For most of its programs, the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic is able to serve individuals and families whose income is at or below 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. However, very often, there are clients who are above this guideline, but who may still be struggling financially. For this reason, our Immigrant Justice Program is now offering a Modest Means Program to meet the legal needs of even more people in our community.
Director of Immigrant Services Rachel Van Tyle says, “Modest Means is a legal phrase that means lower cost services. Some may call it ‘low bono’ as opposed to pro bono. It means that there is usually a flat fee for a case.” And while the flat fee depends on the case type, the cost remains affordable.
Through this program, the Clinic is able to assist more individuals with green card applications, DACA renewals, the naturalization process, and more. Immigrant Advocate and DOJ Accredited Representative Alise Cool explains that many people who come to intake seeking immigration services are over income. “The Modest Means Program is a way for us to help that group of people who don’t always qualify for assistance programs, but still really need the help. They are living paycheck to paycheck,” she says. “Legal assistance and representation is really expensive. This program allows us to bridge that gap.”
Alise can now screen the immigration intakes for clients who do not necessarily qualify for traditional services and then reach out to them to see if they would be interested in learning more about our low-cost program. “Many of my clients are so grateful for the opportunity, and have sometimes even asked to donate something on top of the small fee that we are charging,” she says.
This program does not just allow us to serve more people—for those who are capable, the chance to pay a nominal fee for legal services may also have a positive psychological effect. “With so much good and bad rhetoric about immigrants, it’s nice for them to have a chance to take control of their own lives,” Rachel says. “Allowing them to pay a modest amount of money is empowering.”
Alise recalls just such an experience. A returning former client came to our office for a DACA renewal, but he no longer qualified for free services because of his new job. “When I asked him for his legal fees, he had this giant smile on his face and told me that we weren’t charging enough!” says Alise. “It helped me to understand that even if these clients weren’t paying full price for these services, they are still able to take pride in what they are able to contribute. They recognize the work that is being done here at the Clinic, and are grateful to be a part of it.”
To learn more about our Immigrant Justice Program, please visit our website or call us at 317-429-4131.