Justice for Our Neighbors staff members Laura Mendoza, a native of Mexico, and Grisell Herrera, a native of Cuba, submitted the following report regarding their recent trip to Atlanta, GA to attend the CLINIC Convening, which is a large conference for BIA Accredited Representatives. Both Grisell and Laura are accredited Representatives of the Board of Immigration Appeals. Their extensive preparation in immigration law helps to add value to the services of JFON here in Iowa.
By Grisell Herrera and Laura Mendoza
CLINIC’s (Catholice Legal Immigration Network) annual Convening has been a very important experience training event for those seeking to increase our knowledge of immigration law and advocacy. The event was held from May 24 to 26, 2017, in Atlanta. Besides the workshops with excellent presentations by CLINIC experts and pro bono immigration attorneys, we had the opportunity to gather with fellow advocates, church representatives and service providers and share information about our organizations, strategies, to enhance expertise, and prepare for the challenges ahead.
In our case, we arrived the first day, just to take part in the plenary session where panelists talked about immigration and strategies in the middle of a troubling political climate in which immigrant communities have been targeted. As the Head of Section of the Hispanic and Migration Affairs at the Embassy of Mexico stressed there is a negatively and hatred environment and the damage is already done when the immigrant is profiled and criminalized, mainly in the case of Mexicans compared to other nationals who overstay and are here in the US without legal status, like great amount of Brazilian. Another panelist quoted Steve Bannon when he said that the Catholic Church is protecting the immigrants because it is dying and needs their money. Other comments were related to: the need to empower those who don’t know their legal rights; the need to fight at local levels; that the resettlement organizations could play a more important role at present; and that immigration has become a fully and very politicized issue; and each panelist explained his frustrations and hopes regarding immigration.
During the rest of the days Laura and I attended different, very interesting and instructive workshops, such as DUIs, Marriage and Conditional Residence, Applying for Residency, Family-based Immigration, All About 245(i), Overview of Inadmissibility and Deportability Concepts, Selected Grounds of Inadmissibility, Removal Without Court and Bond and Detention. All topics not only were explained, but concrete cases were discussed to find possible solutions for clients (we will send you the PPT with all the workshops which could be of interest). In one of the presentations the raid in the meatpacking plant in Iowa was mentioned.
Regarding other aspects such as logistics and organizations, in general everything was okay, but some of the workshops were crowded because the rooms were not big enough for the number of participants taking part in those workshops. Sometimes the presenters had to rush to finish the presentation because there were lots of questions from participants regarding specific cases.
We learned that The Mexican Consulate does many things for the Mexicans such as consular protection, Alliance, Consular services and VAIM. The Mexican consulate not only help with passport, matriculas ( Mexican identification document), birth certificates and voting ID, but also presentation of Know your rights, human rights, powers of attorneys and wills, information to schools and local authorities, and addressing women's needs through health programs, legal assistance and education to provide the necessary tools to promote the independence and empowerment of the migrant population. They are in charge of ensuring the rights of Mexicans when they are outside the country.
We consider this kind of training is more important than ever, so organizations like JFON can continue its advocacy and help to our immigrant community.