Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Immigration Series- Part 2

On Monday we introduced you to one of our wonderful employees, Emily Guerrero. Emily is an immigration attorney and oversees the Catholic Charities legal services offices. In recent months Emily and her staff have worked tirelessly to help young immigrants (“Dreamers”) apply for temporary lawful status and work authorization under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act. Back to you, Emily!

Preliminary estimates have shown that South Carolina has about 7500 Dreamers. We knew we needed to serve as many as possible in an efficient way. Our staff is small, comprised of five talented, wonderful women covering the entire state of South Carolina. Andrea is in Charleston and has a special Board of Immigration Appeals accreditation because of her five years of on-the-job experience and training background. Mily, an attorney in Peru, heads up the Hilton Head office and works so hard, I have to beg her to take a day off, to no avail. She started in April and bravely jumped right into the middle of the crazy pace of our offices.

Vanessa is our attorney in Greenville, and we thank God everyday for her snappy sense of humor. She attracts the messiest, strangest immigration issues, and she valiantly and unsuccessfully tries to stave off her stress level with baking, tennis, fishing, and knitting. Blenda, a caseworker in Greenville, is our resident legal expert, researching everything and able to answer questions like a seasoned immigration practitioner. And there’s me, with my palms sweating and my mind racing. How are we going to serve all of these young, deserving people?

On the same day that Obama introduced the Dreamers relief, we sketched our enthusiastic plan to do group processing clinics around the state. Our idea was to process groups of 50-60 immigrants at a time, helping them to fill out the forms and gather the necessary supporting documents. We would recruit volunteers! We would train them! We would do outreach! We would help hundreds of immigrants to file their petitions! We were all idealistic and starry-eyed, excited to be a part of history. Looking back, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into…

Staff and volunteers helping Dreamers during the Immigration clinics.

Check back Friday to learn more about the clinics our Immigration Offices have held to help Dreamers apply for their temporary lawful status and work authorization! If you would like to learn more about this Act and how Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Charleston has responded, please visit previous blog posts here. To learn more about donating your money or time, please click here.

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