Posts Categorised: Immigration

By Nancy Ramirez (Lifelong resident of Immokalee)

Nancy Ramirez

 I would like to express my gratitude for all the help that Amigos Center has provided me over the years. I was first introduced to Amigos en Cristo after hurricane Wilma hit Immokalee. I volunteered to assist in caring for the children while their parents cleaned the much damaged community. I was immediately impressed by the sense of unity and the genuine will to help the community. Pastor Robert has since been there to help me and my family. Shortly after I married my husband, Pastor Robert offered us the opportunity to take part in a financial class by Dave Ramsey. I sincerely thank Pastor Robert and the Amigos Center for offering us this course, because it has definitely been a great financial tool for my marriage. The Immokalee Amigos Center informed me and my family that the Mexican Consulate was going to be at the Bonita Springs Amigos Center for one day. We were all able to get our passports and also were able to save a little on transportation to Miami thanks to the Amigos Center. When the Deferred Action plan for early childhood arrivals was approved, all of my paperwork was submitted by the Amigos Center Immigration specialists. I now have an employment authorization card and a driver’s license. I consider this a huge blessing. I am proud to also say that I am now employed as a secretary at the Immokalee Amigos Center. This is yet another blessing made possible by the Amigos Center. Since my employment began, I continue to witness the same sense of unity that caught my attention many years ago. It is also a great feeling to now be an official member of an establishment that genuinely wants to help the community. I cannot explain how great this feels. All I can say in conclusion is: Thank you Amigos Center.

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Come celebrate Thanksgiving with the farmworkers of Immokalee on Tuesday, November 24 at 5:00 pm. A local caterer will prepare 20 hot turkeys so we can provide a traditional hot Thanksgiving meal in the parking lot of our Immokalee Amigos Center. Volunteers will bring the side dishes and help serve the community. What a great way to express our thankfulness to God for all of his blessings. Call Gloria for more information (239) 253-5628.   (Amigos Center, 106 South 2nd Street, Immokalee, FL 34142).

 

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On July 31 we celebrated our first Mariachi Evangelism Campaign with over 200 people from all over Southwest Florida in attendance. Thanks to our partnership with Zion Lutheran Church we were able to bring the Mariachi San Pablo music group from the Ysleta Lutheran Mission in El Paso, Texas all the way to Immokalee, Florida. Mariachi, you got to love it! Check out the video link www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RFfWSnWU_I

We are excited that Vicar Saint Luc Charelus will receive his call documents to serve as pastor of Bethlehem Haitian Church – LCMS on Friday, October 23 at his graduation ceremony on the campus of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO. We have tentatively set the date of ordination as Sunday, December 6 at 4:00 PM in our Immokalee Amigos Center. Stand by for more details.

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We would like to have all of those who love and support our ministry present for the big day. We offer a special thank you to Rev. Richard Browning at Hope Lutheran Church, Bonita Springs for having served as Mentor for Saint Luc during these past four years of seminary training. It is gratifying to see our vision of a pastoral team of bi-vocational pastors coming to fruition.   The united gifts of both Pastor Andre and Pastor Saint Luc will serve as a blessing for our Lutheran Haitian church planting ministry for all of Southwest Florida.   Thanks be to God! Call Pastor Selle for more information (239) 281-1664.

By Eileen Ortegon, Amigos Center Development Specialist

Lindsay Ray

“I am an immigration attorney. I serve the hardest working, most gracious, and truly inspiring group of people in the world.” With these words attorney Lindsay Ray explained why she decided to study immigration law.

In 2010, during Lindsay’s first year in law school, Haitian citizens living in the U.S. became eligible to apply for immigration benefits due to their inability to return to Haiti after a massive earthquake. In an effort to help a local immigration attorney meet the high demand for immigration services by thousands of Haitian citizens in the area, Lindsay and a group of her classmates volunteered at Legal Aid Services of Collier County, filling out immigration paperwork.

After spending several weeks as a volunteer at Legal Aid Services, Lindsay became a paid intern there, working under the supervision of Attorney Sister Maureen Kelleher. Lindsay stayed on as an intern for two more years, for the duration of her time in law school. At Legal Aid, she worked exclusively in the immigration field, helping to file family petitions and working closely with victims of crime who were applying for immigration benefits. Her work at Legal Aid sparked her desire to practice law at a nonprofit agency and to serve her clients by providing the highest quality legal services for the lowest possible cost.

