The Equal Justice Committee was formed in June of 2017 to encourage Boise-area lawyers to provide free legal help to low-income refugees and to advocate on behalf of all refugees.  The goals we had are spelled out in an opinion column that appears here under the Advocacy tab—“Free legal help is on the way for Idaho refugees.”  Our plan was to recruit lawyers to represent refugees in individual cases, to conduct information sessions on legal issues common in the refugee community, and to speak out publicly on behalf of refugees.  

It was not intended that the new organization would handle legal representation for refugees on its own.  Rather, the intention was to refer refugees to existing organizations that provide free legal help and to get more lawyers to work with those organizations.  The Idaho Volunteer Lawyer Program, which is operated by the Idaho State Bar Association, provides free legal help to individuals who meet its income guidelines.  The Committee has encouraged more than 100 lawyers to volunteer to handle refugee cases.  Idaho Legal Aid also provides free legal help to low-income individuals, including refugees.  The Intermountain Fair Housing Council provides free legal assistance to individuals who are discriminated against in housing, regardless of their income.  Concordia Law School has a very active pro bono program and can be another source of help.

The Committee has prepared a Sources of Legal Assistance document under the Where To Go for Legal Help tab, showing the names and contact information for agencies that can assist with legal problems.  If people have difficulty in getting in contact with those agencies, they can leave a message on this website.  

The second goal of the Committee is to conduct information sessions to help refugees understand the requirements of the law, to learn what their rights are, and where to go for legal help.  Some of the subjects that will be covered in information sessions are described under the Information Programs tab.  

The third objective of the Committee is to advocate on behalf of refugees in the wider community.  Some of the issues addressed already are included under the Advocating For Immigrants and Refugees tab.  We intend to get other people in the community to speak out in favor of refugees and other immigrants.  

At a meeting held on January 5, 2018, with leaders of refugee and immigrant groups around the Treasure Valley, it was decided that the Committee would broaden its reach to include all immigrants within its programs.  In order to reach a broad group of people needing legal guidance, the Committee’s information programs will be conducted for the most part in monthly sessions with immigrant group leaders.  The Committee will meet on the last Friday of each month at 6:00 p.m. at a location to be announced at the previous meeting to explore issues in a particular area of law, such as immigration, family law, employment issues, or the other issues under the Information Programs tab.  The monthly sessions will be videoed so that group leaders can have them translated and made available to their various groups.

In addition, the Committee will entertain requests for information sessions to be held for groups at locations convenient to them in the community.  That will allow tailored messages on particular legal issues to be delivered where they can do the most help – at churches or mosques, at scheduled gatherings, and so on.

It is the intent of the Committee to remind the community that all people in America are immigrants, although it should be noted that the Native Americans immigrated to this country thousands of years before everyone else.  Immigration is what has made the United States a powerful nation and a good nation.  From time to time, America’s principles have been tested by people who incite fear against refugees but America always comes through and returns to its immigrant roots.  The county is now being tested again but good will prevail.  We all need to be a part of making that happen.