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At new immigration clinic, 'We're all family'

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At its most basic level, Lafayette Urban Ministry's immigration services clinic is about family.

That notion was in the forefront of Jefferson High School senior Devon Wolfe's mind as he designed the logo for the newly launched clinic.

"The real motivation behind such immigration ... is it's more of a process about becoming family," Wolfe told the Journal & Courier. "As humans in such a big world, you really tend to lose touch, and then you look around and you realize we're all family. We're all here to help each other."

Last month, the Journal & Courier profiled the clinic when it received accreditation from the U.S. Justice Department's Board of Immigration Appeals.

Since then, the clinic has operated quietly, until Tuesday. That's the day LUM officials and supporters gathered for a grand opening — the first push to announce the clinic's services to the general public.

"We understand that those who are immigrants have a special bureaucratic challenge that many other travelers don't have," said Joe Micon, executive director. "Navigating that system takes an awful lot of knowledge, expertise and energy."

Under the leadership of program director Susan Brouillette, the clinic will provide confidential legal support to immigrant families. That includes determining eligibility for immigration benefits and connecting clients with other services, such as English classes or civics lessons.

That service will be offered on a sliding fee scale.

Brouillette spent 26 years working for former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, who dealt extensively with immigration issues.

"There are such a few number of clinics," Brouillette said. "People may be eligible for benefits and don't even know that they are. Or they don't even know there's help here, or maybe they're being stopped because they don't have the funds to go through the process."

The Census Bureau estimates there are 13,127 foreign-born residents in Tippecanoe County — about 8 percent of the total population — who are not U.S. citizens.

One of them is Diana Michel, 21, who was born in Mexico. Michel said she could have used LUM's immigration services clinic two years ago when she was preparing her deferred action application to gain temporary permission to remain in the U.S.

She faced more than $800 in application and attorney fees. Now a LUM volunteer, Michel wishes she'd had such a clinic to walk her through the process.

"It was very nerve-wracking," Michel said.

With the clinic, "they're giving you assurance, giving you the confidence to do things. If you have any doubt that you're going to be deported, or you're not doing something right, she has the knowledge — rather than somebody just getting things off the Internet."

Zach Szmara, a pastor of The Bridge Community Church, said his church opened a similar clinic four months ago in Logansport. The first clients, he said, were from Lafayette.

"I am just so excited (that) we can tell clients from Lafayette, 'Hey, there is a great clinic serving your needs right here in Lafayette,' " Szmara said.

Even with the new Lafayette clinic, there is more work to be done across the state and country, Szmara said. More than 300,000 immigrants are in Indiana.

"There are only 15 accredited legal representatives in the state of Indiana at 12 different sites," Szmara said. "If we all did a full caseload, it would take us 56 years to meet the need."

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  1. For many years this young man was "family" being my cousin's son. Then he decided to ignore my existence and that of my daughter who was very hurt by his actions after growing up admiring, Jason. Glad he is doing well, as for his opinion, if you care so much you wouldn't ignore the feelings of those who cared so much about you for years, Jason.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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