By Jeff Chenoweth
Across the country CLINIC and its 260-plus affiliates strive to welcome newcomers who seek to reunite with long-separated family members, work for fair wages with dignity, and find legal protections in the United States from persecution in their countries of origin. Helping our country, state, or local community to be welcoming to immigrants isn’t always easy, but it is the right thing to do. Indiana is a case in point.
Indiana’s population of 6.5 million people comprises a modest, but rising, number of immigrants: 4.8 percent in 2013, up from 1.7 percent in 1990 and 3.1 percent in 2000. Thirty-five percent of Indiana’s foreign-born population includes naturalized U.S. citizens eligible to vote. Latino and Asian populations are growing. Indiana hosts the largest number of Burmese people in the United States, most having arrived as refugees. Recent studies show the positive impact of immigration on Indiana’s economy.
Even so, Indiana, like some other states, finds it difficult to establish immigrant-friendly policies. Currently, Indiana does not offer in-state tuition to undocumented youth who have grown up in Indiana and graduated high school. The state does not offer driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. Indiana is one of the states suing the Obama Administration over President Obama’s executive action on immigration announced in November 2014.
Against this backdrop of demographic changes and political debates are a growing number of charitable nonprofits carrying out their mission to serve immigrants. CLINIC has played an important role in supporting those who welcome immigrants in Indiana.
CLINIC’s network has eight affiliates in Indiana, up from one ten years ago. CLINIC’s first affiliate was Catholic Charities of Fort Wayne-South Bend due to its increasing refugee resettlement program serving Burmese, Iraqis, and people of other nationalities. Since that time, seven more nonprofits have started providing immigration legal services and joined CLINIC. These include: La Casa in Goshen; Hispanic Connections of Southern Indiana in New Albany; Catholic Charities Diocese of Evansville; Lafayette Urban Ministries; La Casa de Amistad, Inc. in South Bend; Sisters of Saint Benedict Immigration Outreach in Ferdinand; and Catholic Charities of Indianapolis. Together, these immigration programs have 19 staff providing immigration legal services. At this time, CLINIC is consulting with Catholic entities in Gary to consider how to expand immigration legal services there. Thus, all corners and the center of the state have a CLINIC affiliate to serve immigrants.
CLINIC’s recent efforts helping Lafayette Urban Ministries (LUM) clearly illustrates how this need is being met. As written on its website: “Lafayette Urban Ministry is the Church in service to others. More than 40 congregations from 20 different faith traditions work together to bring compassion and justice to Lafayette’s needy children and families.”
Their story begins in 2012 when then-Senator Richard Lugar lost the Republican Senate primary. Susan Brouillette found herself out of a job after working for the senator for 20 years as a constituent case worker. In that position, Susan helped many immigrants with their immigration legal matters. LUM quickly hired Susan to conduct policy advocacy to benefit the poor and to start an immigration legal program. Susan reached out to CLINIC. She began attending CLINIC immigration law trainings to eventually seek authorization to practice as a non-attorney under Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) accredited representative status. CLINIC gave Susan a “road map” on how to start and sustain a program. Susan and her colleagues dedicated many hours to training, organizational planning for policies and procedures, and developing case management forms used to serve immigrant clients. In June 2014, LUM gained authorization to practice and opened their office for services. It is the first and only charitable immigration legal program within a 60-mile radius.
Susan Brouillette says, “CLINIC guided us through the process of obtaining our accreditation and recognition from the Board of Immigration Appeals. With CLINIC's help, we were able to get BIA approval on our first attempt, which in turn allowed us to meet our internal deadline for opening our clinic. In addition, CLINIC has provided us with guidance on best practices to help us build a sound program and develop increased capacity. CLINIC has also kept us informed and updated on legislative actions, policies, and immigration regulations. CLINIC has been an invaluable partner in serving the immigrant community in North Central Indiana. We are grateful to be a member of CLINIC and would be directionless without it.”
CLINIC is excited by the rapid increase in affiliates in Indiana and the growth of services delivered to low-income immigrants across the state.