Massachusetts Bar Foundation IOLTA grantee client profiles

Issue December 2012

Stories of hope and help

Did you ever wonder how IOLTA monies are used to support legal aid? Every day, MBF grantee organizations advocate for Massachusetts' most vulnerable citizens and families. Their work facilitates access to basic human needs, such as shelter, food, safety, and above all, justice. Last year, MBF grantees helped 85,000 clients in need. Below is a small sample of the stories of those who received critical services funded by the MBF IOLTA Grants Program, conveyed to the Foundation through recent year-end reports.

The Immigration Legal Services Program of Lutheran Social Services, a multi-service agency in Worcester, has received grant funding from the MBF for almost 10 years. Since 2003, the MBF has awarded over $335,500 in grants to this organization that provides critical legal assistance to immigrants across the commonwealth, with a focus on asylum seekers and victims of human trafficking. This is just one of the many stories LSS has shared where IOLTA funding has made a true difference:

Lei fled China after several government-forced abortions to escape her violently abusive husband. She arrived in the United States, but was unable to afford an attorney to apply for asylum. In order to pay a private attorney, she started work in a massage parlor in Massachusetts. While working, her employer sexually assaulted her and forced her to provide sexual services. Shortly thereafter, law enforcement came to the massage parlor and arrested Lei for prostitution. Scared and traumatized, Lei eventually told the police her story and she was referred to Lutheran Social Services as a victim of human trafficking.

An LSS attorney represented Lei, preliminarily obtained temporary immigration status for her as a trafficking victim, and then applied for asylum for Lei based on her victimization in China. Thanks to Lutheran Social Services, Lei has been granted asylum, has secured permanent housing, and a new job. The LSS attorney is now working to reunite Lei with her minor son, who remains in China. Hopefully, mother and son will soon have the chance to build a new life together in Massachusetts.

"Without an LSS attorney, funded through the Massachusetts Bar Foundation, Lei likely would not have found effective legal representation to navigate the complex immigration system in the United States, leaving her potentially subject to deportation. Instead, she received comprehensive legal and social services that allowed her to exit out of prostitution, receive permanent legal status, and build a comprehensive support system in the United States. Today, she is flourishing," said LSS Managing Attorney Julie Dahlstrom. "Simply put, none of this would have been possible without MBF funding."