Home » Node » Funders' Briefing Greater Boston Immigrant Defense Fund - December 13, 2017

Funders' Briefing Greater Boston Immigrant Defense Fund - December 13, 2017

Funders interested in more information or contributing to the fund should reach out to Nahir Torres, Hyams Foundation.

FAQs Greater Boston Immigrant Defense Fund: Delivering on the Dream Initiative

What is the purpose of the Immigrant Defense Fund?

Greater Boston is home to over 800,000 immigrant and refugee residents, including an estimated 180,000 individuals without immigration status who may need deportation defense. Collectively, they contribute to the economic vitality and vibrant cultural fabric of our communities.

Greater Boston’s Immigrant Defense Fund, part of the Delivering on the Dream (DOTD) national funding network, is a public-private partnership and funder collaborative committed to building Greater Boston’s capacity to protect and defend our immigrant and refugee communities by increasing access to the following critical resources and services:

  • Legal representation for individuals facing deportation proceedings in Immigration Court who cannot afford a lawyer
  • Community education and preparedness programming such as Know Your Rights trainings, legal screenings and referrals etc. 

Why is representation important?

In many detention proceedings, having an attorney can make all the difference. According to the National Study of Access to Counsel, detained people who have a lawyer are 10.5 times more likely to be granted some form of relief. This Fund is a step towards addressing this need for representation amongst those facing deportation, especially those in detention.

Who will benefit from the Fund?

With the overall goal of helping as many individuals as possible, the Greater Boston Immigrant Defense Fund has identified key eligibility criteria for legal service providers and community organizations interested in receiving funds (see the RFP for more details). Additionally, grantees will focus services on individuals and communities that fall within the following categories:

  • Legal services providers who receive awards through the Greater Boston Immigrant Defense Fund must prioritize services for low income individuals needing immediate deportation defense and who are unable to afford a lawyer.
  • Community organizations who receive awards must focus education and outreach in areas where immigration enforcement pose a threat to community well being.


How much funding will the Greater Boston Immigrant Defense Fund be awarding through this Request for Proposals?

Currently, more than $1.1M has been pledged by Greater Boston Immigrant Defense Fund partners. The Greater Boston Immigrant Defense Fund is continuing to engage with new partners to increase funding.

Who are the current funders of the Greater Boston Immigrant Defense Fund?

The funding for the 2-year pilot program was provided through the generous support of local foundations and corporate partners. The City of Boston will be providing in-kind support for the Fund through the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement. Partners for the Greater Boston Immigrant Defense Fund include:




Who will be administering the Greater Boston Immigrant Defense Fund?

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (“MLAC”), the largest funding source for civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts, will serve as initiative fiscal sponsor. As the fiscal sponsor, MLAC will coordinate a process to review the proposals of and then distribute the grants to nonprofit agencies and legal services providers seeking grants from the Fund, in line with the priorities and eligibility requirements outlined in the RFP.

Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI), a statewide poverty law and policy center and Immigration Coalition convenor, will serve as the coordinator for the network of Immigrant Defense Fund grantees.

What is the role of City of Boston in the Fund?

The City of Boston, through the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement, will be tracking and evaluating the impact of the initiative over the course of a two-year pilot period.

For how long will the Greater Boston Immigrant Defense Fund operate?

The Fund will operate for a 2-year pilot period.


Who will be eligible to receive funding?

Nonprofit agencies and nonprofit legal services providers with 501(c)(3) status, based in the Greater Boston area, that meet the following eligibility criteria may apply:

  • Located in communities along and/or east of the 495 corridor (i.e. inclusive of Lawrence, Lowell) as well as 195 (i.e. inclusive of Fall River, New Bedford).
  • Demonstrated knowledge of the Greater Boston immigrant community, including populations that are most vulnerable to immigration enforcement action
  • Proven track-record and capacity to provide services to immigrants in the Greater Boston area.

What is the exact geographic area for funding?

This RFP will support only organizations in communities that fall along and/or east of the 495 corridor (i.e. inclusive of Lawrence, Lowell) as well as 195 (i.e. inclusive of Fall River, New Bedford).















The Request for Proposals says it will support two broad categories of activities. Can my organization apply for funding in more than one category?

Organizations can apply for one or both of the two categories of funded activities. The two categories are: (1) Enhancing legal service capacity; (2) Strengthening community education, outreach, organizing & referrals.


