Celebrating 20 Years

On Tuesday, November 10, 2015 over 80 community members from diverse backgrounds gathered at the 2nd Presbyterian Church in Bloomington in celebration of the Immigration Project’s 20th anniversary. Students, professors, volunteers, old friends, clients, attorneys, judges, long time supporters, and new supporters attended the Immigration Project’s Flourish Where You’re Planted luncheon making it a huge success!

Cristina Deutsch, a tireless immigrant legal advocate who has dedicated her life to helping immigrant populations and an original founder of the Immigration Project, was honored with the first annual Immigration Hero Award. Her dedication to immigration work both within her professional and personal life made her a prime candidate for the award. The keynote speaker, Judge James A. Knecht, received a standing ovation for his kind words towards the Immigration Project’s committed staff and for recognizing immigrants as epitomizing the American Dream. It was a lunch filled with compassion and assertion that left everyone in a celebratory mood.

The Board hopes that this luncheon is the first of many for the Project.


From Left to Right: Charlotte Alvarez (Staff Attorney), Christine Howe (Capacity and Volunteer Development Director), Adrian Barr (Board Member), Laurie Bergner (President of the Board), Judge James A. Knecht (Keynote Speaker), Cristina Deutsch (Immigration Hero Awardee), Tim Flavin (Board Member), Rebekah Niblock (Staff Attorney), David Hirst (Board Member), Sara Dietrich (Staff Attorney), Carolyn Nadeau (Board Member), Jasmine McGee (Executive Director)

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.