Who We Are
A program of Seashore Mission, Inc., El Pueblo Immigration Legal Services is located in Biloxi, MS. Our mission is to be a force for justice and compassion for immigrants by creating a community of hospitality and healing where immigrants are welcomed, enjoy fundamental human rights, and live lives of dignity.
Since 2007, El Pueblo has been the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s primary provider of professional, low-cost humanitarian and family-based Immigration Legal Services.
In addition to helping clients understand their immigration status and pursue applications for immigration benefits under federal law, El Pueblo catalyzes their integration into the local community by supporting immigrants’ engagement and leadership in civic life. We provide translation and interpretation services, English as a Second Language (ESL) and citizenship instruction, a family literacy program, domestic violence crisis intervention, a women’s empowerment group called Mujeres Unidas (Women United), and bilingual assistance to families seeking health insurance. We additionally strive to change the hearts and minds of the larger Gulf Coast community by educating native-born citizens on the reality of the immigrant experience.
In July of 2006, Rev. Sally Bevill established a Hispanic Latino Ministry of the United Methodist Church to address the needs of Latino migrants that were coming in droves to rebuild Mississippi’s storm-ravaged coast. The Villiage El Pueblo became incorporated as a 501(c)(3) on April 14, 2008 as a faith-based off-shoot of the growing UMC Hispanic and Latino ministry. In 2011, The Villiage El Pueblo merged with Seashore Mission, Inc. and remains one of two life giving faith-based programs of Seashore Mission: the Day Shelter (faith-based services for local homeless individuals) and El Pueblo (faith-based services for local immigrant populations). Since 2012, El Pueblo has been located at 856 Division Street, in the heart of Biloxi, MS, between the Backbay and Beachfront. Previously a nightclub, the building we are presently in has a unique history of its own and has been performed in by Hank Williams, Sr., Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley.
The Population We Serve
Located in Southern Mississippi, El Pueblo serves clients from Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama. In the years following Hurricane Katrina, migrants flocked to rebuild communities on the Gulf Coast, and Mississippi’s immigrant population more than tripled. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s (July 2015), the eight Southern Gulf Coast Counties that comprise our primary service area (Hancock County, Harrison County, Jackson County, Pearl River County, Stone County, Forrest County, Greene County and George County), are home to:
over one quarter (29%) of the state’s Hispanic or Latino population (approximately 26,490 individuals)
35% of the state’s Asian population (11,351 individuals)
30% of the state’s foreign-born population (approximately 19,880 individuals)
18% of individuals speaking a language other than English in the home (21, 079 individuals)
A more recent migration wave not represented by these statistics, however, is that of youth under 18 years of age seeking sanctuary from rampant gang-based violence in their Central American home countries. Hundreds of these “Unaccompanied Alien Children” (UAC) have been reunited by the federal government with family members in South Mississippi while awaiting removal proceedings. From October 2013 through February 2017, the federal government reportedly released 7,873 Unaccompanied Alien Children to sponsors in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama (973 to Mississippi alone). El Pueblo is one of only two non-profit organizations in Mississippi handling immigration legal cases for these UACs placed in the state, provided they have suffered at least one sort of abandonment abuse, or neglect and are eligible for our services.
El Pueblo has represented clients from thirty-three different countries, and all of our full-time staff speak more than one language. In the last year, 100% of our clients were from underserved populations. Three percent (3%) were Asian; 7% were Black/ Caribbean; 90% were Latino; 100% were immigrants/ refugees/ asylum seekers; and over 90% had limited English.