CUNY law school offering immigrants advice

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Due to a lack of money many people do not seek needed legal advice.

Now a free legal assistance program for Queens immigrants will provide lawyers who will give advice about immigration issues and help them with the necessary application forms for citizenship and residency.

Councilmember James Gennaro, who represents the communities of Jamaica, Fresh Meadows and Forest Hills amongst others, and the CUNY Law School’s Community Legal Resource Network launched a four-month-long, weekly program that will offer the legal advice at the Ebenezer Pentecostal Church, located at 145-15 Jamaica Avenue. The program will be free, open to the public and available in both English and Spanish.

The Jamaica church’s program joins two others in Queens, one in Richmond Hill and the other in St. Albans, where large populations of South Asian and Caribbean immigrants reside, leading the Queens delegation of the City Council to sponsor the program.

“Our community needs these types of services,” said Gennaro, who secured $80,000 from the City Council to fund the program at the church. “It’s always been important to try to get residents the information they need, especially during these tough economic times.”

The free legal assistance program in Jamaica takes place every Monday from 5 to 8 p.m. until June. It has two lawyers who will meet with people who make an appointment in advance. However, consultations will be limited subjects such as asylum, citizenship, residency, family petitions and legalization and work permits.

These lawyers will not formally represent any of the people who consult with them through the program in the courts, though referrals can be made to other lawyers.

“If more time is needed, we might need to have more consultations,” said Lisa Reiner one of the lawyers at the Jamaica location. “If we get bombarded, we hope to go back to the City Council if the monies aren’t meeting the needs of the community.”

Edgar Tax, the youth director at the church, said through his wife’s work as a paralegal she had met Reiner and that served as the connection to help bring the free legal program to their site.

“A lot of families depend on my wife to translate and she helps a little but she always refers to lawyers,” Tax said. “It’s a big door we are trying to open because a lot of families need help.”

To reserve a spot at the Jamaica location, please call 347-960-7229 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 6:30 until 8:30 p.m. The St. Albans location is at Councilmember Leroy Comrie’s district office at 113-43 Farmers Boulevard. For an appointment, call 718-776-3700 and ask for Mr. Al-Hasan Kanu. The Richmond Hill program is located at the Main Street Insurance Agency, located at 108-05 Liberty Avenue. Please call 718-848-7610 for more details.