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For over 35 years, American Gateways has sought to offer legal services to immigrants in low-income communities throughout Central Texas.

The average hourly rate of an immigration lawyer is between $150 and $300, according to Serrano Law Firm PLLC, but newly arriving immigrants typically do not have the funds to seek these resources.

American Gateways serves those who are at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. The nonprofit serves 23 counties in Central Texas, with offices in Austin, San Antonio and Waco.

“We believe that all individuals should be provided with high-quality legal services regardless of their ability to pay for those services,” said Edna Yang, co-executive director of American Gateways.

Service areas

The nonprofit has three areas of service: education, advocacy and legal services.

American Gateways staff and volunteers aim to keep the community updated with the most up-to-date federal immigration policy changes and how these policies can affect them. They hold workshops where they explain the processes, such as seeking asylum and citizenship, translate information, etc., and help attendees with translations and filling out application forms.

“I am also an immigrant, and I naturalized when I was 18. I feel very strongly that having someone to help guide us through this very complicated system is really important,” Yang said.

A path to citizenship

On April 22, American Gateways hosted a citizenship clinic to assist long-term residents who qualify to obtain their citizenship through naturalization, which is the process to become a U.S. citizen if a person was born outside of the United States and has been a lawfully admitted permanent resident for at least five years.

Attendees received one-on-one help filling out the federal N400 naturalization application and had the opportunity to prepare for their citizenship interview with the help of representatives from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Approximately 43 individuals attended the clinic to receive services.

“I’ve been here for three years, and I’d like to be a citizen. I just want to get good advice,” said Yassine Elmountassir, an individual who attended the citizenship clinic, regarding preparing for the citizenship interview.

Making an impact

In 2022, American Gateways provided advocacy, representation and assistance to about 15,000 individuals and provided full legal representation for over 1,300 in all three offices.

The nonprofit provides direct legal representation to individuals throughout the entire immigration process. Individuals seeking services can call their offices for a telephone legal screening.

“I’m very passionate about the work that we do because we really do allow people, who I think otherwise would not be able to get the representation and information that they need, to really access the system in a way that’s meaningful,” Yang said.

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