As the city faces an influx of migrants to the region, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu has announced $711,000 in grant funding for 15 nonprofits to support immigrants with legal services and education on their legal rights.
The grants range from $5,000 to $90,000 and are funded through the mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement’s operating budget, Wu’s office said in a statement Wednesday.
The funding is aimed toward providing legal representation, assistance with filling out forms, and “Know Your Rights” training, her office said.
“The immigration system is complicated, and it can be difficult and expensive to get access to qualified legal help,” Wu said in a statement Wednesday. “I’m grateful to these organizations for stepping up to provide these critical services to our residents.”
The grants were announced as the city and state grapple with a steady stream of migrant families arriving in the region who have few to no options for shelter and face a complicated immigration process. Newly arrived immigrants, many with young children, have been filling up hospital lobbies just to have a warm and safe place to spend the night.
Wu’s office said there were more than 13,000 immigration court proceedings in Massachusetts in the last fiscal year, and more than 40 percent lacked legal representation.
“When people don’t have access to qualified and competent legal services, they often fall prey to scams,” Monique Tú Nguyen, executive director of the office, said in the statement.
Some recipients said they are ready to put the grant funding to good use.
The Mabel Center for Immigrant Justice, a Boston-based nonprofit that provides pro bono legal services for asylum-seeking families that have been separated or detained, received a $70,000 grant, said spokesperson Erin Truex.
“A hundred percent of our clients are under the poverty threshold,” Truex said. “It’s really important to us to be able to provide these services free of charge.”
The center, which serves around 350 clients per year, may be able to serve around 400 clients this year, Truex said. The funding will go toward attorney and paralegal salaries, office space, and assisting with court filings, Truex said.
Mutual Aid Eastie, an East Boston-based community organization, received a $30,000 grant, said Neenah Estrella-Luna, a cofounder of the organization.
The funding will go toward training community members who are preparing to help undocumented residents obtain driver’s licenses, Estrella-Luna said, which is permitted under a state law starting in July.
“There’s a lot of paperwork that’s required. ... We are also helping people with translating those documents, so things like birth certificates, other identity documents,” Estrella-Luna said. “Later on in the process, we are going to also be helping people prepare for the (driver’s) test.”
Estrella-Luna said helping undocumented residents get driver’s licenses is a form of protecting them.
“One of the ways in which a lot of immigrants, particularly undocumented or under-documented immigrants, become unsafe from a legal perspective, is that they may be driving without a driver’s license,” Estrella-Luna said. “Normally ... to get all the documentation that you need and that kind of stuff, it can be expensive.”
The Immigrant Family Services Institute will use its grant money to enhance its services, such as applying for work permits or food stamps, said Valcourt Honore, a board member and consultant.
Honore said the Mattapan-based organization applied for the grant because there had previously not been much funding to help Haitian immigrants. Greater Boston is home to one of the largest Haitian diaspora populations in the country, and families have been arriving in greater numbers ever since a devastating earthquake in August 2021 sent Haiti into turmoil.
“The organization has mostly been receiving in-kind donations,” Honore said. “But given that there is
a provision with the city now ... it’s a bigger chunk.”
Globe correspondent Nick Stoico contributed to this report.
Claire Law can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @claire_law_.