Working in communities over many years, we have addressed many different kinds of need — some big and complex and some very small but still important.
Sometimes we can work together with community members to discover simple solutions with resources from inside the community. Our Food Co-op is a great example of harnessing the resources and energy within our community to meet a need. You can read more about that project here.
Other challenges require more time and more expertise to address properly. Immigration is definitely one of those issues. It is not something we can give flippant or under-informed answers about. Lives and futures depend on reliable, accurate information when it comes to immigration. That is why we are so excited about the opening of our Esperanza Nueva Immigration Legal Services Clinic. We are finally able to meet a need we have been aware of for many years.
Meeting a need that hits close to home
It’s no surprise that many of our neighborhood families have complex immigration situations. Some have been living on both sides of the border for years or are divided from family members who live across the border. As we get to know families, we often find ourselves in a place where we don’t have the expertise to answer questions on this very complex topic.
There are other organizations in town that provide very good immigration legal services, but we were encouraged to pursue becoming accredited internally to assist families in our community for a number of reasons:
- Other agencies are maxed out. The demand exceeds their ability to provide services.
- Because there is a limited relationship or trust factor, families are sometimes intimidated to approach other agencies.
- There are some bad actors out there. Families feel unsure of getting good advice.
- We witnessed families having a hard time understanding and pursuing options over an extended period of time, especially as immigration laws have changed and developed.
We have completed the process of becoming a “Recognized” agency with the Department of Justice and are awaiting final official accreditation for our second trained team representative. This is truly a momentous and exciting development for our neighborhood!
A personal connection and a long-term commitment
Claudia Chavez is our immigration legal services director, and Ericka Garcia will work alongside her in a volunteer capacity. Together they will provide a long-term support system for families as they navigate the changing immigration landscape. Families will now have the confidence and trust of a familiar community member to get their questions answered.
“The vision that I have for Esperanza Nueva Immigration Legal Services is that we continue to walk alongside our neighbors on their journey toward citizenship,” says Claudia. “We want to provide programing that will help them adjust to this new culture while honoring the culture from which they came. The immigration process can be quite intimidating and difficult to navigate, especially in the current atmosphere. Our hope is that we can nurture their God-given strength and persistence and be present to celebrate with them when they have reached their goal.”
Advice our neighbors can trust
The vision of the clinic is to provide a safe, friendly, and trusting environment where neighborhood families will be able to get advice and assistance. Some of the ways we will reach them include:
- Providing outreach sessions about immigration issues
- Answering questions and helping navigate immigration laws, processes, and paperwork
- Filing immigration legal paperwork and applications
- Preventing families from falling victim to fake or misleading services
- Protecting spouses and children in situations of domestic violence (it is not uncommon for a US citizen to refuse to apply for citizenship for their spouse in order to keep them in an abusive situation)
- Providing access to high-quality, accurate, up-to-date information on immigration law
Our first citizenship class gets us off to a great start
On February 12, 2018, we will begin providing citizenship classes for our community members. Classes will be held twice a week for 12 weeks (taking a break for Presidents’ Day and for Spring break). Claudia and Ericka will begin providing individual legal services within the month of February and will continue to engage in community outreach sessions on immigration issues.
We are so excited about Esperanza Nueva Immigration Legal Services, and we look forward to sharing more about it in the next few months!
Are you looking for ways to get more involved in your community? Contact us today. We would love to get you connected with what we are doing with immigration legal services and so many other areas! Or, if you are interested in supporting this important effort, click here.