Last Modified: Saturday, January 26, 2013 9:56 PM
In an effort to bolster local legal and support services for immigrants, an advocacy group is rearranging operations to reposition itself in the community.
The St. Frances Cabrini Law Center will move to the Southwest Louisiana Law Center, at 1011 Lakeshore Drive in Lake Charles.
Dalia Matheus is the agency’s director, and Delma Porter will serve as immigration manager. Legal services will be provided by Southwest Louisiana Law Center attorney Mark Judson.
Matheus said her organization is a member of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network and has applied for accreditation with the Board of Immigration Appeals from the federal government.
“The mission of the immigration center is to provide social, educational and legal services to indigent and low-income immigrant families to meet their immigration needs,” Matheus said.
She explained that moving to the Southwest Louisiana Law Center office will provide needed space to operate.
Porter said St. Frances Cabrini Law Center will be a one-stop shop for the public to obtain assistance and consultation.
“We will give immigration advice and counseling on an individual basis,” she said. “Services for citizenship, naturalization and residency permits are available through us. Also, we will give guidance to victims of domestic violence.”
According to Matheus, the agency has been in operation for five years.
Along with being a businesswoman, Matheus has spent more than 10 years working as an immigration advocate.
She obtained her juris doctor degree in civil and international law from Loyola University School of Law in New Orleans. Matheus also participated in the opening of two immigration service offices in the Lake Area.
Lake Charles City Hall recently gave St. Frances Cabrini Law Center a $16,000 grant because of the growing need immigrants have for legal aid.
“St. Frances Cabrini Law Center will try to help them become citizens,” said Ester Vincent, head of the city’s Office of Community Services. “That population is one we haven’t been able to focus on and had done nothing to help. With this grant, we acknowledge that the city sees the need for this service.”
Vincent said St. Frances Cabrini Law Center’s grant application came to her at an opportune time since the federal government has been tweaking immigration laws.
Matheus said the agency will be able to help immigrants who qualify under new immigration laws.
“On Jan. 3, the federal government finalized laws regarding the adjudication of waivers for immigrants who are consular processing, which would trigger the unlawful presence ground for inadmissibility,” she said. “Now a process starts where certain immigrants will be able to have certain waivers completed before they have to leave the country for visa interviews.”
Federal officials estimate the new immigration rules will assist 800,000 to 1 million immigrants between the ages of 15 and 30.
Matheus said qualified applicants will get “protection from being removed from the country and be able to get work authorization for renewable time periods of two years.”
Matheus said the new rules do not give those who qualify permanent legal immigration status.
For more information, call 337-477-1862.