Civil legal aid groups Immigrant Advocates Network and Pro Bono Net have created a new free online program to help people navigate the byzantine immigration process and find out whether they might qualify for visas, legal status or other immigrants benefits.
The new online tool called immi launched on Thursday.
"What it does is it helps some of the 1.5 million or so undocumented immigrants who are eligible for relief but don't know it," said Burnett
According to a 2014 study by the Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS), a significant percentage of undocumented immigrants may be eligible for immigration benefits or relief — such as family-based petitions, asylum, U visas, or Special Immigrant Juvenile Status — but they either don't know or are unable to pursue legal status for other reasons.
Even when immigrants know their rights, applying for legal status typically requires immigrants to spend dozens of hours reviewing instructions and tracking down necessary documents. The process also often can cost around $2,000, mostly for an attorney's help to navigate the process.
But the online program provides users with in-depth screening, information and referrals to legal aid organizations.
First, users answer a series of simple questions about their background and family history. They are then provided with a set of results based on their answers that lets them know if they might be eligible for relief, said immi creator Matthew Burnett. The program also provides referrals to non-profit legal organizations for free or low-cost help.
The website also has a learning center where users can read up on U.S. immigration, learn basic terms and concepts, and understand the different ways there are to stay in the U.S. legally.
Many immigrants are feeling threatened as a result of President Donald Trump's immigration executive orders, including one that called for the immediate construction of a wall on the southern border.
"We're happy that we're able to support immigrants in the U.S. in this way at this moment," said Burnett.