A low-cost immigration legal services center recently opened on St. Paul’s East Side, making it the first federally accredited agency of its kind in the city in 25 years.
Immigrant Connection Mosaic, which held its grand opening Tuesday, offers immigration legal resources to refugees, legal permanent residents, and other individuals seeking help with immigration status.
The center, which soft-launched in February, will primarily serve St. Paul’s diverse East Side, but Minnesotans across the state can access its services. The organization is part of the Immigration Connection National Network, which has 29 legal resource sites across the country, including a site in Mankato.
“From the beginning, we saw that there are various agencies doing this work of providing affordable legal immigration services, but there’s still such a high demand,” said Jourdan Suos, Immigrant Connection Mosaic’s site director. “One of our goals has always been to meet the needs of the community and this is one of those practical ways to do that and do it well.”
Suos is also executive pastor at Mosaic Christian Community, which has been open for 10 years. Immigrant Connection Mosaic is located inside the church.
Legal representatives at Immigrant Connection Mosaic are accredited by the Department of Justice, which means they’ve been trained to provide immigration legal support although they are not lawyers. There are 17 accredited sites across Minnesota.
Immigrant Connection Mosaic is the first accredited site to open in St. Paul since 1998, joining major legal aid organizations like the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, the International Institute of Minnesota, and Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services. The Immigrant Connection at Celebrate Church in Mankato opened in May 2022.
Immigrant Connection Mosaic staff is made up of three part-time legal representatives and about 10 volunteer administrative staff. Two staff members are bilingual and can work with clients in Khmer and Spanish. Some volunteers from the church who speak Karen and Arabic have offered to assist clients. The staff will also utilize online translation services when needed.
“The idea came from the church community,” Suos said of the idea to open the center. “It’s a church that is very diverse in people’s backgrounds. It’s made up of many who are immigrants as well, so they’ve gone through the process.”
The center has served Karen, Cambodian, Ethiopian, Somali, and Latino clients.
Suos said they hope to eventually hire an immigration attorney to represent clients in court and expand the kinds of cases they handle. Until then, the part-time legal representatives will shift to working full time over the next three years.
The center will focus on naturalization cases for residents seeking to become citizens. It will also offer different federal forms required to adjust immigration status and to renew legal permanent residency. The center has served two clients who passed their naturalization interviews and are on track to becoming U.S. citizens.
Suos said they are also working on an increasing number of family reunification petitions, where an immigrant in the United States applies to sponsor their family’s immigration from abroad.
A backlog of family reunification cases has been growing due to heightened security requirements and closures at U.S. embassies across the world. Local refugee resettlement agencies are limited in their ability to file family petitions on behalf of their clients due to capacity.
“Oftentimes when people are looking for these services, they run into a deadend,” Suos said. “Offices are very overwhelmed, so you can’t get an appointment for a long time. Or it’s hard to get an in-person appointment because of the high need.”
Initial consultations at the Immigrant Connection Mosaic cost $40. Prices for services are listed on the center’s website. Staff can also connect eligible clients with income-based fee waivers for some services.
Suos said that when the center determined its fees, staff evaluated the cost of a private immigration attorney and set lower prices. For example, naturalization cases at Immigrant Connection Mosaic cost $200. The same case could cost $500 to $2,500 with a private attorney. The center is supported through donations.
How to reach Immigrant Connection Mosaic
Services offered: Naturalization, family reunification, adjusting immigration status, legal permanent residency renewal
Where: 540 E. Wheelock Parkway, St. Paul, MN 55130
Hours: Tuesdays 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Thursdays 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; last Saturday of the month 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
For more information: Visit https://www.mosaicstpaul.org, or call 651-583-8797.