D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced on Sept. 7 that Whitman-Walker Health is one of 15 community-based organizations to receive city grant funding to provide legal services for immigrants under the city’s recently launched Immigrant Justice Legal Services program.
Amy Nelson, director of Whitman-Walker’s Legal Services Program, said the grant will provide the program an award of $85,000 for fiscal year 2019 “to provide direct legal services to immigrants seeking asylum in the United States as a result of the persecution and violence they endured in their home countries on account of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Nelson said the grant will enable Whitman-Walker to expand its capacity to serve more foreign nationals who would otherwise not be able to afford legal counsel.
“Navigating the U.S. immigration maze is nearly impossible without an attorney, and our clients are especially vulnerable having already survived extreme violence in their home country because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Nelson told the Washington Blade.
“We appreciate the mayor’s commitment to the immigrant community through these grant funds to ensure that more families are connected to essential immigrant assistance,” Nelson said.
“Washington, D.C. is a sanctuary city, and we are committed to protecting the rights and humanity of all our residents,” Bowser said in a statement announcing the grant awards. “Through the Immigrant Justice Legal Services grant program, we are able to assist hundreds of residents each year with a wide range of issues, expand the reach of important community partners, and advance D.C. values,” Bowser said.
Whitman-Walker Health is the city’s largest private community-based health organization providing HIV services, with a special outreach to the LGBT community. Its Legal Services Program has provided legal assistance to the LGBT and other minority communities on a wide range of issues, including political asylum, naturalization, and refugee matters.
Human Rights First, another one of the organizations receiving a D.C. legal services grant for 2019, also provides services to LGBT immigrants in D.C. and other locations.
Casa Ruby, the D.C. LGBT community services center that has a special outreach to transgender people, provides a wide range of non-legal services for LGBT immigrants. It was not among the groups receiving one of the D.C. legal services grants for 2019 but it recently received a grant for HIV prevention services from the city’s Department of Health.