To meet increased demand for its services, the Diocese of Charleston has moved its Coastal Catholic Charities immigration legal services office in Mount Pleasant to a larger space.
“Demand for legal immigration services has definitely increased. We have never been able to meet demand,” said Emily Guerrero, an immigration attorney who supervises Catholic Charities’ three legal immigration offices in South Carolina. “We’ve always had to turn people away.”
The offices provide low-cost services to people who cannot afford private attorneys.
Need for services in Charleston County alone surged more than 154 percent from 2000 to 2010. That likely is due the availability of local jobs in industries, including tourism, farming and landscaping that may attract immigrants, Guerrero said.
The local legal immigration services office had been housed in the East Cooper Community Outreach building in Mount Pleasant.
Now, the office has its own space, and more of it, in Park West.
That means more space to add staff, volunteers and law students, and to serve about 40 more families each month, Guerrero said.
Today, the three state offices handle about 130 cases per month and must turn people away due to demand.
“We’re definitely in a time of expansion,” Guerrero added.
The office focuses on helping immigrants file for naturalization, temporary protected status, renewal of work permits and resident cards, as well as providing assistance for immigrant victims of crimes and those seeking religious visas and extensions of nonimmigrant visas, among other services
The office is an affiliate of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. and a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
Although operated by Catholic Charities, the legal immigration offices serve people regardless of faith.
Reach Jennifer Hawes at 937-5563.