No, it’s not your home (though that’s how the saying goes). It’s with a group of nuns associated with the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a group which has been doing community outreach for more than one hundred years. Five years ago, however, the group expanded its services to provide a range of legal immigration services for free, according to this article by the Catholic reporter online. While not an immigration law firm per se, the religious group does have significant experience working in immigration and legal matters in New York City, with genuine, bona fide immigration attorneys that provide legal counsel to their community.
The nuns (or Sisters, as is the insider’s term) believe that providing educational programs and legal services to people of all races, creeds, colors, and beliefs is an ethical imperative given their commitment to serving their community. They report that the work is challenging, but rewarding, and see it as a privilege to serve underrepresented clients. Operating out of a former convent, the Sisters have a combined experience of over 55 years working in law, legal aid and community outreach programs. The almost-but-not-quite immigration law firm prides itself on its dedication to social justice, which is why the Sisters have decided to serve the immigrant population.
Providing services such as assistance with immigration forms and correspondence to family-sponsored and fiancé(e) visas, as well as support obtaining permanent residence (green) cards and US naturalization and citizenship assistance, the immigration attorneys and nuns can also help individuals with deportation defense and legal reparation for victims of domestic violence and other violent crimes. They operate under the name of Apostle Immigrant Services (AIS) which works in complement to nearby services supporting refugees. Offering conversational English classes and one-on-one preparation for the US citizenship exam, the Sisters coordinate supporting program volunteers as well.
The nuns’ (turned immigration attorneys) service record? Unimpeachable: the almost immigration law firm has served over 850 clients from more than 65 countries, with 300 of those cases in 2012 alone. Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (so-called Dream Act) spurred a flurry of interest in the Sisters’ services. The nuns anticipate an unprecedented demand for services, depending on the immigration reform currently being debated in Congress. But they also caution individuals seeking immigration assistance: there are several fraudulent companies posing as law firms or unscrupulous individuals offering bogus legal advice. Those in need of help should seek out a competent immigration law firm versed in legal representation and with the interests of their clients at heart.
The Apostles of the Sacred heart of Jesus report that they are proud to be working the long hours and navigating the complex system of immigration statues in America. One Sister cites her clients themselves as being her inspiration: “They have overcome astounding challenges…their hope, resiliency, and their faith are all truly exemplary to me.” A graduate from Yale Law School, the Sister goes on to say, “I have never had more satisfying work as a lawyer than this.” Well, that does warm the heart, doesn’t it.