This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending May 1

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Week Ending May 1

This week in immigration reform: NCLR Affiliates continue to ready for executive action implementation; NCLR continues our blog series on deferred action recipients; and House Republicans hold hearing on birthright citizenship.

NCLR kept the community informed with staff quoted in NBC News and the Tennessean.

Congressman Gutierrez and NCLR Affiliates rally to support executive action and comprehensive immigration reform: This Thursday, Congressman Gutierrez (D-Ill.) spoke to a crowd of nearly 200 at a high school in Washington, DC, touching on executive action, comprehensive immigration reform, and his own personal story. This was the Congressman’s 20th stop on his “Immigration Action National Tour,” a national undertaking to inform the immigrant community of the requirements and importance of DACA and DAPA. An article quotes Gutierrez saying, “It’s a huge task and the more people know, the earlier they know it, the better prepared they will be to take advantage. It’s my responsibility not only to demand action here in Washington, D.C., but to ensure to the best of my ability that it is implemented as broadly and as widely and as generously as possible.” Each event also includes volunteers who meet with those potentially eligible for deferred action to inform them about the process and to help get them ready to apply once the programs are no longer on a court-mandated hold. NCLR Affiliates, including Ayuda, CARECEN, Carlos Rosario, La Clinica del Pueblo, Latin American Youth Center, and Mary’s Center, co-sponsored the community town hall.


NCLR blog series features DACA recipient Carla Mena: This week’s installment of our ‘Living the American DREAM’ blog series profiles North Carolinian Carla Mena, who received DACA in 2012. DACA has enabled Carla to get a full-time job at Duke University’s Global Health Institute and to continue engaging her community through serving on the Wake Health Services Board of Trustees and working with NCLR Affiliate Youth Council at El Pueblo, Inc. While Carla has a temporary reprieve from deportation, her parents, and millions of others, don’t. DAPA, the program for parents of U.S. citizen children or legal permanent residents, is on hold. Our blog notes: “DAPA would provide opportunities for millions of skilled immigrants to work in fields where they can earn and contribute more. If DACA recipients have demonstrated in just three years what this program can do for communities like Raleigh, perhaps it’s time to consider something more stable. Carla’s story attests to the social and economic benefits of administrative relief, however, the overhaul of our immigration policies remain a critical task that Congress must undertake.”

House Republicans Convene hearing on birthright citizenship: This week,  a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on whether or not birthright citizenship, the policy of granting U.S. citizenship to each child born on U.S. soil supported by the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, is good for America. In advance of the subcommittee hearing, civil rights leaders and members of Congress held a press conference to denounce the hearing. NCLR Deputy Vice President, Clarissa Martinez de Castro, said “It’s time to legislate responsibly; we want relief, resolution, and reform.” Democratic Members of Congress weighed in decrying the substance of the hearing, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) saying, “Evidently, there is no American principle too sacred not to be surrendered in Republicans’ race to pander to the most radical, anti-immigrant corners of their party.  Today’s hearing is an appalling Republican effort to reverse one of our most fundamental constitutional guarantees: people born on American soil are Americans.” A Latin Post article quoted other Members of Congress, including Senator Menendez (D-N.J.), who said the hearing is a “painful reminder that we cannot and must not tolerate second-class citizenship, inequality, intolerance, and injustice. It is a humiliating reminder of the jingoistic insensitivity of the few toward multiculturalism and the changing face of America in the 21st Century.”

ImmReformUpdate_5_1_2015_pic3Clarissa Martinez de Castro of NCLR with Reps. Al Green, Luis Gutierrez, and Ruben Gallego

This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending March 27

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Week Ending March 27

This week in immigration reform: Congress adopts a budget resolution slashing funding for low-income Americans; appeals court sets hearing date regarding Texas lawsuit; NCLR continues blog series on deferred action recipients; and NCLR profiles an Affiliate providing legal services to the immigrant community.

NCLR kept the community informed on immigration with staff quoted in Univision, The Guardian, and the Associated Press.

