More than 20 years ago, Solomon* fled his village after a landmine accident left him an amputee. To leave war behind, he also had to leave his father
and the only home he had ever known. When he arrived in the United States after years in a refugee camp, he was completely alone.
“It is not easy to start over in a new country, without any real resources,” said Sara Karki, staff attorney at the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota (ILCM) based in Worthington. The largest provider of immigration legal and advocacy services to low income clients in the state, ILCM assisted over 4,500 clients from 98 countries last year. In our region alone, ILCM served more than 354 men, women and children. Now, thanks to a two-year, $40,000 grant from SWIF, ILCM is poised to hire a legal assistant and double their impact in southwest Minnesota.
SWIF Community Impact Director Nancy Fasching recommended the funding after learning that ILCM can’t keep up with the demand for their services.
This isn’t the first time that SWIF has partnered with ILCM because their work has such a powerful ripple effect. Nancy explains, “In many ways, it’s meeting basic needs: a job, housing, a driver’s license, a bank account. It’s a family issue. But, it’s
also a workforce issue.”
We’ve shared about southwest Minnesota’s workforce challenges and how we’re determining the best role for SWIF to play in finding solutions. New residents to our region, including immigrants and refugees, are key to meeting our workforce
needs. ILCM helps with work authorization and legal status, and opens doors to employment, housing, education and health care. For Worthington, this has meant a thriving Main Street, new businesses, retaining industry, more jobs and
tourism dollars, and resources for the city.
“From our perspective, the outcome is clear,” says John Keller, ILCM’s executive director. “Thanks to SWIF’s generosity there will be people free from domestic violence, who trust the police and report someone who has been hurting them and their kids. There will be families reunited. There will be people who are able to get a driver’s license for the first time, go to college, and get financial assistance.”
He concludes, “We know that we can dramatically change people’s lives and their future and their kids’ futures.”
Solomon’s story shows us how powerful ILCM’s work can be. After ILCM provided Solomon free legal assistance through the naturalization process, he finally was able to travel to the country he fled. He embraced his father for the first time in 24
years and told of the better, safer life he found in southwest Minnesota. His father died shortly after knowing that Solomon is an active member of the Worthington community, especially his church, that he has friends and neighbors who care for him, a family of his own, and children headed to college.
To learn more about SWIF’s current work, including our grantmaking, subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter.
*Solomon preferred to remain anonymous, so we’ve changed his name to share his powerful story.