Our affiliate highlight this month is Kellie Draper of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Grand Island, Nebraska. Recommended by Program Director Rev. Jonathan Sorensen, Kellie brings commitment, passion, and years of experience to her role as a Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) Fully Accredited Representative.
Kellie began her career of doing immigration work while working with Nebraska Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition. She received her BIA accreditation in 2006, and spent her time submitting hundreds of VAWA and U visa cases while working with all the local domestic violence and sexual assault programs throughout the state. In 2012, the office she was working with lost funding and was forced to close the immigration department. It was during that time that she began her work with St. Mary’s Immigration Program.
Kellie provides a wide range of expertise to St. Mary’s Immigration Program. Her knowledge of immigration law covers topics not limited to but including VAWA and U visas and she uses her talents to assist those who are most in need.
Why do you do this work?
As an advocate for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, I know there is a tremendous need for immigration assistance for victims as well as quality immigration assistance for low income families. My office is located in south central Nebraska and there are very few non-profit organizations offering immigration assistance in this part of the state.
What do you love about your job?
I meet so many people from different countries, different backgrounds, and different experiences. The work can be very challenging and very rewarding at times. I really enjoy that balance.
Tell us about a client’s case that has stuck with you over the years.
There have been many, many cases over the years that have stuck with me. I will never forget some of the horrific and tragic stories that victims have shared with me. Thankfully, with VAWA, survivors of these crimes can experience a new kind of independence and a life free of violence.
I had an experience with a family based application that was both very tragic and very rewarding that I will remember forever.
I first met this particular client when he came to my office one afternoon. He had just learned that his 17 year old son had been killed by gang members in Guatemala. He was terrified for his other son, who was 15 years old and was now being threatened by the same gang in Guatemala. His son was in hiding and being moved from place to place every few days to keep him safe. He was desperate to get him out of Guatemala.
My client, a US citizen, told me he had gone to a local notario to petition for his sons several months before. He had been waiting months for some progress on his case and finally discovered that the notario he had paid months earlier to file his I-130 petitions, tragically, had not submitted any applications for his son..
I was able to file an I-130 for his younger son and, with help from the immigration liaison from a Nebraska Senator’s office, was able to expedite the I-130 with USCIS and the Department of State. He arrived safely in the United States about six weeks after the initial application was filed. It was a very anxious time for his family and I felt such relief for them once his son arrived in the US. The family stayed in touch and last May, I was invited to attend my client’s son’s high school graduation ceremony and reception.
How do you engage CLINIC?
I attend as many CLINIC trainings as I can. CLINIC is excellent at providing the latest information and I utilize the Attorney of the Day on a regular basis. They respond quickly to my emails and always give me excellent guidance and advice.
Kellie Draper is BIA Accredited Representative with St. Mary’s Immigration Program in Grand Island, NE.