If it’s Tuesday and you’re looking for LAF’s Audra Passinault, you won’t find her at the office. Audra, Shaffer Fellow and Attorney in LAF’s Immigrants and Workers’ Rights Practice Group, travels 2.5 hours by train every Tuesday to Harvard, IL, a small agricultural town where she works at a local health clinic as part of a medical-legal partnership. The clinic serves all members of the community, including its large population of farm workers.
An estimated 77% of all farm workers are foreign born, the majority of who come to the US during peak seasons and return to their home country in the winter. Since many migrant workers rely on their employer for housing, transportation, and even legal status, they’re often subject to exploitation. “Being relatively isolated, often in a place they’ve never been before, they might not know who to talk to even if they know something wrong is happening. Face-to-face contact with an attorney gives them someone to talk to about what’s going on, even if they don’t decide to move forward with any type of litigation,” Audra says.
Audra’s work in Harvard is part of LAF’s efforts to provide legal services to migrant workers in Illinois through the Illinois Migrant Legal Assistance Project. “It makes what I do in the office so much more real, and makes me even more passionate about my work. Just talking to clients on the phone, it’s easy to feel removed from the people you serve. But when you go somewhere and see where they’re living and what their work conditions are like, and meet their families—it puts everything in perspective, and shows you what your work can do.”
When you donate to LAF, you enable dedicated attorneys like Audra to provide legal services to migrant workers and other vulnerable communities. Make your tax-deductible contribution for 2016 to LAF at www.lafchicago.org.