OGDEN — As the debate over U.S. immigration policy has hardened and intensified, it’s had a ripple effect in and around Weber County.
“I think that creates a lot of fear,” said Maresha Bosgieter, executive director of Catholic Community Services of Northern Utah.
That is, the strong talk about cracking down on undocumented immigrants, much of it from the administration of President Donald Trump, has created unease in the community. Mindful of that, the Ogden-based agency has launched a new legal services initiative geared to immigrants, providing legal help on a sliding scale.
CCS has hired an immigration attorney to serve Ogden and the rest of Northern Utah, expanding on legal services offered by the main CCS office in Salt Lake City. The effort launched preliminarily in July, but only recently started taking off, according to Bosgieter.
“We just know there’s a need up here, not just Ogden, but all of Northern Utah,” said Emily McKenzie, the attorney leading the initiative here. Opening of the new office parallels launch of another initiative that’s aimed at encouraging immigrants who are able to apply for U.S. citizenship, Weber County United for Citizenship.
Nearly 13% of Ogden’s population is foreign born, a segment that includes naturalized U.S. citizens, legal residents, undocumented immigrants and others, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. Most of the foreign-born population comes from Latin America, mainly Mexico.
McKenzie said she’s seen a steady flow of clients and potential clients, but can accommodate more. “We obviously would love to see more people to help out,” she said.
As is, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints hosts a monthly legal clinic in Harrisville geared to those with immigration questions. Otherwise, local immigration attorneys are the main resource for those with immigration questions. CCS provides legal aid on immigration questions out of its Salt Lake City office, but the travel can be difficult for those from Weber County and points further north, according to the CCS officials.
“I’ve always known it’s a need in northern Utah and people have been asking for it,” Bosgieter said.
Locals tapping the new CCS service have sought help in navigating the process to become a U.S. citizen, applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status and in securing U.S. residency status. Initial consultations are free while services are provided on a sliding scale depending on a client’s income level. However, the office has grant funds allowing it to offer free legal services to those applying for immigration benefits as victims of crime. Victims of domestic violence make up the majority of those inquiring about U-visas, as they are informally known, McKenzie said.
The new initiative, offered out of CCS of Northern Utah offices at 2504 F Ave. in west Ogden, provides consultations on Mondays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The email address of the office is firstname.lastname@example.org and the phone number is 801-428-1259.
CCS helps with refugee resettlement around Utah, but federal authorities have reduced the number of refugees allowed in the United States. That’s freed up CCS funding, which has factored in the expansion of legal services in the Northern Utah office, according to Bosgieter. CCS of Northern Utah also manages a food pantry, among other service offering.