A record 400 people turned out for the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project CeleSoirée at Ocean Gateway on March 23, raising about $45,000 for Maine’s only statewide immigration legal aid provider.

“It’s been a big year for ILAP with a lot of policies that aren’t favorable for immigrants, and because of that, the need in the community has increased exponentially,” said development director Loretta Prescott. “But it’s wonderful to have our friends together in this room and to have them support us in this robust way. Knowing that so many people care so much gets me out of bed in the morning.”

The fundraising celebration featured an international buffet catered by Babylon, Maiz and Tacos del Seoul, followed by musical entertainment by Syrian violinist Aban Zirikly, accompanied by vocalist Christina Wilson, singing in Spanish.

“Supporting ILAP is a way to say ‘welcome,’ because I think our country should be welcoming,” said event emcee Adam Burk, founder of Treehouse Institute, a nonprofit focused on social innovation. “There’s never been a time when it has been more important to stand in solidarity with our immigrant community.”

In 2017, ILAP helped more than 3,000 clients with 14 staff members and 200 volunteers, 160 of whom are pro bono lawyers. A single case can take upward of 100 hours from start to finish, and in 2016 and 2017, no full representation cases were denied. This is achieved through a combination of vetting cases, training pro bono attorneys and having more than 50 years combined immigration experience on staff.

“I’m very proud of ILAP and the work they are doing in this country in the city of Portland,” said Rufus Mfingi, who fled the Democratic Republic of Congo after a dispute with the government during the course of his work as a women’s rights advocate.

“Rufus’ story is a microcosm of the work ILAP does all day every day,” said pro bono attorney David Weyrens. “After five years, I’m very proud to say that Rufus’ asylum claim is successful, and he now has a path to citizenship.”

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer from Scarborough. She can be reached at:

[email protected]

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