April 7, 2013

Bob Keyes: Using his celebrity for the greater good

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Welcome to our new America, circa 2013.

The Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project works on behalf of people just like Blanco, providing low-cost comprehensive legal assistance for immigrants. It helps Maine's immigrants keep their families together, gain protection from prosecution and domestic violence, and attain residency and work authorization, among other things.

As Kreisman says, "Our work allows immigrants to stabilize their lives and reunite with their families and integrate in Maine economic and civic life. We provide a firm legal foundation so they can live and work productively in Maine."

It sounds very serious, and it is. But Friday's fundraiser is all about having fun.

It has a sharp focus on entertainment, with music from the Cuban trio Platano Macho. The Burundi Batimbo Beats Drummers and Pihcintu Multinational Children's Chorus will also perform.

And of course there is Blanco, who will read poetry and talk about his experiences as an immigrant.

Proceeds support the advocacy project's statewide programs.

The project has been around since 1993. In its early days, it was all-volunteer. It now has a staff of 11, with four paid attorneys and an annual budget of about $800,000. It receives virtually no government money.

Everything comes in the form of grants, foundation support and fundraising efforts, like CeleSoiree on Friday. This is the first time the project has hosted such an event. They are hoping -- praying -- that 500 people show up, which will net about $40,000.

That's a relatively small sum for the amount of time and effort that goes into an event like this. That's 5 percent of the total budget.

But that 5 percent can make the difference between keeping a family together or seeing it splintered amid an array of confusing laws and legal twists.

At its offices on Cumberland Avenue in Portland, the project last year saw clients from more than 100 countries, and handled more 2,000 legal matters.

"What we do, day in and day out, is provide free or low-fee legal assistance to low-income Maine residents who need help on immigration matters," Kreisman said. "We are the only organization that does this in Maine. We help people who have nowhere else to turn."

For tickets, details and other information, visit ilapmaine.org or call 780-1593.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or:

bkeyes@pressherald.com

Twitter: pphkeyes

 

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