The day President Donald Trump announced plans to move forward with construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and restrict immigration from Muslim-majority countries, Matthew Burnett launched his nonprofit’s new online tool for undocumented immigrants.
The Immigration Advocates Network, where Burnett is director, has created immi.org, an online tool site that allows undocumented immigrants and those with temporary status to answer questions about their personal histories, helping them figure out exactly which protections, pathways to citizenship, or legal assistance they could be eligible for.
Approximately 1.5 million undocumented immigrants in the United States could be eligible for immigration benefits but do not know about it, Burnett said. And when they do navigate the complicated application process, it could cost up to $2,000 in lawyer’s fees.
“We need to be laser-focused on getting as many immigrants as possible aware of their options to protect their future,” he told Mashable. “If a benefit is available to get on the road to immigration or citizenship, they’re going to be protected from all those things we worry about.”
Most other immigration resources focus on filling out applications — not guidance on which applications people should actually complete. Immi.org takes care of the very first steps, helping anyone with questions about their immigration options figure out which path to pursue.
For example, someone who logs on to immi.org could discover that they are eligible for protections if they are a victim of certain crimes, a survivor of domestic violence, or from a country subject to civil war or natural disaster.
After answering the initial questions, the English and Spanish-language site then connects its users with local nonprofit legal centers and information on undocumented immigrants’ rights. As a security measure, any identifying information is collected separately from personal answers to questions about immigration status.
Along with undocumented immigrants, those with temporary status can figure out their next steps, and lawful permanent residents — such as green card holders — can learn about paths toward naturalization.
The only people who cannot use the site are potential immigrants who are not yet in the United States, or anyone who is already in deportation proceedings.
Supported by Open Society Foundations, the MacArthur Foundation and other donors, the civil legal aid organization Immigration Advocates Network started working on this project with the legal group Pro Bono Net about a year ago — before Trump even gained the Republican nomination for president.
If rules surrounding immigration change under the Trump administration, the site will adapt to ensure immigrants’ information is protected, and that its users are directed to their best paths forward in the United States.
“Our goal is to get information and resources available 24/7,” Burnett said.
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