Greater Boston Immigrant Defense Fund Grantees


Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) was founded in 1900 to provide legal assistance to as many low-income people as possible, to help them secure the most basic necessities of life, such as food, safety, and housing.  Last year, GBLS helped more than 10,000 clients with over 12,000 legal matters.  The agency’s Immigration Unit provided assistance in 1,532 cases for low-income clients, with full representation in 253 completed cases, and a remarkable 98% success rate. The Unit represents both non­detained and detained clients in a wide range of matters, including applications for asylum, cancellation of removal, special immigrant juvenile status, status adjustment, naturalization, TPS, DACA, self-petitions under the Violence Against Women Act, and T and U Visas.  The Unit also brings petitions for review before the Circuit Courts and regularly participates in the preparation of amicus curiae briefs in cases affecting the rights of immigrants on a state and local level. Over time, the Unit has responded to client needs by shifting its priorities to deal with crises affecting various immigrant communities, including addressing large-scale raids, implementation of the DACA program, TPS designations to numerous communities, and multiple refugee influx crises.

MetroWest Legal Services (MWLS), incorporated in August 1976, provides legal advocacy to protect the rights and improve the lives of poor, elderly, disabled and otherwise disenfranchised individuals and families in its service area.  In FY17, MWLS handled 2,675 legal cases for clients in the areas of housing, government benefits and access to health coverage, domestic relations and immigration for abuse victims and unaccompanied minors, consumer law, education, elder law, and wage & hour disputes.  MWLS also conducts outreach and training events, offers legal clinics, and operates a Pro Bono Panel of local attorneys who provide legal assistance with domestic relations cases, bankruptcies, wills, small claims defense and veterans issues.  Finally, its volunteer attorneys staff Lawyer for the Day Programs (Family Law and Small Claims) and the Immigration Clinic, all designed to assist pro se litigants navigate the court system when full representation is not available.

Northeast Legal Aid helps low-income and elderly people obtain justice and empowerment through skillful, creative, and persistent advocacy for systemic change and high-quality representation of individuals.  Founded in 1967, Northeast Legal Aid, together with its subsidiary Northeast Justice Center (hereinafter jointly referred to as “NLA”), serve cities and towns in Northeastern Massachusetts with offices in Lawrence, Lynn, Lowell and a limited-hours office in Haverhill.  NLA legal units specialize in housing, consumer, elder, immigration, family, public benefits, veterans' rights and community development.  Its Immigration Unit:  provides a full range of direct representation of clients, including deportation defense; participates in the Lynn Rapid Response Network, and is developing similar networks in Lawrence and Lowell; and operates a telephone Helpline together with two pro bono bi-lingual private lawyers.  NLA collaborates extensively with numerous community organizations, particularly in organizing "Know Your Rights" presentations.

Political Asylum/Immigration Representation (PAIR) Project, founded in 1989, provides free legal services to indigent detained immigrants and asylum-seekers.  PAIR accomplishes its mission through two programs, the Detention Center Initiative and the Pro Bono Asylum Program, with nine staff members and a panel of more than 1,000 active volunteer attorneys who PAIR trains and closely mentors.  PAIR is the only non-profit in the state approved by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to enter and advise immigrants at all three major ICE detention centers, Suffolk, Bristol, and Plymouth, which house 90% of ICE detainees in the Commonwealth.  Additionally, PAIR is the only legal aid non-profit with negotiated open phone lines for immigrant detainees to call for legal help at no cost.  Each year, PAIR serves more than 700 detained immigrants through regular legal orientations and one-on-one legal consultations.  PAIR provides direct representation to about 150 of these detained immigrants, focusing on humanitarian relief.  PAIR has an 85% success rate on removal defense and bond cases in the Detention Program.

South Coastal Counties Legal Services (SCCLS) was founded in 1997 to achieve equal justice for the poor and disadvantaged through community-based legal advocacy.  With a staff of fifty-two, SCCLS and its subsidiary the Justice Center of Southeast Massachusetts provide free, quality representation in critical civil legal matters to low income families and elders throughout Southeastern Massachusetts, Cape Cod & Islands.  SCCLS immigration attorneys handle more than 400 immigration cases each year, including but not limited to U Visas, T Visas, VAWA and asylum petitions; Temporary Protected Status applications for the large Haitian community in Brockton; and probate and family court guardianships and Special Immigrant Juvenile petitions for unaccompanied minors.  Since last year, their immigration team has delivered more than a dozen Know Your Rights trainings, in collaboration with community partners, to hundreds of interested residents and to medical personnel and social service providers.


