While I was away enjoying vacation, MLSC was busy!
Our executive director, Ben Tured, worked with former MLSC attorney Chuck Greenfield, who is now program director at Hawaii Legal Aid, and convinced the LSC Board to allow Legal Aid programs across the U.S. to represent Micronesians.
In the past, only MLSC could represent Micronesians, even if the Micronesians were living in the U.S., entering pursuant to the rights negotiated in the Compact of Free Association. This meant that Micronesians living and working throughout the U.S. who needed any legal help, and who were poor enough to qualify for free legal aid, still couldn't get help from their local legal aid organizations because they hadn't been admitted to the U.S. under the Immigration and Nationality Act, the portal to benefits. And MLSC limited help to those Micronesians living in the CNMI, Palau, FSM and Republic of Marshall Islands, because that's where we have attorneys and that's where our attorneys are licensed to practice. We just never had a budget that would allow us to represent people all over the U.S.!
Now (well, actually, in October 2007) Micronesians will be treated the same as all legally admitted residents of the U.S. for purposes of getting free legal help. They can qualify for benefits if they meet the other program requirements, where ever they live.
It's all about access to justice.
Way to go, Ben and Chuck!