La Luz Center provides legal aid to would-be citizens
by Kara Hansen
Immigration. The issue has been a controversial one in almost every recent election. But there is so much sound and fury over illegal immigration, that there is little oxygen left in the room for a sane discussion of its counterpart – the legal process by which an immigrant to this country may become a resident, and eventually a citizen.
Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas is trying to change all that.
On Oct. 1, it opened the doors of its newest offering — La Luz Center for Immigration Legal Assistance — at 2220 Central Avenue in Kansas City, Kan.
La Luz, which is Spanish for “the light,” provides low-cost legal services related to immigration for the foreign-born population. These services include consultations on immigrants’ rights, the naturalization process, and various other immigration services.
“We already have a list of clients, so it’s exciting to be off and going,” said Greg Bole, immigration clinic attorney for La Luz Center.
The name for the program was carefully chosen to reflect the unique needs of the immigrant population, said Bole, who, as new residents of the United States, may feel as though they are living in the shadows.
“These are people who wanted a better life for their children and now they’re forced to live in the shadows,” said Bole. “Anything we can do to make their daily lives better, to bring them to light, is extremely important.”
Bole said many of the referrals the clinic receives are by word of mouth from members of the immigrant community, though social services agencies are aware of the program and can refer people to it as well.
Other referrals will come from the animator for the archdiocesan Hispanic ministry program, Father Pat Murphy, CS.
“I think Greg Bole’s presence at La Luz Center will be seen as a breath of fresh air that gives hope to people,” said Father Pat. “ I know he cannot do miracles, but he will be honest and just with the people he serves. I have already begun to send people to La Luz and they are extremely happy with the services they have received.”
But no special referral is needed for an immigrant to access the services of the new Charities program. Every Wednesday, La Luz Center is open from 9 a.m. to noon for free consultations — no appointment necessary.
“They deserve to know what their rights are and what options they have, because there are people out there looking to take advantage of them,” said Bole.
Father Pat said the services offered through La Luz were unique to the community and very much needed by the people it is intended to serve.
“The office of Hispanic ministry looks forward to having a long and fruitful relationship with La Luz,” said Father Pat. “I find this to be a great moment to see Catholic Charities making a commitment to the people of the community by providing the service of a Catholic immigration lawyer that people can trust.”