The Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation works with civil legal aid organizations in Wisconsin to increase access to justice. We oversee funds and invest in services and projects to help people resolve legal problems.

WisTAF disburses legal assistance for Afghan evacuees

Total payments will top $670,000 in federal funds

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, October 5, 2022

CONTACT: Benson Gardner, communications and development manager, 608.620.0711, bgardner@wistaf.org

MADISON — The Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation (WisTAF) today distributed funds that allow people who evacuated Afghanistan to pursue necessary legal avenues to stability and self-sufficiency. The disbursements are the first in the Afghan Immigration-Related Legal Assistance grant program. WisTAF launched the program using federal funds, in partnership with state government. 

“Individuals and organizations are coming together to answer the call for people who fled Afghanistan," said WisTAF’s executive director, Rebecca L. Murray. "I'm inspired by the collaboration of longstanding WisTAF grant recipients, other members of the legal community, faith-based organizations, and government agencies. A person working to build a better life shouldn’t get stopped by the technical nature of our legal system." 

People evacuating to the United States typically must apply for asylum or other short- or long-term residency status. The process is so technical, even fluent English-speakers need professional legal help to complete it. What’s more, a paperwork filing deadline rapidly approaches for those who evacuated Afghanistan when the Taliban returned to power.

Earlier this year, WisTAF received funds from the State of Wisconsin to administer grants providing the necessary legal assistance. The Bureau of Refugee Programs at the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families coordinated with WisTAF to launch the program.

Recognizing the urgency, WisTAF gave interested organizations a brief window to apply, and the WisTAF Board of Directors conducted its rigorous review in expedited fashion. The board then finalized the following grants, totaling $674,150 for five organizations that work with Afghan evacuees:

  • Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee put out a statewide call for pro bono attorneys to address the urgent needs of people fleeing Afghanistan, and received a staggering response. The resulting network includes more than 160 private attorneys and several partnering organizations. Building on decades of work addressing the legal needs of immigrants, the charity’s new network is able to help Afghan evacuees anywhere in Wisconsin with related legal needs. Grant award: $300,000.
  • Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Green Bay serves people of all faiths in 16 Northeastern Wisconsin counties. A designated resettlement agency, the diocese employs individuals fluent in Afghanistan’s official languages (Dari and Pashto), facilitating communication and problem-solving. The organization is also participating in the statewide network led by Catholic Charities of Milwaukee. Grant award: $124,816.
  • Community Immigration Law Center was established in Madison in 2009 and since January has worked with Afghan clients throughout Wisconsin. The organization is also one of the partners in the collaborative network referenced above, in which it helps to recruit, train, and support volunteer pro bono attorneys who represent Afghan asylum seekers. Grant award: $109,813.
  • End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin and its RISE (Refugees and Immigrants Seeking Empowerment) Law Center have years of experience providing trauma-informed legal services to victims of crime who immigrate to Wisconsin. This expertise lets RISE prioritize and meet the unique legal needs of people who have survived state-sanctioned gender-based violence under Taliban rule. Grant award: $30,000.
  • World Relief Fox Valley works with immigrants and refugees in the Fox Valley. Under this grant, trained staff and contracted attorneys build on existing relationships with Afghans whom they have assisted with resettlement since the U.S. pullout. The organization is part of World Relief, a decades-old, global, Christian humanitarian organization. World Relief Fox Valley also participates in the Wisconsin network referenced above. Grant award: $109,521.

Afghan Immigration-Related Legal Assistance grant payments will be distributed to these grantees on a reimbursement basis, beginning with today’s payments and ending no later than May 2024.

WisTAF was established by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1986 to aid in the administration of justice. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, WisTAF works with civil legal aid organizations in the state to increase access to justice. WisTAF oversees funds and invests in services and projects to help people resolve legal problems.


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One of our longest-standing Prime Partners, Farmers State Bank goes above and beyond IOLTA participation requirements by paying additional interest on its clients' IOLTA accounts — helping to expand access to civil legal services in Wisconsin. Farmers State Bank's participation reflects an admirable commitment to justice for all in Wisconsin.

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Board & Staff
Board of Directors
Rebecca Murray, Executive Director
Tehmina Islam, Assistant Executive Director
Benson Gardner, Communications and Development Manager
Jeff Brown, Grants Program Manager

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