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Broward Legal Aid provides support after school shooting

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Broward Legal Aid provides support after school shooting

Attorneys from Legal Aid Service of Broward County acted as “emergency” responders and have served as a guiding legal force for the students, families, and teachers who were affected by the Parkland shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February.

Immediately after the shooting, legal aid staffed two attorneys per day at the family resource center to help with any legal issues that could have crossed people’s paths. During the team’s five-day stint at the resource center, legal aid attorneys met with more than 100 people helping them with issues involving immigration, child advocacy, and education.

“I knew this tragedy was going to affect more people than we were seeing on the news,” said Tony Karrat, executive director of Legal Aid Service of Broward County. “I contacted the Red Cross to see how our agency could be involved with the response and made sure they knew how we could help.”

The immigration team met with numerous students and families and found that many had originally come to the United States to escape violence in their home countries.

“It’s unfortunate that we have parents coming to us saying they want help going back home because they fear for their safety here in the United States,” said Andrea Montavon, immigration attorney for legal aid. “What is amazing is that the kids want to stay here with their friends because they love the community they’ve created here.”

Every week since the shooting, Montavon-McKillip and the immigration team have met with five to six families to help them with everything from getting grandparents tourist visas so they can comfort loved ones to the U-Visa process — a visa for crime victims that would allow them to eventually become green card holders.

Attorneys with Legal Aid’s Education Legal Rights Project defend children’s right to education. Some students suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and couldn’t bear to walk back into the school and face the walls where tragedy struck. In addition, the team has helped other Broward County School District students obtain services since the shooting.