Chelsea and PAIR Project Partner on New Immigration Legal Services Program

Special to the Record

The City’s Department of Housing and Community Development is launching a new program in partnership with the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation (PAIR) Project, to provide high-quality immigration focused legal services to low-income Chelsea residents. Funding to operate the first two years of the program is being provided through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) community fund. ARPA funding will support two full-time staff positions who will provide full representation to 60 Chelsea residents per year, serving 100 residents yearly with free legal consultations, referrals, and support accessing wrap-around services. The program will reduce barriers to low-income residents facing complex immigration procedures and needing assistance with tasks such as changing their address, requesting copies of their records, or fulfilling reporting requirements.

Community education opportunities will also be integrated in the form of know-your-rights trainings.

“PAIR is honored to be a recipient of this generous community fund and to work as a partner with the City of Chelsea and other Chelsea-based service providers to protect the legal rights of immigrants residing in Chelsea,” said Anita P. Sharma, PAIR’s Executive Director. “The funds bring profound and transformative support to PAIR, allowing PAIR to expand its staff and grow its Justice for Immigrant Families Program.”

The new program aims to address a shortage of pro bono legal services for immigrants, coupled with debilitating financial barriers residents face to obtaining private representation. Pro bono programs in the region are largely at capacity, with many organizations having accumulated years-long waitlists. In the absence of quality, affordable representation, immigrant families are often forced to pay thousands of dollars or take on predatory loans to obtain legal representation, apply for work permits, and maintain lawful status. Moreover, residents seeking to exercise their legal right to humanitarian relief are frequently subject to scams and misinformation, further undermining their economic stability and wellbeing.

These economic barriers were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite making up a large percentage of the frontline and essential workforce, immigrant families were oftentimes ineligible for COVID-19 relief programs or lacked access to programs and services because of language barriers, and the legitimate fear of taking part in public assistance.

Chelsea is a proud Sanctuary City with a decades-long legacy of welcoming and becoming home to successive waves of immigrants. By investing ARPA dollars in services for immigrant residents, the Department aims to support the local recovery, economic stability, and long-term unity of immigrant Chelsea families.

The PAIR Project, a Boston-based organization, has a long standing history of providing legal services in Chelsea and partnering with local organizations and City departments. The ARPA Immigration Legal Services Program will continue this commitment to collaboration, working closely with stakeholders who provide housing assistance, food resources, mental health services, and other wraparound services to Chelsea’s diverse immigrant community.

Residents wishing to access immigration legal services through the new program can contact the PAIR Project by calling (617) 742-9296 Ext. 5 or by filling out a basic intake form at Residents may also stop by the Department of Housing and Community Development Office at Chelsea City Hall, Room 101, during City Hall business hours. Additional information on drop-in legal consultation clinics and workshops will be publicized on an ongoing basis.

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