MAGIC VALLEY — More than 650 nonprofits are part of this year's Idaho Gives, the state's largest online giving campaign.
Immigrant Justice Idaho (IJI) hopes to raise $10,000 during Idaho Gives to continue to provide free legal services to undocumented people in the Gem State.
“Our donations go directly to help people and help us make sure that nobody has to defend themselves from being separated from their family or being sent back to harm from persecution," said Maria Andrade, executive director of Immigrant Justice Idaho.
Since October 2018, IJI has provided free or low-cost legal services to undocumented people. Currently, the nonprofit is the only agency recognized by the Department of Justice as a free legal service provider for immigration cases.
“We are really confident that as people learn more about what we do, they will feel like this is a worthy cause and a way to really have their donations go to people that this it is harming. We like to say the border is everywhere in the sense of what we hear happening at the border we see represented by individuals whether they are unaccompanied minors who come in for consults or families that are reunited here in Idaho," Andrade said.
They say being able to provide these legal services at a low cost or free of charge is crucial since most undocumented people would not be able to afford a lawyer and are forced to represent themselves in court.
“Our donations go directly to help people and help us make sure that nobody has to defend themselves from being separated from their family," Andrade said.
“It’s surprising for people to know it doesn’t matter if you’re an infant. It doesn’t matter if you have been diagnosed with PTSD or you’re elderly you do not get free defense in this system. There’s a small, very sliver of the population that might, but the vast majority appear pro se meaning without representation," Andrade said.
Not only does IJI provide free legal services, but the nonprofit also says it goes above and beyond for its clients. Most recently, they helped pay for one client's dental services after they complained of a toothache but could not afford to get work done.
“One of our legal assistants, without a second thought, straight away just went to ask him more questions about it and eventually called around for hours and found an appointment for the client and covered the appointment with IJI secured funds, and the client reported the next day that they were feeling a lot better," said Shihan Wijeyeratne, director of operations and technology for Immigrant Justice Idaho.
Their $10,000 goal will help them continue to provide these types of resources along with free legal representation. They say they plan to use the donations to also help train some of their clients to fill out their paperwork.
“It’d be hard for us to find a more dedicated staff and a more noble and a more impactful mission than what IJI does on a daily basis," Wijeyeratne said.
So far, IJI has raised close to $3,000 of its $10,000 goal. If you would like to donate to IJI and help them reach their goal, you can visit their Idaho Gives page.
You can also visit their Facebook page to learn more about the organization.