Two women are helping immigrants file legal paperwork in an unusual place. The Hartford Public Library (HPL) has become the first certified library in the country by the Bureau of Immigrant Appeals to allow library employees to legally assist immigrants with paperwork.
Homa Naficy and Maryanne Daly-Doran are taking appointments from immigrants who need legal assistance. HPL is the first place for immigrants to go because it is the first place that can give them access to the internet and printer services before they walk across the street to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). The idea first started when librarians noticed that immigrants had trouble navigating through the online applications that require fees and email addresses which many did not have. HRL employees are not legally supposed to help immigrants to fill out the applications, but that is where Naficy can step in.
Naficy and Daly-Doran went to look for certification from the Bureau of Immigrant Appeals. The process involves completing over 40 hours of training which prepares people to give legal advice to immigrants. The librarians have broadened their services further to include setting up email accounts and applying for credit and debit cards for immigrants. According to Rafael Pichardo, a lawyer, “It’s really easy to practice law without intending to.”
In fact, when someone tells another something about immigration forms, that person is unintentionally practicing law. The accreditation for the staff give them legal authority to do so within the institution. Libraries have helped immigrants for many years by setting up English classes and naturalization courses, but this is the first time they are offering legal services to those that need it. Libraries nationwide have participated in community outreach programs which have positively influenced the immigrant community, but this step towards adding legal advice may encourage other libraries to follow suit.
While it is certainly commendable that these people are working to help immigrants complete forms, it cannot be forgotten that there are some immigration issues that should only be handled by a competent immigration attorney. Immigrants should look for the best legal solution possible and sometimes sending in forms is the worst thing that can happen to an immigrant.
If you have questions regarding the new immigration reform, applying for a visa or the changing immigration laws, contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.