Posts Categorised: Immigration
Today Amigos Center had the distinct joy of handing a client her green card after 22 years in the United States. The client had been referred to our office ten months ago from Florida Equal Justice Center to file her adjustment of status case based on a U Visa, victim of a serious crime. She had been the victim of domestic violence at the hands of her now ex-spouse and back in 2007 she had been granted the U Visa. Upon waiting the required three years, she was now ready to file for her legal permanent residence, namely the green card.
Amigos Center started meeting with the client in December of last year to prepare the required documents and in January we submitted all the necessary applications/documents/fees. In August we received a request for additional evidence from immigration and immediately called the client and responded to immigration’s request. Today, October 3, Amigos Center received the green card on the client’s case. We immediately called the client with the good news and within a few hours she was in our office to pick up the mail. She started crying and shaking and said that she finally got her freedom back. She left our office to call her mother and tell her the wonderful news. Now our client will be able to travel to her native country and visit her family after 22 years in the United States.
Every year the Amigos Center helps hundreds of families reunite and stay united through the low-cost, legal immigration services provided. Pictured here is Gaspar Mejia. Through the help of the Amigos Center he was able to bring his wife and four children here to the United States. Out of gratitude for the work of Lala through the Amigos Center, they came and brought her a very elaborate handmade blouse from their native Huehuetenango, Guatemala. It is a typical indigenous outfit only from that region. Many families do not have the money to pay for expensive immigration services yet they are very grateful for the services the Amigos Center provides. This was their heartfelt way to show their appreciation for Lala and the Amigos Center Immigration ministry.
Pictured here is: Luis Fernando (eldest son), Juana, Lala (Immigration Specialist) & Gaspar Mejia.
Leonardo Garcia, President/CEO and Founder of the Hispanic American Business Alliance (HABA) wrote:
One client recently wrote an email to Pastor Bob Selle, Executive Director of Amigos Center, as a follow up to an October 2010 inquiry about Amigos Center Immigration services.
Dear Pastor Bob,
Just wanted to share with you…My citizenship was approved and I had the oath ceremony to receive my citizenship last week Tuesday April 12th in Tampa, FL! The ceremony was great. Most everyone had tears in their eyes. 504 people became citizens from 85 countries! So now I am no longer a “foreign alien with permanent residence”, but an American citizen! Christina was wonderful. Professional, yet very encouraging throughout the process!
THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart!
The joy this client is experiencing wouldn’t be possible without the friends of Amigos Center who faithfully support the work here in changing lives and changing our community. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts!
All days are busy, yet Thursday, March 31st was an especially busy day filled with lots of life-changing appointments. In the morning I did two naturalization cases (applying for U.S. citizenship). Both clients were from Mexico and had been our clients for a number of years and we did the paperwork on both cases to get their green cards. Both were extremely excited to apply for U.S. citizenship – the ultimate goal of an immigrant.
In the afternoon I saw a woman from the Dominican Republic who had entered the U.S. in 2005 with her immigrant visa (green card) based on the filing of her U.S. citizen sister in 1991. In 2005 Amigos Center filed for her adult son who had remained behind in the Dominican Republic due to falling out of his USC aunt’s case due to his age. Last Thursday the Dominican mother was filing the final paperwork with the Department of State so that her son will finally be able to get his interview in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic to then enter the U.S. with an immigrant visa/green card and join his mother, father, and younger sibling.
After that I saw a woman from the United Kingdom who had been in the U.S. since she was 9 years old on a work visa through her parents. The work visa had just expired and her parents and younger sibling will be returning to the United Kingdom. The young woman had married a U.S. citizen and so I filed all the paperwork (6 applications in total) to get her a work permit and then her green card through the marriage. I explained to her that then she will be able to apply for naturalization in a little less than 3 years from getting the green card and then she can apply for her parents and sibling to come back to the U.S.
Finally I saw a 16 year old Mexican girl who had been brought into the U.S. as a young child and she now has her immigrant visa/green card appointment in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico in a few weeks. I had been working on the case since 2005. I prepared the final paperwork for her and her green-card holding father to take to the interview in Mexico. She should be back in the U.S. within a week with her green card.
United Way has once again reached their campaign goal of $8,024,330 under the direction of campaign chairwoman, Pat O’Donnell. Pat O’Donnell is also an active member of the Amigos en Cristo Board of Directors.
