By Elsa Baughman
JACKSON – Amelia McGowan is the new program director of Catholic Charities’ Migrant Support Center.
Previously, McGowan worked at the immigration program for Catholic Charities in Baton Rouge and at her own law firm in Vicksburg mainly dealing with immigration cases.
Since she is an attorney, the center will be able to represent people in court regarding their immigration cases, such as removal proceedings, especially children who entered the United States alone and were caught at the border, or for those who are here without proper documentation.
“We can now represent them in court and try to protect them from deportation and if possible, help them to get permanent residence or asylum,” she said. Chances of being able to stay in this country are higher if people are represented by an attorney because many who go to court don’t know how to navigate the system, they are scared and don’t speak the language.
“In some cases there are special options for adults, those who are being abused or are victims of a crime. We can help them with their immigration status,” she said.
The center also has two new bilingual associates, Elizabeth Adams who is a case manager, and Margaret Drummond as the administrative assistant.
Both will be able to assist with translation of documents such as marriage licenses, birth certificates, divorce papers and death certificates.
McGowan is also excited because in January of 2016 the center will begin a partnership with Mississippi College School of Law. She is going to hold an immigration law clinic for students and after that three or four of the students are going to assist at the center with some cases.
She also noted that the center received a grant from the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), an organization that promotes the dignity and protects the rights of immigrants in partnership with a network of Catholic and community legal immigration programs. With the grant, she said, the center was able to hire Mathew Young, who will help with outreach and case management.
McGowan said the center is available to offer workshops on any immigration issue at the parishes. “We want to increase our outreach and let people know we are here to help them with their cases.”
The cost of the initial visit for casework is $40 and the total cost depends in each particular case but McGowan said their services are less expensive that those of other immigration attorneys. “We are very affordable.”
Other services the Migrant Support Center offers include: petition for alien relative, adjustment of status, affidavit of support, visitor’s visa, work authorization renewal, extension of stay, self-petition of domestic and Temporary Protected Status.
The office is located in the Catholic Charities building at 200 North Congress Street in Jackson. For information call 601-948-2635.
By Elsa Baughman