Ottawa organization offers immigration services to low-income people – Shaw Local

Valley Immigrant Advocates in Ottawa has operated for months without advertising its efforts to provide legal services to immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers at a reduced cost, or sometimes at no cost.

Lawyer and founder John Breslin, of Ottawa, said the nonprofit at 1400 N. La Salle St. received 75 inquiries.

The organization’s mission is to help immigrants become citizens and help them participate fully in the community.

While these 75 applications are a “drop in the bucket,” as Breslin puts it, in helping the estimated 11 million immigrants nationwide, the impact of helping an immigrant and their family is invaluable.

“It’s very rewarding work,” Breslin said. “…For every person you help, this is the most important thing that has happened to them in their life.

For example, Breslin said he helped a local immigrant become a naturalized citizen, and now that person can bring their mother to the United States to live in retirement.

The Ottawa Region Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday for Valley Immigrant Advocates.

Breslin said he started providing legal services to low-income immigrants to give back to the community where he worked as a prosecutor for 35 years.

Breslin said three people, each a member of the nonprofit’s board of directors; Dave McClure, retired executive director of the Youth Service Bureau; Susan Bursztynsky, director of Safe Journeys; and Sara Escatel, director of adult education at Illinois Valley Community College who coordinates the citizenship program; were instrumental in founding the nonprofit and encouraged Breslin to expand the service. The trio told Breslin that there were no immigrant legal services within 100 miles of Ottawa.

The group has received support from the Open Table United Church of Christ in Ottawa, the Women Inspired Network, the Starved Rock Country Community Foundation and the Eschbach Foundation, as well as a major community-wide grant. ‘State.

Breslin said the owners of the property also helped out, including repaving the parking lot.

Breslin said he hopes within a year the organization will be able to hire two part-time workers and an intern next summer.

“We have a strategic plan established for several years,” Breslin said.

Valley Immigrant Advocates, 1400 N. La Salle St., hosted an open house on Saturday, July 2, 2022, to share with the community an overview of its services.

The Ottawa lawyer said there are misconceptions about immigrants. He said some of them had been in the United States for generations and not all of them were from Latin America. He said he helped immigrants from Africa and the Middle East. Breslin said he volunteered to help or support Ukrainian asylum seekers.

“They’re our neighbors, they work in our communities, and it’s a shame it’s political football,” Breslin said.

Along with McClure, Bursztynsky, and Escatel, Bob Eschbach, Luke Olivero, Steven Malinsky, and Aurora Medina serve on the board of Valley Immigrant Advocates.

For more information about Valley Immigrant Advocates, call 815-587-3330, email [email protected], or visit

Valley Immigrant Advocates, 1400 N. La Salle St., hosted an open house on Saturday, July 2, 2022, to share with the community an overview of its services.

Virginia S. Braud