Successful First Round of Downstate Community Navigators/Liaisons Trainings

100MEDIA$IMAG1439Christine Howe going over introductions on Day One

In an effort to build more downstate resources for immigrants, which in turn empowers communities, the Immigration Project held the first downstate Community Liaison and Navigators trainings at the beginning of April. For those who haven’t heard of Community Navigators or Liaisons (“Promotores and Intermediadores” in Spanish), they are people who typically already have frequent contact with immigrant populations within their own jobs or leisure activities.  The first half of the training provides explanation and information about immigration law and resources, which enhances one’s ability to connect immigrants to legal service providers, social service organizations, and government representatives. They learn who can and cannot give legal advice and what constitutes ‘legal advice’, helping to fight against what is called ‘notario fraud’ (a plague of unauthorized persons wrongfully completing immigration application forms or dispensing incorrect or incomplete advice about the legal system).  Those who want to become Navigators stay for additional training in form and document preparation, to be completed only under the supervision of attorneys. Tasks of Navigators and Liaisons range from helping clients get utility or school records, to explaining requirements for some immigration programs, to helping clients complete applications.

IMAG1451Luis Huerta-Silva conducting the Community Navigators/Liaisons training on Day One

With the help of Luis Huerta-Silva from ICIRR (Illinois Coalition forImmigrant and Refugee Rights) in Chicago, the trainings took place in our home office on April 1-2.  Nineteen individuals attended, from McLean County, Champaign, Peoria,LaSalle and Springfield. Some were health partnership personnel (including a surgeon and medical student), others ESL teachers in school systems, and four were our own volunteers!  Fifteen completed Day One Liaison training and 9 of those 15 went on to become certified Navigators at the end of training the next day. After a successful initial Community Navigator and Liaison Training and with enthusiasm running high, preparations are being made to conduct additional trainings in Champaign and Normal this summer, including teacher in-services with the two local school districts in McLean County.  As soon as groundwork is laid, we can expand to Peoria, Springfield and Kankakee, then further downstate.

Download$1782The trainers from left to right: Luis Huerta-Silva, Christine Howe, Charlotte Alvarez

Community Navigators and Liaisons are crucial to increasing the ability of Immigration Project to serve our 86-county area, where we are the lone non-profit legal immigration service provider with immigration attorneys on staff. With their outreach efforts, more immigrants can hear of our services.  With their new knowledge of certain requirements, forms and documentation, cases can be completed more quickly.  Another by-product of expanding resources is that our staff will be able to take on more complicated cases that are more time-consuming and attorney-demanding. Community Navigators and Liaisons guide and support clients at every step of their legal journey allowing our attorneys to focus on filing applications. We have high hopes for this program to increase our current ability to serve more immigrants, and sense even more urgency as we await the Supreme Court decision by June of whether or not President Obama’s 2014 executive actions regarding DAPA and expanded DACA are constitutional.  If they decide ‘yes’ then DACA-expanded should go into effect nearly immediately and DAPA just a few months later.  Of the many thousands of immigrants in downstate Illinois who will be eligible for these two programs, we expect over 16,000 could seek our help.

1783_2The first nine downstate Community Navigators holding their certificates at the end of Day Two

Story of Courage, Resilience, and Persistence

 At 20 years old, María came to the United States with her infant daughter. Her family had been coming to the United States as seasonal field workers in California, but María had always stayed in Mexico. This resulted in her mother, father and six of her siblings qualifying for Legal Permanent Status through the Amnesty Program while she was denied. María needed to stay with her family so when she, her husband and daughter entered the U.S., they entered as undocumented. Except for two of her older married sisters, the majority of her family had decided to stay and make a new life in the U.S. Since María’s parents had Legal Permanent Status, María and her young family hoped the petition that her parents were able to submit for her would give María a priority date in a few years. María’s petition was made in 1993; however for the category of adult children seeking Legal Permanent Residence there was a long wait. 20 years passed.

For 20 years, María worked and raised 7 children in Bloomington, all the time as an undocumented immigrant. She was active in her children’s schooling and kept a job for all those years. Even after her first child born in the U.S, Roberto, turned 21 she had not received her priority date for changing her status to Legal Permanent Resident. Since Roberto is a U.S. citizen, he brought his mother to The Immigration Project to start the application process for Legal Permanent Resident status. Roberto filed a new petition for his mother, and María sent in her Adjustment of Status Application, with other supporting documents. Roberto had not worked long enough nor was making enough money to qualify for the Affidavit of Support, one of the required supporting documents. Therefore, they had to seek help. Due to María’s hard work and value in the work place her employer was glad to help with the affidavit.

After submitting her applications and supporting documents, María received a Biometrics (a process of fingerprinting etc. that everyone in the process must go through) appointment. Having no form of identification, María was in danger of being picked up by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) if she traveled to the location where the Biometrics process was scheduled. The Immigration Project helped write a letter to the Mexican Consulate in Chicago to obtain her Mexican Passport and with that identification she was able to complete the Biometrics appointment.

After completing the Biometrics process, María received her interview date. She and her son went to Chicago to meet with an Immigration officer.  Finally after more than 20 years of hard work, courage and resilience she was approved for Legal Permanent Residence.  Within two weeks she received her Employment Authorization, enabling her to get a Social Security Card and a Driver’s License. Finally, a few months later she received her Green Card. In a few more years as a Legal Permanent Resident, María will qualify for citizenship, meaning she will have finally accomplished her dream.