Congress adopts annual budget resolution cutting trillions from programs benefiting low-income Americans: This week both the House and the Senate debated and voted on similar nonbinding budget resolutions to provide a spending blueprint for the appropriations process later this year. These budget resolutions are reflections of the Majority’s priorities and are largely symbolic. The House passed their version 219-208 and the Senate held a vote at 3 a.m. this morning, passing their version 52-46. Both resolutions would balance the budget over ten years by cutting trillions of dollars from programs that serve Americans with limited means, equaling about 69 percent of total cuts to non-defense spending. Additionally, both budget resolutions repeal the Affordable Care Act and let vital expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) expire in 2017. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities notes this would push more than 16 million people, including 8 million children, deeper into poverty.

NCLR’s President and CEO Janet Murguía wrote a piece in the Huffington Post highlighting the importance of the EITC and CTC for working families and their children and how changing eligibility for these programs or scaling back their scope would cause harm. She notes, “These tax credits have helped lift millions of families out of poverty and have had a measurable impact on the poverty rate in this country. So why, then, are some Republican members of Congress pushing for proposals to scale back the EITC and significantly reduce the number of families eligible for the CTC? One answer is that they think these cuts will only affect immigrants, since they are proposing to exclude recipients of immigration relief, such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), from receiving the credits… The greatest beneficiaries of these tax credits are children — American children. More than 90 percent of the children who would be affected by these proposals are native-born U.S. citizens.”

Update on Texas lawsuit against administrative relief: This week a federal appeals court announced they will hold oral arguments on April 17 on whether or not to stay a Texas judge’s order blocking implementation of President Obama’s executive action on immigration, particularly the expansion of DACA and the initiation of DAPA. Read more in Politico. For resources on preparing for administrative relief that you can use now visit www.adminrelief.org.  Also, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) released a brochure outlining eligibility for administrative relief and what people can do to prepare.

NCLR features DACA recipient Karina Velasco: This week’s installment of our ‘Living the American DREAM’ blog series highlights the story of 25-year-old DACA recipient Karina Velasco. Karina attended National Latino Advocacy Days and had the opportunity to share her story with elected officials. Since Karina received DACA, she has obtained a driver’s license, finished community college, transferred to a four-year university, and obtained a job. “Without DACA it would have been harder to accomplish this success. I can finally contribute to my country’s economy and lift some of my parents’ economic burdens,” said Karina. She has also helped other DREAMers navigate the DACA process, assisting her peers in achieving the American Dream.

NCLR monthly Affiliate Spotlight shines on local organization: This month’s Affiliate Spotlight profile features Washington, D.C.-based Ayuda, a provider of legal services for low-income immigrants. NCLR spoke with Ayuda’s Program Initiatives Coordinator, Sarah Block, about Ayuda’s work and how it benefits the Latino community. Block noted the holistic approach her organization takes to addressing the legal needs of the immigrant community. Their services range from combatting notario fraud to applying for work permits to handling asylum cases. Ayuda also provides Spanish-language interpreters, helping bridge the language divide between lawyers and their clients.

Affiliate Spotlight: Ayuda, Providing Legal Services to Low-Income Immigrants

By David Castillo, New Media Manager, NCLR

ayudalogo (2)The latest installment of our ongoing Affiliate Spotlight series features Ayuda, based in Washington, DC. For more than 40 years, Ayuda (which is Spanish for “assistance”) has been a leader in providing legal services to low-income immigrants in the Washington metropolitan area. We spoke recently with Ayuda’s Program Initiatives Coordinator, Sarah Block, about Ayuda’s work and how it benefits the Latino community.

NCLR: For those who may not be familiar with it, especially those outside the DC area, tell us who and what Ayuda is.

Ayuda: We provide holistic services that are culturally sensitive and competent to the low-income immigrant community. These include immigration legal services, which range anywhere from work permits to asylum cases. We also provide legal and social services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual trafficking, as well as individual and group therapy.

Our holistic approach is essential and unique among service providers that serve the immigrant community. This approach is important because, for example, a domestic violence survivor could get a civil protection order, but they may not have a place to live or money for food. That’s not really serving their needs.

