of RMIAN’s clients are experiencing significant adjudication delays, they continue to provide representation and fierce advocacy for all remaining cases.
Spring Institute (Spring)
- $25,000 for the Interpreter Network to provide translation and interpretation services to immigrant and refugee clients who are in removal proceedings, subject to removal and/or need affirmative relief. The Network can provide highly skilled translators in over 100 languages with the goal of serving 65-75 individuals who are clients of Denver Immigration Law and Policy Clinic, RMIAN or Colorado Legal Services. It is anticipated that 60 percent of these clients will be in removal defense proceedings and 40 percent will be affirmative relief clients.
- Outcomes from 2018 ($15,000 grant): Spring served 43 individuals; the top three languages offered were Spanish, Tigrinya, and Haitian. Sixty percent of the cases involved asylum seekers and 70 percent of individuals served were in collaboration with RMIAN. Translation services were most often used for court notices and documents related to asylum cases, as well as for translation services for U & T visas filings, VAWA petitions and green card applications. Spring provided translation for successful client outcome including nine people granted asylum, one green card granted, one VAWA petition approved, 16 cases still pending, and three asylum cases denied but appeals are pending.
The Denver Foundation (TDF)-Denver Immigrant Legal Services Fund (DILSF)
- $5,000 to TDF which houses the DILSF. TDF anticipates raising nearly $400,000 for 2019 grantmaking efforts including support from the Denver City Council ($100,000-confirmed), the Mayor’s supplemental budget ($150,000 requested) and the rest from individual and foundation donors (including a $100,000 TDF donor). It is anticipated that all current DILSF grantees, with the exception of the University of Denver (due to a delayed start of their project), will be invited to re-apply for funding to continue to support the legal staff added to each of these organizations in 2018.
- Outcomes from 2018 ($30,000 grant): Last year’s DILSF (which only serves Denver County residents) awarded nearly $400,000 in grant dollars to four organizations including RMIAN, Lutheran, JMLAC and the University of Denver Law School. The Foundation’s dollars were earmarked to focus on juvenile or domestic violence cases. Program Officer Janet Lopez currently sits on the advisory committee of the DILSF, and the January 2019 interim report on progress of the grantees included some highlights including:
- Justice and Mercy Legal Aid Center had provided services to 336 Denver immigrants under the DILSF grant including full legal representation for 98 immigrants at the halfway point of the grant period.
- The Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network hired two additional attorneys which allowed RMIAN to provide a free attorney to every Denver resident it has identified who qualified for legal representation pursuant to the DILSF program. By January 2019, RMIAN’s attorneys had entered their appearances in 20 cases where the clients would otherwise have been unrepresented.