Left to Right: Martin Gauto, CLINIC, My-Hanh Luu, Elsa Ornelas, Sandra Molina, Oras Mohammed, and Simona Botezatu of Catholic Charities San Bernardino & Riverside Counties in California meeting on October 21, 2013 to discuss preparing for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR).
As lawmakers discuss comprehensive immigration reform (CIR), we recognize that this is not only an exciting time for the nation’s 11.8 million undocumented immigrants, but that it is a transformative time for non-profits preparing to serve the needs of those seeking legal status and, eventually, citizenship.
For example, in preparation for possible federal comprehensive immigration reform, Catholic Charities of San Bernardino/Riverside is supporting the local immigrant community by offering group naturalization clinics in their office and sponsoring a robust diocese-wide program of citizenship classes. Entirely taught by volunteer talent from local parishes, trainings are offered one day a week for five weeks and ten to fifteen courses may be offered at any given time. By providing high quality, efficient services, Catholic Charities of San Bernardino/Riverside and other charitable legal immigration service providers establish critical systems to process a high volume of cases, keeping in mind that the influx of cases expected to be processed with the passage of CIR will be unprecedented.
Another way this CLINIC affiliate, in particular, is pushing capacity that will accommodate the demand of CIR is to process applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). As with naturalization, Catholic Charities of San Bernardino/Riverside uses a clinic-based group processing model. This office, among other CLINIC affiliates, has established its program as a source of accurate information, lending more authority to their public education messages sure to come with legalization and taking steps to prevent immigrants in need of direct services from seeking assistance from unscrupulous notarios. With all hands on deck, a California State University graduate student has prepared an analysis and plan for Catholic Charities CIR implementation based on lessons learned from the Immigration Control and Reform Act (IRCA) and best practices from other Catholic Charities in California, as well. With a CIR Planning Grant from CLINIC, Catholic Charities of San Bernardino/Riverside is now better poised to strengthen their plan of support for legalization.
Whether through a CIR Planning Grant or by facilitating opportunities for collaboration, CLINIC is rising to the challenge to support the outstanding work of our network. We are mindful that this is a historic moment. In hopes of the passage of CIR, the CLINIC network is coming together to assist in increasing the program capacity of charitable immigration agencies and pray that the opportunity for our undocumented neighbors to reunite with their families and more greatly contribute to their communities, free from fear and persecution, is at hand.
*Jack Holmgren is the California Legalization Director for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC)