Welcome to Migrant Legal Aid
OUR ROOTS MAKE US STRONG
In 1973, migrant workers and their families had no voice to stand up for their right to safe housing and working conditions or their right to earn a fair wage. They struggle to maintain basic human dignity, from lack of bathroom facilities, dangers posed by pesticides, and discrimination. Because of their poverty, their transitory lifestyle, and their language difficulties, they face barriers to civil legal services. Out of this need, the legal community in Michigan formed Michigan Migrant Legal Assistance Project, also known as Migrant Legal Aid, a non-profit agency.
In 1973, the agency moved to a house on Mount Vernon in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The agency’s services expanded inside that house. From there, the agency spent 10 years in the Minhaar Building at 49 Monroe Avenue NW in downtown Grand Rapids, and 10 years at 638 Monroe Ave NW, another rental facility. Today the agency offers a continuum of services as an independent non-profit organization governed by a volunteer board of directors and operated by a staff of eight.
The agency also handles referrals from other non-profits, such as the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, Farmworker Legal Services, Latin Americans United for Progress, Hispanic American Council, Legal Aid of Western Michigan, and private attorneys.
- A young migrant student was denied school lunches because the school misunderstood her immigration status. MLA explained that the treatment was discriminatory and the school reversed its decision and gave the student school lunches.
- A U.S. Latina Citizen was unlawfully denied a marriage license by a county clerk, MLA intervened and the couple was able to get married.
- An area produce processing company charged workers excess fees for visa, travel expenses, and equipment while the workers were not given enough work hours to earn a living. Because of MLA’s advocacy, the U.S. Department of Labor investigated and found the company in violation of labor laws.
- Four migrants worked for an apple grower and were not paid the minimum wage for their picking. MLA helped the workers show that the farmer, who had not provided a statement of the terms and conditions of the job as required by law, forged the workers’ signatures on the documents. This resulted in the workers receiving the wages legally owed to them.
- A migrant teenager staying with another family needed surgery, but the hospital refused to operate when her parents could not sign the medical permissions because they were temporarily picking fruit in another state. MLA helped them have a guardian appointed for their daughter. The guardian was able to sign the papers, allowing the girl to have the needed surgery.