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Councilman opens legal center in his Jamaica office aimed at helping immigrants

THE COURIER/Photos by Salvatore Licata

Access to legal services, particularly for immigrants, just got a little easier in Jamaica thanks to Councilman Ruben Wills, who opened a new legal service annex in his Jamaica office for his constituents — and the services are all free.

“There had long been a glaring need in my district for free legal services,” Wills said. “To better meet the needs of my constituents as well as members of the greater community, I maximized their availability. In light of President Obama’s recent executive order on immigration, we fully expect a future surge in demand.”

The newly renovated space, which is located at 95-26 Sutphin Blvd., is just blocks away from Queens County Civil and Supreme Court. It has increased capacity to accommodate both an attorney and a paralegal or junior attorney. The office is working in part with CUNY Citizenship Now, which provides those visiting with assistance when navigating the legal process. Right now, legal services are provided three days a week at the office but this will increase to four in the coming months.

One of the residents already helped by Wills and the legal team came to the ribbon cutting ceremony on Jan. 8 to show his appreciation. Miguel Garcia, 70, came to the United States in 1969 from El Salvador. He was having issues getting his full citizenship. The major difficulty was a language barrier as he only spoke Spanish and didn’t fully understand the legal process.

He was helped by Rosanna Eugenio, a lawyer at the office, back in 2012 and was finally granted his full citizenship in 2013.

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“Their help was great,” Garcia said through a translator. “I had no problems once I came here for help. Being a citizen feels great: I feel free and don’t have to worry anymore.”

Garcia is one of the 600 constituents in Wills’ district that was or is being helped by the program. The new program offers an immigration attorney two days a week and a general attorney two days a week.

Wills also said on Fridays, he is offering the office to those in his council district who need a place to study for their legal exams if they are choosing a career path in law.

“Free legal assistance is vital to the community’s well-being,” Assemblywomen Vivian Cook said. “This expansion will aid more of our constituents at a faster rate and produce better outcomes.”

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