Several San Mateo County nonprofits are sharing in nearly $1 million worth of grants to bolster legal services and access to them for local immigrants.
The nine grants totaling $999,810 are from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation to help train case workers, expand outreach efforts and create lending circles that financially help immigrants pay for needs like citizenship application fees.
Although the grant application process was well underway when the current immigrant children border crisis hit its peak, the timing was fortuitous, said Manuel Santamaria, the foundation’s vice president of strategic initiatives and grantmaking.
“I’m glad we already had an ongoing conversation,” Santamaria said.
But the border crisis is only one of the issues adding to the growing need for high-quality legal help, he said.
Others include human trafficking and immigrant reform, including the DREAMER issue which is on the horizon.
“If that does happen, it will bring even more attention to the plight of immigrants and the need to provide services,” he said.
Santamaria estimated about 200,00 immigrants in both San Mateo and Santa Clara counties — the two counties benefiting from the foundation grants — could be affected by immigration reform. If so, the need for more attorneys and more services will grow and the already insufficient amount available will be stretched further. The limited amount of funders for legal services is another challenge, he said.
The nine grants awarded by the foundation are meant to help the chosen nonprofits gain accreditation for staff to represent clients and buy necessary hardware and software to work collaboratively and regionally through technology.
For example, a Daly City provider might be able to get expertise from a provider in Gilroy if they are better connected.
The nonprofits chosen in San Mateo County include $360,000 for Collaborative Resources for Immigration Services on the Peninsula (CRISP), a group of eight organizations providing low-cost legal aid.
Catholic Charities CYO of San Francisco and Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, both which operate in San Mateo County, were also funded. The San Francisco outlet received $20,000 to expand outreach and direct legal services here while its Santa Clara County counterpart received $25,000 to provide technical assistance to up and coming legal services groups.
The International Institute of the Bay Area received a $50,000 grant to train a Board of Immigration Appeals accredited case worker in San Mateo County and another $60,560 to support technical and administrative support of a system to recruit and match up legal volunteers.
The Mission Asset Fund, of both San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, received $50,000 to support its DREAMER and Citizenship Lending circles. Pangea Legal Services, also of both counties, received $35,000 to help directly represent low-income immigrants in removal proceedings and complex immigration cases.
The grants will be ongoing to the extent the foundation’s budget allows, Santamaria said.
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