This past year, I have been fortunate enough to have served with COIN as an AmeriCorps member with the Immigrant and Refugee Service Corps. I have interacted with so many and learned so much, and now that my service year is coming to end, I have been reflecting on my time with AmeriCorps and with COIN.
I knew that I was interested in working with immigrants and refugees long before I was placed with COIN, but having just graduated with a B.A. in philanthropic studies, had no previous experience with immigration law. One of the first events that I attended as an AmeriCorps member was a DACA renewal clinic at Catholic Charities- what a great start to my year! It was my first interaction with DACA and with many of COIN's partners, and an overwhelmingly heartwarming introduction to the community of volunteers, legal services providers, and immigrant service providers. Each event and interaction since has proven to be heartwarming, sometimes heart wrenching, and educational; I began to learn a little bit about the law, but also about the community, about the cultures, and about our partners.
As the year progressed I had many opportunities to develop my professional skills and continue learning from my peers. From event planning to graphic design, public speaking to writing blogs, I was challenged to help bolster COIN's growth and support our partners. I have been fortunate to have this unique role as an AmeriCorps member, to use this year not only as a chance to make an impact in my community but also to develop my skills and gain professional experience. Now as I enter the workforce, I feel comfortable and capable having had this experience and the opportunity to learn by action.
As my service is wrapping up, I have been reflecting on every aspect of my term. I am overwhelmingly grateful to those who supported me and helped me to learn. I am appreciative of the relationships that were formed and the connections that were made. And I do not take for granted that I was fortunate enough to participate in this year of service, that I was placed with COIN, and that I got to live out, and learn about, my passions and interest. Thank you to all who helped make this wonderful experience happen.
Are you someone looking for immigration news updates and don't know where to go to get them? Recently, it feels like breaking news and immigration law changes are happening several times a day. It can be hard, and frankly disheartening, to keep up, especially when news media outlets can be so polarizing. COIN consistently uses a few different resources to gain information, share with our partners, and hear the news. Here they are:
1. American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA): AILA is a great resource for those who want to learn and to hear about immigration law and advocacy because it is a national association of immigration attorneys. They often provide information on court decisions, activism opportunities, and legal trainings. You can check out their website here to learn more.
2. The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC): the NIJC is similar to AILA in that it provides legal information and shares news articles regarding the changes and injustices in that area. They are active in Indiana and throughout the Midwest so also sometimes provide local news on court cases and migrant communities. They have legal trainings available on their website for those who wish to educate themselves, and they can also host volunteers in a variety of ways. More information on NIJC can be found here.
3. Jesuit Refugee Services USA (JRS/USA): JRS is an international organization that helps to resettle refugees, and they also created the concept of "Walk a Mile in a Refugee's Shoes" (click here to see more on that). They often provide stories of refugees that they interact with, and they share information about refugee resettlement, the politics thereof, and statements from Pope Francis about refugees. Their social media is a great place to look for refugee advocacy and news and their website, which can be found here, provides more information about what they do and more.
4. National Immigration Forum/Noorani's Notes: the National Immigration Forum advocates for immigrant rights and responsible immigration policies. They provide updates on research, fact sheets about immigrants in the United States, and responses to legal activity. Ali Noorani, the executive director, sends daily email updates to subscribers with more news and information, including links to outside articles. You can sign up for Noorani's Notes here, and check out the National Immigration Forum's website here.
5. National Public Radio (NPR): Finally, NPR is a great resource for immigration news. They often have immigration attorneys, CBP employees, and government officials on shows and they are able to provide a wide variety of perspectives and stories. They also have a good ratio of political versus personal stories, mixing the heartfelt with the heartbreaking. You can find some stories here.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of immigration resources; these are simply the ones that COIN uses consistently. We encourage you to check these out if you would like to learn more and to always continue educating yourself. It is important that we pay attention so that we can remain to be advocates for immigrants and refugees.
Throughout the past few months, stories of the horrors and the politics of family separation and detention have been flooding the media. Every day we see pictures of young children being taken away from their parents and hear accounts of the government's struggles to reunite them again. We also hear that a great number of these families are fleeing El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, coming to the United States border as asylum seekers. For those of us who are not immigration attorneys, "asylum" and the process of attaining it may be misunderstood.
Asylum is a lawful process that allows individuals to seek protection in the United States due to persecution or fear of persecution in their home country. Grounds for asylum include persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion. The individual must prove that the government in their country is a perpetrator of the persecution, or is unable to control the persecution or violence. Asylum seekers can only request protection once they have crossed the border; this differentiates their status from refugees, who receive refugee status from the United Nations outside of the country. Generally, individuals only have one year after they enter the country to request asylum.
Not everyone who requests asylum receives it. Those who enter the United States, either at a port of entry or between ports of entry, are apprehended by Border Patrol officers and can request asylum. If their fear of persecution is deemed credible by the CBP officers and an asylum officer they are placed in official asylum proceedings. Otherwise they are removed from the country. Asylum proceedings can take years to conclude and many asylum seekers apply for work authorizations after their case has been pending for 150 days. Those who are eventually granted asylum can then adjust into a legal permanent resident after one year.
There is a lot of miscommunication and misunderstanding surrounding the crisis at the border. By educating ourselves on the legal processes that have been put in place to address these issues and by learning more ways to help those in detention and asylum proceedings, we can help change the perception of those who have come to us for protection.
Please note that this is not legal advice.