Amigos Center is a proud partner of United Way of Lee, Hendry and Glades, who generously contributes $30,000 annually to help support the Immigration ministry of Amigos Center.
At the goal announcement O’Donnell said, “I am thrilled to announce that the United Way of Lee, Hendry, and Glades has reached its campaign goal for the 18th consecutive year!
“Our generous community has done it again! Despite the difficult economy, you dug deep to give what you could to help our friends and neighbors who are hurting, out of work, or ill. In the toughest economy that we have faced in many years, you gave so others could look forward to a better life. I am so proud of our community.
“What is more important than the fact that we made our goal is that the 72 United Way Partner Agencies will receive their full allocation of funds. The needs in our community have increased significantly in these troubled times. Many agencies have lost funding from both government and private sources. United Way Partner Agencies’ 160 programs will be fully funded and hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens will receive the help they need.
“Thank you to all of the individuals, companies, communities and partner agencies for your generous contributions. You proved once again what a caring community this is.”
On March 1st, Christina Leddin gave an immigration talk to the clients of F.I.S.H. (Friends in Service Here) of Sanibel.
Thanks to the United Way of Lee, Hendry, and Glades County, we have the opportunity to partner with other agencies and
best reach the community as we work together to serve.
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.
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:
Myth: Immigrating to the United States for work or family is easy.
Fact: Only 5,000 visas are available for low-skilled workers each year, yet our economy relies on
millions of undocumented laborers.1 Families wait years for reunification. Lawful permanent
residents face waits of more than five years for their spouses to get visas and join them. Siblings
of permanent residents wait 10–22 years for visas.
Myth: Immigrants take jobs away from Americans.
Fact: Between 2000 and 2005 the availability of native-born low-wage workers declined by
approximately 1.8 million. In the same period the number of low-wage immigrant workers
increased by 620,000, thus offsetting the total decline by about a third.
Myth: Immigrants don’t pay taxes.
Fact: All immigrants pay taxes. Even undocumented immigrants pay sales taxes and real estate taxes
(either directly as homeowners or indirectly through rent). The Social Security Administration
estimates that three-quarters of undocumented immigrants contribute payroll taxes, including
$6–7 billion in Social Security taxes that will never benefit them.
Myth: Immigrants are a drain on the economy.
Fact: Approximately 26 million immigrants currently residing in the United States arrived after the age of 18 and are in prime working age. They represent roughly $2.8 trillion to U.S. taxpayers, who
receive the benefit of their labor without the cost of their education.
Myth: Immigrants come to the United States to get welfare.
Fact: Documented immigrants are prohibited from receiving most federal government benefits for at
least five years after they arrive in the United States. They work and pay taxes, but do not receive
benefits. Immigrants without papers can get emergency medical care but cannot receive welfare,
food stamps or Social Security.
Myth: Immigrants send all their money back to their home countries.
Fact: While many immigrants do send money back to their families in other countries, they contribute
to the U.S. economy in other ways. Through consumer spending and entrepreneurship,
immigrants contribute $162 billion in tax revenue to federal, state and local governments.
Myth: Immigrants don’t want to learn English or become citizens.
Fact: 65% of immigrants over age 5 who speak a language other than English at home speak English
“very well” or “well.”8 Many adult immigrants want to become proficient in English, but the
demand for ESL instruction far outweighs the supply. Over 1 million immigrants applied for
naturalization in 2007, but only 48% were granted approval.9 This shows not only the desire of
immigrants to become citizens but also the limitations they face.
Myth: Most immigrants are here illegally.
Fact: Out of roughly 31 million foreign-born residents in the United States, 63% are documented. The
remaining 37% are undocumented.
Myth: Immigrants are uneducated.
Fact: More than 1.3 million (1 in 5) college-educated immigrants living in the United States are
unemployed or are underemployed in positions such as taxi drivers, dishwashers and security guards.
Many educated immigrants are unable to make full use of their academic and professional credentials,
but must pursue expensive and lengthy re-credentialing before resuming their former career paths.
Myth: Letting in more immigrants leads to an increase in crime.
Fact: Research indicates that higher immigration levels either have no effect on crime rates or are
associated with lower levels of crime and violence. The incarceration rate of those born in the
United States is four times higher than the incarceration rate of the foreign-born.