Some need help with obtaining a green card, others a work visa and still others are advocating for family members. Whatever the issue, diocesan Immigration Assistance Program Director and lawyer Samantha Lindberg says they’re there to help “anyone who has an immigration problem.”
The mission of the Immigration Assistance Program (IAP) is to provide the indigent immigrant population of the nine counties of the Diocese of Kalamazoo with low-cost, competent legal representation in their immigration matters. The program began more than 15 years ago by Sr. Rosemary Tierney, CSJ, a long time advocate for the Hispanic/Latino community, who recognized the need as the population grew in Southwest Michigan throughout the last twenty years.
Lindberg notes that while 75 percent of IAP’s clients are from Mexico the remaining 25 percent come from countries all over the world including Canada, Nigeria, Germany, Israel, China, Burma and the Czech Republic. On average Lindberg and program assistant Karina Mazei Puing take on 250 cases each year and have about 200-300 open cases. Both are bilingual in English/Spanish.
Perhaps some of the most rewarding cases are those clients who are the victims of domestic abuse. In those cases all fees are waived.
“Most of the woman we see in those situations feel stuck,” says Lindberg. “It’s gratifying to help women
who’ve never had power over their lives take control.” While the path to citizenship can be a long and costly road to navigate, IAP provides services at a significantly lower cost than obtaining a private attorney. New clients are taken on only after an initial consultation.
“Initial consultations are held on Mondays at our office from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.,” says Lindberg. If it is determined by the IAP that there is a manner in which they can help the prospective client, they will provide that person with a list of documents required for the submission of their application/petition and an appointment for follow- up.
Each case is unique and some forms can be up to 21 pages long. Wait-times can vary from months to decades depending on the circumstances including country of origin and whether someone seeking legal status has a spouse or parent who is a U.S. citizen.
For more information on IAP visit
or find them on Facebook “DOK Immigration Assistance Program.”