We expect the pandemic to be really hard on our client communities. Communities that are already vulnerable, who are underserved by healthcare institutions or experiencing poverty, are generally hit the hardest by any tragedy with broad effects. Compounding this are the stresses that job loss and the resulting uncertainty add. Many of our clients who are facing immigration deadlines need to meet those deadlines even if federal workers and courts are furloughed.
SWIRC is Still Working for the Most Vulnerable
We have no intention of abandoning those who need us. This was our fourth week of offering consultations online, scheduled through our website. These have gone really well once we have been able to get people connected. Many of our clients are accustomed to talking to family back home using WhatsApp’s video features. But some are used to finding us at the legal clinic or are uncomfortable with this kind of technology. We are working on ways to let them know that we’re still here.
We also continue to work on existing cases and go to court as cases are heard. Immigration court, for example, is still seeing detained cases. We’ve been working on getting several clients out of ICE custody who are there merely awaiting trial.
In This Crisis, We Need Your Help!
A different way of working has carried with it different costs and opportunities. Right now, our most significant needs revolve around the increased use of technology in scheduling and managing online consultations and advertising. In our five years, we’ve never had to advertise. As word of mouth spread about our clinics, people showed up in ever increasing numbers, keeping us more than busy. Now, we find we need to reach our client communities in new ways.
We also expect this crisis to have lasting repercussions on the economy and those individuals, communities, and foundations who support our work. Yet, most of us (I include myself), even if we are directly affected by the loss of income at this time, will have more of a safety net around us than most of our clients. Our work as their advocate is about to become even more essential to helping our clients maintain their lives and families.
We are asking you to make a donation to SWIRC, but we also want to stay in conversation. Let us know how this current crisis is affecting you and how we can help. We will all get through this together. Though we can’t meet face to face, we still depend on you to make possible the life-changing work we do for the most vulnerable in our communities.
The Southwest Detroit Immigrant and Refugee Center provides free and low-cost legal services to those who need them most in the Detroit area, with a focus on recent immigrants and refugees.
We were founded in 2014 by Kevin Piecuch, our Executive Director