Kentucky doesn’t have enough resources available for the undocumented immigrants who may benefit from recent executive actions by President Obama, said advocates for the state’s immigration population.
Obama’s plan would allow more undocumented immigrants to live and work in the U.S. temporarily. (Here’s a deeper look from NPR.)
An estimated 35,000 undocumented immigrants live in Kentucky, and thousands of them would qualify to remain here without fear of deportation, according to the Pew Research Center.
But the groups that have helped immigrants in Kentucky are already stretched thin, said attorney Guion Johnstone who works for the Maxwell Street Legal Clinic in Lexington, which helps undocumented immigrants live in Kentucky under current U.S. policy.
Kentucky’s situation is to the point that some immigrants who need help can’t get it, she said.
Johnstone said her clinic handles upwards of 500 immigration cases a year and is forced to turn away roughly 25 clients each week because of a lack of resources.
She also said Kentucky has few organizations working with low-income undocumented immigrants, who require legal services to apply for certain allowances under current policy.
“For many undocumented people, they are low-income often because the nature of the work they’re able to obtain without a work permit,” she said.
The Maxwell Street Legal Clinic is looking for ways to reach out in the community and build capacity, said Johnstone. The group may recruit pro bono legal volunteers, plus community volunteers to help with workshops and clinics.
As WFPL previously reported, Johnstone and others have warned of people trying to take advantage of undocumented immigrants while states await further direction on Obama’s recent actions.
Catholic Charities of Louisville is another group that helps immigrants with a variety of issues. Its immigration legal services department assists 2,500 clients per year, though not all are undocumented immigrants, said spokesman Bart Weigel. The organization’s goal is to not turn anyone away who needs help, including those who can’t pay.
That’s why Catholic Charities, like Maxwell Street Clinic, anticipates the need for more services, but it will be several months before the new policies take effect and the impact is determined.