Through our closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Erie House legal services team has been continuing to offer consultations to clients over the phone and navigating technology with careful attention to confidentiality and information security.
Our in-house attorneys and DOJ-accredited representatives provide access to low-cost, critical resources to foster security and reunification of immigrant families. The team of three can provide up to 16 remote consultations per week, and prioritizes cases based on their deadlines.
Providing Legal Help Remotely
One of the primary issues our legal services team is handling with clients during this time is helping DACA recipients renew their work permits. This is especially important and challenging because of the potential decision that will be announced by the Supreme Court regarding the future of the DACA program. So, many of our clients are trying to get ahead of renewing their permits as soon as possible, even if they’re not set to expire. Several of these clients continue to work in frontline, essential roles in nursing and hospitals.
Our legal services team has also been working on adjustment of status applications for green cards under the new public charge rules. In the past, this was a straightforward process, but with the new rules there is at least double the necessary documentation required that needs to be scanned and emailed.
Through all of the changes, the team has worked to overcome any potential barriers with clients, including whether they have access to a computer, a scanner, a printer, or an email account to share important documents. These challenges have further highlighted the inequities many in our communities face during difficult times.
Erie House has some clients who are dealing with postponed or cancelled citizenship or green card interviews and even in some cases, cancelled oath ceremonies. This has added more stress and uncertainly for our clients.
But through this time, even though there are challenges to overcome, there are still successes to be celebrated. Our legal services team continues to receive approvals for things like work permits, U visas, and VAWA adjustments of status.
“You still get good decisions and outcomes on people’s cases to keep things moving forward. It’s uplifting to continue to see the results of the work we started putting in before going remote. There are still wins.”Megan Davis, Director of Legal Services
One example of this is a client who has been in the United States for over 20 years and is on the waitlist for a U visa and just received an approval for a work permit for the first time. Megan Helbling, our Little Village Immigration Coordinator, was able to safely get this permit to her, and now this client can find better work opportunities.
Another client, who has also been in the country for 20 years and whose case had been pending since 2017, just received her green card after her adjustment of VAWA status was approved.
Sharing Critical Resources
The legal services team has been receiving emails from clients who have been laid off or are unemployed and are unclear on whether they have access to unemployment. Many of the people we serve were left out of the stimulus package, and if they do not have work authorization, they’re not able to access unemployment. Our clients who are undocumented and live in the city of Chicago will have access to the city’s stimulus package, but we also have clients who live outside of the city.
For these clients, the team has shared information about the Erie House Community Relief Fund. All donations to this fund go directly to our participants, including those who are undocumented and have limited access to public benefits. If you’re interested in directly supporting or participants during this time to help them cover costs like rent, utilities, groceries, and more, you can visit eriehouse.org/CRF.
Keep following our blog or sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of this page to stay in the know about how the Erie House team is going above and beyond to support our community during the COVID-19 crisis.
You can also learn more about our response to the coronavirus pandemic and access additional resources at eriehouse.org/covid19.