Another offering of our immigration legal services is Project END (Eradicating Notario Deceit/Eliminando Notarios Deshonestos), which tackles notario fraud. Project END helps to rectify cases so people can get their money back from shady individuals who act as attorneys in order to take advantage of the immigrant community. Working with the attorneys general offices, we help prosecute those notarios engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.

We also have a language access department that includes two banks of interpreters. One is our legal interpreter bank, which places interpreters with legal service providers so attorneys can interact with their clients. We also have the first-ever emergency victim’s services interpreter line, which lets social service providers and doctors access an interpreter 24/7, 365 days a year. We have interpreters in 43 different languages for those banks.

Ayuda staff assisting clients

Ayuda staff assisting clients

NCLR: Ayuda is actively engaged in helping immigrants eligible for DACA/DAPA navigate the process. What does this work look like?

Ayuda is developing a multidimensional, organization-wide strategy for implementing DACA and DAPA. From helping the community apply for DACA, we know that holding application clinics is an effective way to respond to the high demand for services. Ayuda plans to hold several clinics at various times and locations.

Ayuda staff and volunteers will conduct the clinic. We plan to train committed volunteers to review documents needed for the applications while Ayuda’s attorneys will focus their time on individual consulting and screenings for more permanent forms of relief.

NCLR: What does it mean to be an Affiliate?

Ayuda: It brings us closer to the community of organizations across the country that serve a similar population as we do. It’s helpful to have some of the resources NCLR sends out. We’re all facing similar challenges and opportunities and it’s useful to have a network of support and ideas from an organization that is thinking about that on a national level.

Ayuda's Board Vice Chair, Mickey Martinez, accepting the Southeast Affiliate of the Year Award at the 2014 NCLR Annual Conference

Ayuda’s Board Vice Chair, Mickey Martinez, accepting the Southeast Affiliate of the Year Award at the 2014 NCLR Annual Conference

NCLR: Since Ayuda works so closely with the community, what kind of volunteer opportunities are available?

Ayuda: Because of confidentiality issues, there are a lot of limitations on how much volunteers can interact with clients, which is often what volunteers want to do. That said, there are other opportunities to volunteer and help, especially with our annual events. One that’s coming up is the 42nd Anniversary Celebration Gala on May 20. It will be held at the Microsoft Innovation and Policy Center in Washington and will include a panel discussion on the immigrant experience. Other guests include former transportation Secretary Norman Minetta, Walter Tejeda, NCLR, an Arlington, Va., County Board member, and an Ayuda client who will be speaking about her own experience. We’ll also recognize Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D–IL) for his tireless work on immigration reform.

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NCLR: Where would you like to see Ayuda in next 5–10 years?

Ayuda: We’re growing in terms of staff and clients. Our challenge includes the limitations of our physical space. Being able to expand our infrastructure is important to increasing the number of clients we’re able to serve. We’d also like to be able to help everyone who needs it. Sometimes it’s hard for clients to get a consultation because spots are limited. Being able to meet more of the demand would be ideal. Finally we also hope to increase education opportunities for clients, including ESL classes, financial literacy and various other topics to make our services even more holistic.

Visit the Ayuda site for more information about this great Affiliate. You can also find them on Facebook and Instagram.

Senate Immigration Bill May Increase Notario Fraud

NotarioFraudEarlier this week, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators introduced the first major immigration bill since 2007!  After months of negotiation, the group of Senators known as the “gang of 8,” introduced a bipartisan agreement for a workable solution to the country’s broken immigration system.  If passed as is currently written, the bill would strengthen our economy and security, would keep families from being torn apart, would bring millions of undocumented immigrants out of the shadows, and would modernize our legal immigration system.

Many immigrants may be confused about what the bill means for them and their families.  The truth is that the bill introduced this week is only a proposal; it must still work its way through Congress and will undoubtedly be altered in many ways before being approved.  Unfortunately, unlicensed and unqualified individuals, known as notarios, are increasingly taking advantage of this confusion and maliciously—and illegally—offering costly legal immigration advice to unsuspecting immigrants.

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