A $20,000 grant from the Oakland County Bar Foundation (OCBF) will support the continued operation of Southwest Detroit Immigrant and Refugee Center’s Pontiac Legal Clinic. “We are proud to renew our support for this important resource, now in its fourth year,” said David Plunkett, Oakland County Bar Foundation President. “We continue to be impressed with the way that SWIRC involves volunteers in their service delivery, making this clinic not only valuable to the people served but also to those who offer their help.”
The Pontiac Clinic sees mostly Spanish-speaking Oakland County residents, many of whom are navigating the US immigration system for the first time. It is one of the very few legal resources available to low-income people in the area.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the clinic has managed to continue serving clients. At first the clinic met clients strictly through remote consultations. In August 2020, the clinic resumed face-to-face consultations following strict precautions. Since then, Pontiac clients have had the option of either remote or in-person meetings with staff and volunteers. And, thanks to deep partnerships in the community with organizations like Centro Multicultural La Familia, SWIRC remains the most popular option for persons seeking low-cost legal help in Pontiac. Earlier this year, Veronica Beltran took over as legal director for the center. A fluent Spanish speaker and daughter of immigrants, Beltran provides a wealth of experience to the growing number of clients SWIRC serves.
The Pontiac Legal Clinic was founded in 2017 with an initial grant from the Oakland County Bar Foundation. “Oakland County now has more residents born outside the U.S. than any other county in Michigan, and that number is only growing,” said Kevin Piecuch, SWIRC’s executive director. “Those who are low-income find many traditional legal providers inaccessible because of cost or language barriers. We offer those who need it most help they cannot find elsewhere.”
The Pontiac Legal Clinic serves a population that traditionally lacks access to quality legal services. Many recent immigrants often avoid approaching police or other government institutions when they need help. Consequently, these Oakland County residents, who often need legal assistance, are the least able to secure it. The Southwest Detroit Immigrant and Refugee Center, through the Pontiac Legal Clinic is changing that.
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