City to Offer Legal Screening Clinic for Immigrants

Danehy Park DayA welcome map in several languages spoken in Cambridge at Danehy Park Day.Courtesy of the City of Cambridge.

The City of Cambridge has established a free, monthly clinic that will help local immigrants determine what their options are for pursuing citizenship or legal status.

The clinic, run by the Commission on Immigrant Rights and Citizenship (CIRC) and the Community Legal Services and Counseling Center (CLSACC—pronounced “classic”), will bring in volunteer immigration lawyers. CLSACC has vetted the lawyers, CIRC Executive Director Nancy Schlacter says.

The lawyers will help immigrants figure out what steps they can take, if any, based on their individual situations.

“There aren’t lots of options,” Schlacter says of paths for immigrants. “This will be an effort to help them figure out what their options may be.”

The first clinic is scheduled for Dec. 13 from 5:15 to 7:15 p.m. at 47 Thorndike Street. The clinic will run on the third Wednesday of each month and is open to all immigrants in Massachusetts, not just those living in Cambridge.

Five lawyers will hold up to 30-minute consultations with each person, Schlacter says. CLSACC has more lawyers who could come to future clinics if there’s enough demand.

CIRC and CLSACC hope to alleviate undocumented immigrants’ concerns about engaging with the government in a time when President Donald Trump has advocated for widespread deportations. The clinics’ discussions will be protected by attorney-client privilege and CLSACC will destroy any paperwork from the clinic.

The clinic came out of a immigrant community needs assessment run by CIRC. It found that some immigrants wanted resources like more citizenship and ESOL classes, help with completing immigration paperwork, and emergency sanctuary spaces for undocumented immigrants.

CIRC is working on being more welcoming for immigrants, Schlacter says. At Danehy Park Day this September, the city had a large welcome sign feature several of the most-spoken languages in Cambridge alongside many countries’ flags. A father whose family speaks Somali was excited for his son to see their language featured at the park, Schlacter says.

“It was a small step, but people felt it,” she says.