Hurricane Harvey

$4M Fellowship Program Provides Post-Harvey Legal Aid

Houston’s immigrant communities are among the groups benefiting from assistance.

A new $4 million program is funding 20 Houston-based legal fellows to provide aid after Harvey.

Three additional fellows will be working in other cities to provide disaster relief legal assistance as part of the program. 

Fellows will serve two-year terms in the Equal Justice Works Disaster Recovery Legal Corps (DRLC) to assist groups facing additional barriers to disaster recovery. 

Immigrant communities in Houston are among those benefiting from aid. Some DRLC fellows are working with immigrant and mixed-status families to help with legal matters, like recovering wages after not getting paid for a Harvey-related repair.

Other fellows, like YMCA International Services’ Robert Flores, will help directly with immigration legal issues.

“That could be anything from citizenship to a green card renewal, to wanting to reunify with a family member so they want to do a family petition and that could also include legal defense in removal proceedings,” said Flores. 

Though Harvey impacted many communities, Fores said, immigrants often face additional barriers to recover because of their legal status.

“And so when you compound those two issues together that can add to the hardship that person is already experiencing,” said Flores.  

Fellows have also been placed at Human Rights First, Tahirih Justice Center, and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, among other organizations. 

A Kaiser Family Foundation report found immigrants are more likely to experience job and wage loss after Harvey and less likely to apply for disaster assistance.

The American Red Cross, Bigglesworth Family Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Florida Bar Foundation, Greater Houston Community Foundation, Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative, Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund and the Texas Access to Justice Foundation all contributed philanthropic support to the legal aid program. 

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