CLINIC is proud to be a part of an eleven-agency collaboration that is building capacity while preparing for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) in California. This 11-agency group is called Ready California (RC). We are particularly inspired by the steps taken on behalf of participating organizations to take strong immigration programs and make them ready. Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Monterey (CCDM) is one such program that has gone above and beyond to enhance the region’s ability to serve a larger number of clients with greater efficiency.
CLINIC approached CCDM with a package of substantive legal and program management training and on-site assistance with Board of Immigration Appeals recognition and accreditation (BIA R&A) . The package included CLINIC’s innovative 37.5 hour Comprehensive Overview of Immigration Law E-learning course and consultations concerning immigration program start-up. CLINIC provided assistance with BIA R&A to ensure that the agency and staff could appropriately practice immigration law.
Seeing an opportunity to build on the momentum developed in a seven diocese Northern California CIR planning group, Executive Director of CCDM, Terrie Iacino, embraced the training package offered by CLINIC and took capacity building efforts to new levels of organizational integration. Bishop Richard Garcia, former CLINIC Board Chair, encouraged Terrie’s initiative immediately and offered support in strengthening the infrastructure to welcome newcomers.
With resources and a network in place, Terrie integrated immigration know-how throughout the agency. Terrie registered twelve staff in four offices (separated by over one hundred and sixty miles!) for CLINIC’s Comprehensive Overview of Immigration Law E-learning course. Currently, CCDM is in the process of adding three new offices to the one that is already recognized. Although only one staff member is BIA accredited, this number will grow to 12 very soon. What CCDM is doing is revolutionary in that they will have the highest ratio of accredited staff to all staff of any Catholic Charities.
Once more staff have received accreditation by the BIA, three will provide immigration legal assistance and others will use their accreditation as a tool to augment their daily work with immigrant clients. For example, Family Strengthening Specialists and Family Therapists will be able to do outreach and conduct screenings. They will have the skills to make accurate and timely referrals to the immigration program so that CCDM clients have wrap-around services that accommodate the person’s total needs in one agency. Once CIR passes, CCDM will be well staffed to deal with the sharp increase of applicants.
This plan is profoundly about immigrant integration. Thanks to Terrie’s vision and Bishop Rich’s support, CCDM has made immigration law, screening, and appropriate referrals common knowledge across all programs. In preparing for an overhaul of the immigration system, CCDM is now able to more fully meet the needs of vulnerable immigrants while taking key steps to better integrate clients in the long term.
*Jack Holmgren is California Legalization Director at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC)