El Camino

El Camino (The Path) is a technology information service (e.g., a web based app for a smartphone, tablet or PC) providing legal assistance and instructional services for Southwest Florida’s immigrant residents to pursue employment and legal permanent residency. This app will help close the justice gap in Southwest Florida – the difficulty of connecting those who live in far flung communities with the few nonprofit immigration attorneys available for consultation.

The region is home to many documented and undocumented immigrants, particularly from Central and Latin American countries. In the five counties that comprise the region, only two are served by legal aid offices that provide immigration legal services. Private attorneys are available but may be too expensive for many immigrants. Without guidance, too many resort to predatory “notarios” or immigration consultants, costing them hundreds and even thousands of dollars without receiving the services they purchased.

The El Camino mobile and web-based solution is unique because it is easily accessible, user-friendly, educational and instructional and focused on local resources.  Use of the app is intended to accomplish the following objectives:

  • Connect the region’s documented and undocumented residents to immigration information and support services in Southwest Florida;
  • Ease the process to learn about and apply for residential status via a targeted web service available free of charge and accessible through mobile devices, tablets and computers;
  • Increase immigration services support in underserved counties;
  • Educate and caution the region’s immigrant residents about the predatory practices of notarios or immigration consultants and provide alternative options;
  • Include information about other immigration-related resources such as English instruction;
  •  Improve the region’s social and economic status by helping many of its residents assimilate into the communities in which they reside, work and raise families.

Spread The Word

Click the buttons above to Download the El Camino App information cards in English and Spanish. These cards are designed to be printed and shared.

This prototype technology project uses mobile and web-based legal education and instruction to assist documented and undocumented residents in the region. The objective is to help them navigate through the federal immigration forms and processes to assimilate into society. As immigration consumers have changed, so has the availability of assistance. The goal is to take advantage of web technology to build an app accessible by mobile devices, tablets and computers to assist those who can navigate the immigration system without an attorney, as well as provide practical, local guidance and decision support to those who are unsure about their rights, requirements and procedures under the law, and where to locate legal assistance if they need it.

Why is this app needed and unique?

Research of online immigration services did not identify any programs that were capable of providing the services and benefits to the targeted population in Southwest Florida. Currently available immigration websites and apps are confusing and difficult to navigate.   Some are sponsored by law firms seeking clients; some by government agencies with a heavy overlay of bureaucracy, others are from for-profit companies charging exorbitant fees.

None of these websites or apps help members of the Southwest Florida target audience answer basic questions, particularly those focusing on local support such as “how do I engage an attorney?”  How to I know they are qualified?” “How much will it cost and is it a fair price?” “Where can I find legal assistance near me?” “Can I do this myself or with some local support?” “Should I even try this?”

To narrow the justice gap in Southwest Florida a credible, local response is necessary to provide a blend of online and conventional legal services.    This app will combine the best of the online information, and direct users to appropriate sites and local legal service providers when necessary or desired by the user. Its users will have the assurances that they can rely on competent local practitioners instead of national providers.

This prototype project will provide the type of service that will replicate the exchange between the legal staff and the client to help determine their specific need.  When a user engages with this app, they will be able to self-determine their situation along with instructions to help them navigate the process. If they still need or want to meet with a legal service provider, that meeting will be much more productive for both parties freeing up time for the staff person to meet with more clients and saving money for the immigrant resident.

Based on the research and with the thought that has gone into this proposal it is likely that what will be implemented in this five-county region will prove to be a viable solution and a replicable model for the rest of the state of Florida.

TIMELINE:  10 – 12 weeks for development of app

Tax-deductible contributions to fund El Camino will be made to the Southwest Florida Community Foundation and designated for the immigration app initiative. Donors have also established a Land of Opportunity Fund to support long-term immigration needs in the area; donations to the fund are also sought.