In 2012, after she graduated from Ave Maria School of Law, Lindsay began working at Catholic Charities. There, she was an immigration caseworker who helped her clients file family petitions and apply for naturalization. However, Lindsay never forgot the joy she felt as an intern when she was able to serve victims of crime in the field of immigration. And, although she loved her work at Catholic Charities, she wanted to continue to look for ways to help victims of crime.

Lindsay worked at Catholic Charities until 2014. In 2015, she began working at Amigos Center, a faith-based non-profit organization led by Pastor Robert Selle. Amigos Center offers family-based and country specific immigration services. Also, Amigos Center has a special program for immigrant victims of crime. Lindsay is the sole immigration practitioner in this program, and spends half of her time working exclusively with victims of crime. She meets with every client individually, and tailors a plan that meets their immigration needs and fits their lives. Each case is different, and Lindsay loves finding a solution and a path to legalization for each client.

A recent Amigos Center client asked Pastor Selle, Amigos Center CEO,

“Please say a prayer for these documents which give me hope that

I’ll finally achieve my American dream. I love this country!”

About her employer she says, “Amigos Center is different from any other law office. The whole staff shares a deep love and a great willingness to help people. This type of dedication and warmth can be felt by the clients, and is truly unique to Amigos Center.”

Amigos Center is a non-profit that provides low-cost immigration services in Southwest Florida. It gives its clients the tools necessary to be a successful and contributing members of the community and of the Kingdom of God. Amigos Center has one immigration attorney, two accredited immigration specialists and two administrative assistants on staff. For additional information about Amigos Center and immigration services, contact Pastor Robert Selle (239) 437-6727

By Rev. Robert Selle

Amigos en Cristo together with Zion Lutheran Church, Fort Myers, is organizing a unique evangelism event at the Immokalee Amigos Center for Friday, July 31 at 5:00 PM. Our intent is to share the love and hope of Jesus with the people of Immokalee through the music of “Mariachi San Pablo”.

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Since 70% of Immokalee residents speak Spanish at home, it makes sense to present the Gospel through music that speaks to the soul. In addition to the music, the event will offer tamales and cheese nachos, play activities for the children, prayer booth, conversations with our Amigos Center immigration staff, tours of our ministry center and much more.

Mariachi San Pablo is an intergenerational music ministry of Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care in El Paso, Texas, one of the poorest communities along the border with Mexico. The group has traveled to 17 different U.S. states as well as into northern Mexico (103 cities in all). While at home on the US/Mexico border, Mariachi San Pablo works to reach their community through music that both inspires and touches the lives of those who hear it.

Mariachi San Pablo comes to the Amigos Center in Immokalee on Friday, July 31, 2015, 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM, 106 South 2nd Street, Immokalee, FL 34142. Everyone is invited, no matter your language or country of origin. For more information call Pastor Selle (239) 281-1664.

A unique opportunity to serve immigrants is the area of immigration. At one point or another most first-generation immigrants will need to apply for some kind of adjustment to their immigration status, either for themselves or for their family members.

 Amigos Center employs two immigration specialists who are accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), and an attorney who holds a law license. Immigration Specialists who are accredited by the BIA may assist immigrants in immigration proceedings before the Board. Our attorney graduated from Ave Maria School of Law with a Juris Doctorate and holds a law license from the state of California.

Since August 2001 Amigos Center has offered family based and country specific immigration services at nominal cost to over 10,000 families. Amigos Center can help someone go from undocumented to being a U.S. citizen. However, this is not a one-step process. Most immigrants must go from being undocumented, to being a permanent resident, and then becoming a U.S. citizens. Some even have to take a fourth step between being undocumented and becoming a permanent resident, and hold either a visa or some type of temporary status first.

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There are five main immigration categories. They are: U.S. Citizen, Legal Permanent Resident, Visa Holder, Temporary Status Holder, and Undocumented person. A U.S. Citizen has the right to do anything within the law. Most significantly, he or she has the right to work, travel internationally, receive public benefits, and vote. A legal permanent resident has most of the rights of a U.S. citizen, except for the right to vote. Permanent residency does not expire. But, it can be removed due to criminal activity. A visa-holder has the right to do whatever the visa allows, i.e. student, tourist, employment, etc. Visas expire after a particular amount of time – months or years, depending on the type of visa. A person who holds a temporary status, such as Temporary Protected Status (TPS), may work in the U.S. and is ineligible for deportation for a certain amount of time. This status does not have a fixed expiration date. An undocumented person has few rights in the U.S. He or she does not have the right to work or to receive public benefits.

