February 27, 2017 – The Immigrant Advocacy Project (IAP) assists foreign nationals to obtain or maintain lawful status in the United States. The primary mission is to help those with compelling humanitarian needs, including individuals who are suffering from serious, life threatening illnesses such as HIV, those coping with severe disabilities, victims of human trafficking, those who are homeless and children who have been or are at risk of abuse, neglect or abandonment. Though our services are focused upon acquiring or maintaining lawful status, the primary goals of immigration representation are to improve or maintain access to health insurance, employment and the protection of children from abuse, neglect and abandonment.
The Project, which started in 1996, is staffed by Supervising Attorney Shane O’Meara and Paralegal Ana Hurtado. They seek to help the most vulnerable residents of Palm Beach County to gain lawful permanent resident status through a myriad of distinct processes such as family sponsorships, nationality based laws, asylum for those fleeing persecution and special laws created to benefit victims of human trafficking, domestic abuse, violent crime and child abandonment/abuse. Lawful permanent resident status allows a non-citizen to live, work, and attend school in the United States indefinitely. The law allows them to apply for United States citizenship after holding lawful permanent resident status for 3-5 years, depending upon how they acquired status.
Unfortunately, many foreign nationals do not fall under any law which leads to lawful permanent resident status. For those not eligible for permanent status, the IAP provides assistance to acquire temporary relief through “short duration” immigration programs such as Temporary Protected Status (for those unable to return to their home country due to armed conflict or natural disaster), Deferred Action (for those facing compelling circumstances after arrival in the U.S. such as unexpected health problems) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (for those who immigrated to the U.S. as children prior to June, 2007).
The Project also assists foreign nationals to acquire United States citizenship if such acquisition presents a compelling benefit and helps non-citizens in our community to replace lost or stolen immigration documentation needed to establish eligibility for employment, a driver’s license or public assistance programs. In some cases, the Project represents foreign nationals wrongfully denied federal public assistance due to immigration status.The Project receives referrals from other Legal Aid Society programs, private attorneys, children’s case managers, HIV case managers, hospital social workers, law enforcement officers (FBI, State Attorney’s Office, municipal police departments), the Social Security Administration, the Florida Department of Children and Families, Juvenile Court Judges, teachers and school administrators, homeless shelters, religious organizations, victim support services and dozens of non-profit organizations here in Palm Beach County.