With the Congress of the United States now considering comprehensive immigration reform legislation, and the increase in the Latino community in Lee County growing by more than 170% over the past ten years, Amigos Center is indeed blessed to have on it’s staff a skilled and professional immigration team fully capable of addressing the challenges that lie ahead. Immigration law is considered by many to be one of the most difficult areas of the law, and Amigos’ two specialists, Christina Leddin and Maria Herrera are both accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeal to practice in this very demanding field. During the past year, Christina and Maria, assisted by the skilled help of Administrative Assistants Marisol Dickerson and Maria Isabel Diaz, managing the multitude of details required for each application, prepared over 1600 documents for immigrants and non citizens in southwest Florida. These applications covered a large field of actions ranging from what is called a U visa for individuals and their minor children who have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse due to criminal activity, to applications known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) which seek to avoid the removal of bright young high school graduates and others who were brought to this country undocumented when they were very young and now know no other country. The years ahead will certainly provide many more opportunities to assist immigrants and non residents in our community in their dreams to become United States citizens, and will require the help and support of our team and many others. Pastor Bob Selle recently observed that “I am truly humbled when I see the wonderful work that our staff is doing in this area, and the help they are giving to some of the weakest of the weak in our society through this ministry. I watch their work and always recall our Lord’s words: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” Matthew 25:40 (KJV).
(Ed Christenbury is a retired attorney and Board member of Amigos en Cristo)
The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) World Relief and Human Care, now called LCMS International Missions, has been an important partner with our Immokalee Amigos Center work for the past two years. With the home office located in St. Louis, MO, staff have visited our Immokalee center twice and have allocated two domestic grants totaling $17,500. These grants have helped us expand our adult education program and emergency food distribution by partially funding key staff positions and program materials.
Our major accomplishments in partnership with LCMS World Relief and Human Care during this two year period include:
- Dramatically increase the number of people served by emergency food and clothing distribution (150% increase over previous years);
- Help develop the number of Hispanic and Haitian volunteers who help provide services to residents of Immokalee.
- Increased our capacity to provide English classes for Haitian and Hispanic adult immigrants;
- Help illiterate Mexican and Guatemalan women learn to write their own name;
- Develop our first “Leadership Development” course for a group of Spanish speaking women.
Our Hispanic and Haitian volunteers in Immokalee treated the members of Trinity Lutheran Church, Cape Coral, to a special Advent meal on Wednesday, December 5. Over 70 people enjoyed the home made food. Pastor C. J. focused the mid-week Advent worship service that night on Christmas traditions of Mexico and Haiti. We see in these meals the unity of the body of Christ and an image of the celestial banquet that awaits us in Christ.
The Haitian women from our Immokalee Lutheran Church did a great job last night preparing an authentic Haitian meal for more than 100 people at Grace Lutheran Church, Naples. This effort goes a long way to express the unity of the body of Christ among all believers and all nations. Thank you.
Check out this great story from NBC-2 to read about and see a video about Esbin Staiger, Amigos Center Client, who is thankful that through the Deferred Immigration Act and the help of Amigos Center, he will be able to stay in the United States.
Sunday, October 7, 2012 was a big day for us at our Immokalee Lutheran Church as we baptized five young people, confirmed three and celebrated first communion for three others. Thanks be to God for what he is doing in the life of these young saints.
Congratulations to Maria Herrera on the transfer of her Board of Immigration Appeals accreditation to Amigos Center! She is now recognized at both our Golden Gate office and Bonita Springs office!
Maseca was flying off the Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida, Inc. truck during a Saturday distribution at Amigos Center in Immokalee! Countless volunteers from Our Savior Lutheran Church and School made a trip from St. Petersburg and partnered with Amigos Center local volunteers to make this a success. Hundreds of families received 50lbs of Maseca, a staple in many households. What a tremendous event! Thank you to all who made this possible!
Our food distribution continues to be a strong ministry as we continue to partner with Harry Chapin who recently sent us over 42,000 pounds of corn meal to allow this event to happen. This is a staple that is used for tamales and tortillas in the Latino community while the Haitian community also makes a soup with it. Although our funds are low, through Harry Chapin Food Bank we can continue to provide the much needed food for the people of Immokalee. We can always use donations of small bottles of oil and also lard.
Pastor Selle speaks on the topic of immigrants being an easy target for scamming and fraud in the wake of a new ID scam.
Our Amigos Center Immigration has been inundated due to new policy of DACA.
It hasn’t been 3 full days since the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” program has been in place and wow have we been busy! Thank you to our Immigration Specialists for your dedication to those we serve as well as the amazing staff and volunteers who are helping with the increased call volume.
Read a PDF version of the story from ABC – 7 regarding the new immigration program or watch a video on ABC -7 website of a young boy at the Amigos Center who is grateful for the opportunity to apply now for papers and what this means for his future.