Source: Hammond Legal Aid Clinic now offers immigration services: ‘This is going to be a permanent part of the legal aid clinic’ – Chicago Tribune

Attorney Alfredo Estrada is taking on cases related to DACA applications, naturalization, legal permit resident applications and any family based immigration cases through the Hammond Legal Aid Clinic.

The Hammond Legal Aid Clinic opened in 2004, under Mayor Thomas McDermott, to help residents receive pro-bono legal services as long as they meet certain criteria, said Kris Costa Sakelaris, executive director of the clinic. Residents have to show proof of residency in Hammond for the last nine months and meet income guidelines, she said.

Since the clinic opened, it has helped 5,004 Hammond residents with legal cases, mostly divorce, landlord and tenant disputes, guardianship and child support, Sakelaris said. Now, the clinic also offers immigration services, she said.

Last year, McDermott said he worked with Estrada to create a DACA resolution for the city, which the council approved in December 2019. Approximately 34% of Hammond residents are of Hispanic or Latino origin, according to the 2010 Census, and McDermott said he wanted to protect any residents that could be DACA recipients.

Through their work, McDermott said he learned more about the people Estrada represents in immigration cases — like a 21-year-old woman who started the process to help her parents become citizens — and how many meet the need to receive free legal aid through the clinic.

“There’s hundreds if not thousands of Hammond residents that qualify for these services right now,” McDermott said. “This is going to be a permanent part of the legal aid clinic.”

By September, the Hammond Legal Aid Clinic started offering immigration aid, Estrada said. Every other Friday, Estrada is in the clinic’s office working with clients to begin their immigration process, he said.

Estrada said his services through the clinic are free but residents pay for any application fees.

Within the last three months, Estrada said he’s signed nine clients through the clinic, after it was determined they met the requirements to receive the services. More people have come to ask about the services, but didn’t become clients because they didn’t qualify through the clinic, he said.

Right now, the clinic’s immigration services are mostly word-of-mouth, Estrada said. Given the political climate, Hispanic residents are likely feeling hesitant to reach out for help, he said.

“They have to come from a place of trust. It is new. There’s not any city-sponsored or municipal-sponsored clinics like this for immigrants anywhere near us, maybe in Chicago,” Estrada said. “Next year, I think it’s really just going to blow up.”

Estrada said he hopes the residents take advantage of the immigration services offered through the legal aid clinic. Helping people with immigration cases is a personal journey for him, Estrada said.

“It’s something I really enjoy. To me it’s not work,” Estrada said.

Hammond Legal Aid Clinic now offers immigration services: ‘This is going to be a permanent part of the legal aid clinic’ – Chicago Tribune

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