Utah's rapidly growing population immigrants will soon have somewhere to go for help as they try to sort through the legal issues they face as newcomers to the United States.
The American Bar Association Immigration Pro Bono Development and Bar Activation Project recently awarded a $5,000 "minigrant" to the Utah State Bar, one of 18 such grants awarded nationwide to increase pro bono services to immigrants and refugees.
In partnership with the Multi-Cultural Legal Center in Salt Lake City, the Utah State Bar will use the money to form the Immigrant Outreach Pro Bono Lawyer Referral Project.
The funds come from the ABA with the support of the Ford Foundation and the Open Society Institute.
The Utah State Bar will use its grant to recruit and train lawyers to help immigrants, either through education or by providing direct assistance by volunteer lawyers to immigrants, Dee McKinsey of the ABA said.
According to U.S. Census Bureau projections, Utah's immigrant population — as well as the immigrant populations of other Western states — is seeing dramatic growth. McKinsey said the project plans to train many of these new immigrants in civics and legal rights as well as provide assistance in other matters, including domestic abuse, employment and housing issues.
"The ABA is delighted to assist state and local bar associations in their efforts to increase pro bono representation for vulnerable new Americans," ABA President William G. Paul said.
The ABA has given similar minigrants to organizations across the country, including the Asian Bar Association of Sacramento Law Foundation; the State Bar of Texas Committee on Laws Relating to Immigration and Nationality in Austin, Texas; Volunteer Lawyers for the Poor Foundation in Cincinnati; and the Taiwanese American Lawyers Association in Arcadia, Calif.