Posts By: Seth DeBartolo
Vacation Bible School (VBS) is a ministry outreach churches provide to educate children about God and all He has done for us. On a rainy June 7th the Amigos Center in Immokalee had a delightful and eager crowd of kids ready to have fun and learn more about their Lord and Savior. The theme this year was “A Mighty Fortress” in commemoration of the Lutheran Reformation – 500 years ago. Each day totaled 22+ kids and over 14 adult volunteers from Immokalee Lutheran Church and the Amigos Center who assisted to make this VBS possible. The ages of the kids ranged from pre-school to sixth grade. VBS has been held at this location for the past 2 years and continues to grow each year. This Vacation Bible School was a wonder opportunity for kids to socialize and learn more about religion in a relaxed and fun setting. V.B.S. has something for everyone, despite each person’s religious views. While activities are centered around teaching kids about God, V.B.S. combines fun and learning without the formality of a Sunday service. This event was provided free to the public because of the gracious donations given by members of Immokalee Lutheran Church and donations received by the Amigos Center.
We cannot thank you and the volunteers enough for your prayers and support.
Each month the Department of State sends out a visa bulletin showing the visa processing dates for different family relationships and countries. Depending on the relationship and country, clients can wait months to decades to get their green cards. Usually visa processing dates move forward in time or remain the same, but sometimes dates go back in time (retrogressing). The retrogression can affect when a client can file for the green card or get the green card.
When the January 2011 visa processing dates were released in mid-December 2010, Amigos Center realized that we had a young man in his final year of high school that only had days to submit his green card case or possibly have to wait many more years to file. Filing his case by December 31 meant him being able to get a work permit, social security number, driver’s license, and go to college. His family scrambled to get all the necessary documents/fees. With the help of Amigos Center, the young man was able to get the case properly submitted to immigration by the December 31 deadline. Happily his case is now progressing and he is currently waiting for his work permit.
Toward the end of January 2011 Amigos Center noticed that processing times for sibling cases were going to retrogress over two years as of February 1, 2011. We had two siblings that had submitted their green card cases last fall and both were scheduled for interviews with Tampa immigration for early February 2011. We quickly contacted Tampa to see if their interviews could be scheduled for January when the visa was still available. Tampa was able to see both clients on January 31 and both clients got their green cards. If the clients had not been seen until February, they would have been pending for many more months or years. Both clients called Amigos Center after their interviews to give a big thank you. After years in the U.S., they can now hop on a plane to visit their family in their native country and they are now in line to be able to apply for U.S. citizenship.
On December 29th, Harry Chapin chose Amigos Center to be the point of distribution for their mobile food pantry.
They arrived with three large box trucks and with the help of 45 volunteers we served nearly 4500 people in under 4 hours. We are thankful for the Harry Chapin’s partnership with us and their faith in our work in changing lives in Immokalee.
Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Financial Consultant Mark Fontana presents Pastor Bob Selle the matching $10,000 Lutheran Community Economic Outreach Bridge Grant. This matches dollar for dollar the non-pledged money that Amigos en Cristo raised during the past couple of months up to a maximum of $10,000. From November 2010 through January 2011 we raised $43,299 in non-pledged money from 79 donations ($548 per donation). This compares to the same period last year of $23,096 from 88 donations ($262 per donation). Thank you Thrivent for inspiring our donors to give more generously than ever.
Our first Amigos Center float was the Grand Prize Winner of $500 in the Immokalee Parade of Cultures! Thank you to all the volunteers who made the float and participated in the parade!
47.2% of residents living in Immokalee, live below the poverty level.
Your support of Amigos Center helps thousands of children and families in need throughout Southwest Florida.
Located in SW Florida, Immokalee is one of our nation’s most fertile agricultural communities. According to the 2008 USDA Profile of Hired Farmworkers, farmworkers remain “among the most economically disadvantaged working groups in the U.S.” and “poverty among farmworkers is more than double that of all wage and salary employees.”
Farmworker Facts and Figures
- Like textile workers at the turn of the last century, Florida tomato harvesters are still paid by the piece. The average piece rate today is 50 cents for every 32-lbs of tomatoes they pick, a rate that has remained virtually unchanged since 1980. As a result of that stagnation, a worker today must pick more than 2.25 tons of tomatoes to earn minimum wage in a typical 10-hour workday — nearly twice the amount a worker had to pick to earn minimum wage thirty years ago, when the rate was 40 cents per bucket. Most farmworkers today earn less than $12,000 a year.
- In a January 2001 letter to members of Congress, the U.S. Department of Labor described farmworkers as “a labor force in significant economic distress,” citing farmworkers’ “low wages, sub-poverty annual earnings, [and] significant periods of un- and underemployment” to support its conclusions.
- As a result of intentional exclusion from key New Deal labor reform measures, farmworkers do not have the right to overtime pay, nor the right to organize and collectively bargain with their employers.
- In the most extreme conditions, farmworkers are held against their will and forced to work for little or no pay, facing conditions that meet the stringent legal standards for prosecution under modern-day slavery statutes. Federal Civil Rights officials have successfully prosecuted seven slavery operations involving over 1,000 workers in Florida’s fields since 1997, prompting one federal prosecutor to call Florida “ground zero for modern-day slavery.” In 2010, federal prosecutors indicted two more forced labor rings operating in Florida.
*facts from The Coalition of Immokalee Workers
You don’t have to travel overseas to help someone in need.
There are families that need help right here in SW Florida! Many of those in need are our neighbors, our children’s classmates, even family and friends. These who are in need are hungry on all levels: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Your support of the Amigos Center helps thousands of families be filled in their minds, bodies, and spirits.
Hunger Statistics on Food Insecurity
*facts from USDA. Mark Nord, M. Andrews, S. Carlson. Household Food Security in the United States, 2009.
Help us make a difference in Southwest Florida.
- Stay informed
- Take a tour of the Amigos Center
- Sign up for the Amigos Center E-Newsletter
- Ask to receive quarterly printed newsletters
- Be a voice for those in need
- Encourage others to get involved
- Learn the facts and share the truth
- For the staff and volunteers
- For the children and youth we serve
- For the families we serve
- For the donors who make the ministry possible
- For youself, and how you can get involved
Family is sacred. Family is of utmost importance. Family is worth fighting for.
This is what we fight for daily. Uniting families, keeping them united, and making them strong for the future. Strong families make strong communities.
We connect individuals to the larger church family. We give families a place to grow together. We give families hope and unite them in the truth of the love of God through Jesus Christ.
Through our Family-Based Immigration ministry we make it possible for families to be re-united and stay united without worrying about the cost and difficulties of the immigration process. We give families the hope of working up the ladder toward citizenship and security for their families in the land of opportunity.
We are a friend to those who are in crisis. Through assistance, education, and advocacy, families receive the tools they need to succeed.
Amigos en Cristo: Providing tools for successful assimilation, primarily to immigrants of Southwest Florida and their families, to improve their quality of life.
USCIS fact sheet — The unauthorized practice of immigration law (UPIL) endangers the integrity of our immigration system and victimizes members of the immigrant community. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plans to launch an initiative to combat this exploitative practice by: