For 53 years, the Immigrants' Assistance Center has been a critical headquarters for multi-lingual social services.  It has been an organization that provides direct services to immigrants in New Bedford and beyond into other parts of Bristol County.

The IAC helps immigrants who are legal permanent residents obtain their citizenship.  They help with applications and organize citizenship swearing-ins (as pictured above).

Origin and Growth

The IAC was started by the New Bedford Portuguese community after a massive immigration from Portugal in the 1970s and 1980s.  However, over the past couple of decades, the IAC has grown beyond focusing strictly on Portuguese immigrants.

It has branched out, now helping people who speak many other languages. The IAC staff not only speaks seven different languages fluently, they are all bi-lingual and bicultural.  None of them, including Hughes, was born in America.

Staff members speak Portuguese, Cape Verdean Creole, Spanish, French, German, and English. It's a way to help our immigrant community settle on the SouthCoast and get connected to services and resources.

LISTEN:  Helena DaSilva Hughes with Michael and Maddie


The Immigrants' Assistance Center provides services to the large population of non-English speaking elders.

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"Many of them are Portuguese and have been here in the United States for many years, but they are illiterate in their native language," IAC President Helena DaSilva Hughes said.  "A lot of people forget that Portugal was under a dictatorship for many years until April 25, 1974, so it's a population that cannot read or write in their own language. It's a population that really needs a lot of hand-holding."

Migrant Crisis

Hughes has been working at the IAC for the past 40 years, but she said she has never seen the number of migrants in the SouthCoast that she's seen over the past year.

"These migrants are being used as political pawns by both parties, Hughes said. "Now, they are here and we are going into the shelters and really figuring out what our work will be looking like. We look at their paperwork to make sure they have not missed any immigration interviews and that their contact information is accurate."

Fundraiser Event

The IAC is hosting a gala at the Kilburn Events Center in New Bedford on Friday, May 10. It is their biggest fundraiser of the year.

Contact the IAC

The Immigrants' Assistance Center is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.  More information is available by calling (508) 996-8113. Visit 58 Crapo St., No. 1, New Bedford.

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