Brazilian Workers Center (BWC), founded in 1995 by immigrant workers and allies in Boston, was one of Massachusetts’ first worker centers, supporting immigrants in defending and advancing their labor and immigrant rights.  BWC invests in strong coalition work to magnify its impacts in policy reform and social justice campaigns.  By training and organizing members to strengthen their voice and advocate on their own behalf, BWC combats worker abuse, wage law violations, and discriminatory and anti-immigrant actions toward its community, and promotes immigrant economic and social integration in U.S. communities.  BWC partners with four universities, making it a center for policy-oriented research on the immigrant community.  BWC also has become a nationally recognized center for Portuguese language OSHA safety training for construction, cleaning, and cosmetology workers.  BWC empowers immigrants to become active participants in their communities, through ESOL, leadership and civic engagement, and health literacy training.  

Catholic Social Services of Fall River (CSS) is the largest provider of social and human services to immigrants in Southeastern Massachusetts.  This multi-service, multi-sited, and multi-lingual non-profit agency was formed in 1924 to serve marginalized residents in a diverse region that includes New Bedford, Fall River, Attleboro, Taunton, Cape Cod, and the Islands.  CSS’s Immigration Legal Education and Advocacy Program (ILEAP) was founded in 1996 to offer comprehensive immigration legal services including naturalization, deportation defense and a wide range of applications and petitions.  In addition, ILEAP offers community education forums and specialized training workshops for attorneys, teachers, social workers and other professionals.  In 2008, CSS established the Immigrant Victims Representation Project to meet the needs of immigrant victims of abuse, trafficking and other crimes.

Centro Presente was founded in 1981 in direct response to the arrival of Salvadoran and Guatemalan refugees fleeing violence, government repression and instability in Central America in the 1980s.  Many came to settle in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where they joined with faith-based and legal services organizations to address their needs as a new immigrant community. Centro Presente was at the forefront of what was at the time a growing movement across the country advocating for the rights of Central American immigrants facing discriminatory immigration policies, and struggling in solidarity with social movements in Central America against U.S. military intervention.  Centro Presente grew to become a membership-driven organization, incorporating basic community organizing strategies into its existing services and expanding into new advocacy areas.  The organization now has over 2,000 members throughout Massachusetts, concentrated in Greater Boston.  Through the integration of community organizing, leadership development and basic services, Centro Presente strives to provide opportunities for its members to use their voice and build community power.

Chelsea Collaborative was founded in 1988 by a network of human services agencies to implement a five-year human services plan for the City of Chelsea.  Over the past 30 years, its mission and corresponding work has evolved to effectively respond to demographic shifts in Chelsea residents who are largely Latino (63%), foreign-born (45%), and without permanent U.S. citizenship (33%), based on conservative estimates.  Today, the Chelsea Collaborative is the largest provider of youth jobs in the City of Chelsea; a formidable grass-roots, community organizing and social justice force; a safe haven for immigrants and refugees; and a trusted partner and advisor to dozens of city departments, nonprofits, coalitions, service providers, and others.  The Collaborative leads a collection of initiatives – developed and led by residents – to address persistent issues of inequity, which negatively impact the wellbeing of Chelsea residents, particularly those most vulnerable among us such as children, immigrants, and refugees.

ECCO, a network of 37 Christian, Jewish, and Muslim congregations and the North Shore Labor Council, is guided by the democratic principle that all people have the right to make decisions about important issues affecting them.  ECCO works to fulfill this belief by using community organizing principles of leadership development, popular education, and public action for social justice, and is addressing immigrant rights, criminal justice reform, and economic justice.  ECCO has a 10-year track record of organizing immigrants to learn their rights and to advocate for pro-immigrant policies.  Last year, ECCO developed a four-pronged strategy to defend immigrants:  (i) passing sanctuary policies such as the Safe Communities, Sheriff’s office non-compliance with ICE detainers at the county level, and pro-immigrant police policies; (ii) organizing Know Your Rights Trainings and Legal Screening Clinics so immigrants can access immigration lawyers, social workers, health professionals, school representatives in preparation for ICE actions; (iii) creating city-based Rapid Response Networks and congregation-based Accompaniment teams that to provide support and advocacy for undocumented families who are going through an ICE detention or deportation process; and (iv) establishing Sanctuary Congregations to provide physical refuge for immigrants who are in danger of being deported.

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