The Disaster Recovery Legal Corps is Assisting Immigrant Victims of Hurricane Harvey

Equal Justice Works, the leading nonprofit organization committed to mobilizing the next generation of public interest attorneys, launched of the Disaster Recovery Legal Corps, a new Fellowship program, in July 2018. The DRLC is made up of 21 lawyers delivering legal and recovery assistance to individuals affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. The Houston-based corps includes four (4) Immigration Fellows providing immigration legal services, housed at the YMCA International Services, Catholic Charities’ Cabrini Center, Tahirih Justice Center, and Human Rights First.

The non-immigration Disaster Recovery Legal Corps Fellows identify immigration legal issues facing clients and then refer them to immigration legal services provider host sites; similarly, clients who come directly into immigration legal services providers are referred to the rest of the DRLC to cover their civil legal needs. In this way, immigrant clients have a safety net of civil legal aid that includes both immigration and non-immigration issues.

The Need

Immigrants in Houston were greatly impacted by physical damage and the fallout of Hurricane Harvey. About three-quarters of Houston area immigrants were affected by some type of property damage to their home or vehicle and/or some form of job or income loss. They faced precarious financial situations as a result, with 39% falling  behind in paying their rent or mortgage since the storm. In addition to facing financial difficulties, about a quarter of storm-affected immigrants reported needing more help with getting the medical care they and their family needed.

Despite the disproportionate number of immigrants affected by Harvey, immigrants were less likely to report applying for government assistance after the storm. Nearly half of immigrants whose homes were damaged said they were worried that if they tried to get help in recovering from Hurricane Harvey, they would draw attention to their own or a family member’s immigration status.

Source: Bryan Wu, Liz Hamel, Mollyann Brodie, Shao-Chee Sim, and Elena Marks, “Hurricane Harvey: The Experiences of Immigrants Living in the Texas Gulf Coast,” (March 2018), Kaiser Family Foundation and the Episcopal Health Foundation.

Case Priorities

The four fellows serve low-income immigrants who have been affected by Hurricane Harvey and who reside anywhere in the greater Houston region with a full spectrum of immigration legal services, including consultations, brief services, and full representation.

The attorneys can help with: removal (deportation) proceedings, family petitions, DACA, TPS, asylum, u-visa, VAWA, and t-visa, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), Orders of Supervision, employment authorization, and more.

Contact the DRLC Partners

Catholic Charities YMCA

Funding Partner 

This project is generously supported by the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s Hurricane Harvey Recovery Fund.