A priest in our parish recently helped a political refugee from Equatorial Guinea navigate the arduous road to U.S. citizenship, so I was inspired by this story of an attorney who is launching an immigration clinic at an Episcopal Church in Glen Ellyn, Ill. From the Chicago Tribune:
Elizabeth McGuan, a Wheaton resident who practices immigration and family law in Geneva, is establishing a legal clinic for the immigrant community at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Glen Ellyn.
With volunteer assistance, McGuan saw four clients at the first clinic in October. She plans to hold clinics at the church once a month on Sundays after the 1 p.m. worship service, which is conducted in Spanish.
McGuan speaks Spanish. The clinic is open to immigrants from Mexico as well as other countries.
... "In this economy, legal aid had dried up," said McGuan, who went to law school after raising two sons.
While she doesn't anticipate getting deep into complicated cases at the monthly clinic, she wants to offer guidance to an immigrant group who may be feeling marginalized from mainstream society. She will provide initial consultations, evaluate if further representation is recommended and make referrals when appropriate.
"These clients want clarification," McGuan said. "They want to know what their situation is and what their options are regarding their legal status and becoming citizens. Many consider being deported worse than going to jail. When people are desperate, they can be exploited. I want to help make sure that doesn't happen."
A Christian who says that "when I went to church and heard the Gospel for the first time, I felt like I could walk on air," McGuan approaches her work from a deeply spiritual perspective. She notes 92 references in both the Old and New Testaments regarding the alien and foreigner, which she cited in a presentation as she was preparing to launch this ministry.
I often think how great it would be to have attorneys, social workers, financial advisers, and other professionals on staff to coach the needy in very practical ways, day in day out, in the church where I work. I am grateful for pro bono or near pro bono services that a handful of our parishioners provide when we request their services on behalf of someone in need. How does your parish respond to the pressure created by ever-increasing gaps in the social safety net? Do you have successful programs filling that demand in your community? An immigration clinic, perhaps?