Our immigration work is a life changing service for many immigrants. One grateful client wrote:

“If gratitude could be measured in words, ours for Amigos Center would not fit in this letter. When we arrived here, it was like being shipwrecked and we were struggling to stay afloat. Yet God showed us that He does not abandon anyone. He sent us a guardian angel…Christina Leddin, who became for us a lifeboat at the moment we felt we were drowning. She has accompanied us in knocking again on doors that we had in ignorance shut; she has fought…at our side…and her help is so sincere that we felt that she took our situation upon herself as though it were own. Today our life is very different … We owe all this to you. Thank you for all you are doing for the neediest people…We don’t get tired of telling everyone who asks how we are doing about how much we have advanced thanks to you. Daily you are in our prayers and we pray God helps you in all that you need.”

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) allows battered immigrants to petition for legal status in the United States without having to rely on an abusive U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident spouses, parents or children to sponsor their Green Card application.  For many immigrant victims of domestic violence, battery and extreme cruelty, the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident family members who would sponsor their applications will threaten to withhold legal immigration sponsorship as a tool of abuse. The purpose of the VAWA program is to allow victims the opportunity to “self-petition” or independently seek legal immigration status in the U.S.  Amigos Center partners with the Abuse, Counseling & Treatment (ACT) Shelter of Fort Myers to help these victims apply for legal residency under the U-Visa section of VAWA.

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Every day we have 6 to 10 preschool children in our building. They are the children of our Immokalee volunteers, clients and our adult English language program. Our vision is to provide these children with a stimulating environment that encourages a life-long love of reading.   We will provide daily opportunity to these children to have a book read to them. They will have opportunity to take age appropriate books home.

 

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At our Children of Amigos Fundraising Luncheon last month we gathered 382 children’s books. Special thanks to Concordia Publishing House for donating 200 new children’s books. Most of the books we collected were written by our Master of Ceremonies and Christian author, Dr. Mary Manz Simon.

With book sales of more than three million copies, her award-winning titles have been translated into ten languages. According to Dr. Manz:

“Surrounding your child with words is one of the first steps toward teaching a child to read…even if your child is still a baby.”

We inaugurate our Children of Amigos library on Tuesday, April 28, 11:00 AM.

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Thank you to all 182 participants who came to our Children of Amigos fundraising luncheon.  Donations are still arriving, but so far we have raised $73, 490.  That is an amazing amount, however it falls short of last year’s fundraising result by $5,000.   It’s not too late to make your contribution. While we are still receiving pledges from those who were unable to attend our luncheon, we look forward to gathering another $20,000 to meet our budgeted needs.  Just click the red “DONATE NOW” button and you are on your way to helping us set a new fundraising record! 

Our theme this year, “Children of Amigos” focused attention on the blessings the children of our adult clients and church members have received through the years. We prepared a short video Children of Amigos that tell their stories.

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We were honored with the presence of Dr. Daniel Dosoretz, CEO and Co-founder of 21st Century Oncology. Because of his support of Amigos Center, his support of other humanitarian efforts in Southwest Florida and his own outstanding personal story as a successful immigrant, we were pleased to present Dr. Dosoretz with our 2015 Humanitarian Award.

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Our Master of Ceremonies, Dr. Mary Manz Simon, flew in from Pasadena, Maryland to spend the day with us. Dr. Mary is an award winning author with more than three million books sold in English and titles available in ten languages. Publishers include Random House, Scholastic, and Concordia Publishing House, which released Little Visits with Jesus and Hear Me Read Bible. Two titles from Ideals/Guideposts are scheduled for release in 2015.

Our luncheon gave us an opportunity to recognize and thank our staff of two full-time and 11 part-time workers. Amigos has four staff members who have worked for us for more than ten years. Our newest staff member is immigration Attorney Lindsay Ray who began work with us in February 2015. Lindsay has always wanted to work as an immigration attorney. For that reason she moved to Florida from California to study law at Ave Maria School of Law.

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