12 Apr

Action NYC Provides Legal Help to Immigrants

Action NYC

LSA client advocate Pura Cruz takes on a new role as Action NYC Immigration Outreach Organizer

Submitted by Julia Correa

 As the daughter of two immigrant parents, Pura Cruz is driven by her passion to serve immigrant communities.  Since 2003, Pura has played an important role as a Client Advocate in the Advocacy Department, enrolling families in LSA services, helping them apply for benefits, and providing information about public services available in the community.

In her new role as an Immigration Outreach Organizer through LSA’s partnership with the Action NYC initiative, Pura now works to connect immigrants in upper Manhattan with free legal help.

According to the Mayor’s office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA), more than half a million New Yorkers are estimated to be undocumented, and an estimated 700,000 additional New Yorkers are eligible to become U.S. citizens.  Action NYC is a citywide initiative through MOIA to connect those New Yorkers with free and confidential immigration legal consultations in all five boroughs.

LSA partners with Action NYC to do outreach in Northern Manhattan, including East Harlem and Washington Heights.  As an organization with deep roots in the East Harlem community, LSA’s partnership with Action NYC allows us to provide information to the people who would most benefit from the services offered.  In addition, we are able to help people get legal advice close to home, at our agency in East Harlem, through partnerships we already have in place with organizations like Legal Aid Society and CUNY Citizenship Now.

Pura Cruz

Pura Cruz sharing Action NYC information at the West Side Campaign Against Hunger

“ActionNYC is so important,” Pura says. “It shows how much New York City cares about its residents.”

Through Action NYC, she explains:  “New Yorkers can get the right answers from someone who understands their personal situation. And if they do qualify for services, then that expert will help with their case. It can’t get better than that!”

As an organizer, Pura spends a lot of time outside of the office.  She visits schools, public libraries, recreation centers and other community-based organizations. She shares information about individual rights and available services, and sets up appointments for people seeking further immigration advice.

One of the most common challenges Pura encounters are misconceptions about immigration law that make people mistrustful of outside help. Many individuals she meets have encountered unscrupulous lawyers who take advantage of immigrants seeking documentation and provide false guarantees of citizenship. She hopes that her presence will help dispel these rumors, and give people the confidence to seek help from reliable sources, like those provided through Action NYC.

For a fairly new initiative, the success of Action NYC is evident from the high demand for services.  Appointments are completely booked through May.  “This is something that the city did not anticipate,” Pura exclaims.  

She shares that many people come back to tell their success stories. The ultimate reward for her work is knowing that this initiative will allow immigrant New Yorkers to live fuller and more secure lives.