CLINIC values the dedication and commitment to service demonstrated by our affiliate agencies in their work with their communities. We wish to highlight outstanding individual agency staff in a series of profiles appearing monthly in Catholic Legal Immigration News.
CLINIC Affiliate Staff Highlight: Julissa Pineda, “Help for today, Hope for Tomorrow”
Julissa Pineda is the Senior Case Manager and a BIA Accredited Representative at Catholic Charities Diocese of Stockton. Recommended for her work ethic and recognized as a trusted resource to the community, Julissa is truly an outstanding member of the Catholic Charities Diocese of Stockton, Immigration Legal Services team. Her dedication has strengthened the immigration program’s regional influence and impacted the lives of countless vulnerable newcomers. CLINIC is proud to highlight Julissa Pineda as a member of our network committed to living the mission of providing “help for today” and “hope for tomorrow.”
How many years have you spent working in immigration?
I have been working for Catholic Charities Diocese of Stockton for eight years. I am partially accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals and started as a case manager for the Immigration Legal Service Program in October 2006. I remember very well that I was hired when the program had received a grant for Citizenship and Naturalization. My mentors were two nuns who were the founders of the program and, by working with them my commitment to helping others was reinforced. Our office is located in Stockton, California, a city in the central valley where the majority of our population is field workers and Mexican citizens. We are one of two community-based organizations in the area recognized to practice immigration law. During my years at Catholic Charities, I have assisted many people in filing for family immigration petitions and applications for adjustment of status to permanent residence, consular processing, inadmissibility waivers, DACA applications, nonimmigrant visa renewals, removal of conditions, family unity, citizenship and naturalization.
Why do you do this work?
When I applied for the case manager position at Catholic Charities in Stockton, I knew I wanted to do immigration work. I had a legal background from my country and I wanted to continue working in a job that had a social and personal impact on people. I also was going through the process of immigrating to the United States through my husband’s employer who had filed a researcher employment petition for him. I understood how lengthy the process was. By the time I applied for naturalization, I already had experience in immigration. For this reason, my naturalization oath ceremony was even more meaningful to me. At the moment I took the oath, the memories of the clients that I had assisted to become U.S. citizens flooded my mind and made me feel very proud of the challenging but rewarding work I do.
What do you love about your job?
What I love most about my job is that I am able to help people change their lives by assisting them to become lawful permanent residents of the United States and later, American citizens. It is a very gratifying experience to help someone obtain lawful permanent status and see how this person does not have to hide in the shadows and is able to live and work in the United States. I like helping others and have always believed that “service” is a very powerful word. Serving others is part of who I am. Catholic Charities’ motto, “Help for today, hope for tomorrow”, represents what I do for my clients every day. I like knowing that through the service I provide, I am helping a person to have a better tomorrow. I also feel very satisfied when I see families reunited after a long separation and after facing financial, physical, and emotional hardship.
Tell us about a case that has stuck with you over the years?
I have many cases that have stuck with me over the years, especially those I have assisted with inadmissibility waivers. One case that stays with me is of a Mexican citizen who had to go through consular processing and, consequently, needed to apply for an unlawful presence waiver. He had been living, undocumented, in the U.S. more than one year and had the ten-year bar. He had tried to enter previously but was turned away at the border. He never used fake documents. His wife petitioned for him and he needed to go back to Mexico to attend his consular interview.
At the consular interview, the officers wanted more evidence that he had lived in Mexico after he was turned away. He was married to a U.S.-born citizen and had five children and the little one suffered from severe Chronic Broncho-Pulmonary Dysplasia and was very ill. When my client called to tell me that he was forced to wait extra time to present the waiver, I was very concerned for his U.S. citizen spouse. She was alone in the United States and was the only one providing income for the family.
I remember calling my client in Mexico City many times to ensure we were gathering the necessary evidence. At the same time, I continued working with his wife here in the United States. It was so hard for me to see the faces of his wife and the five children that would accompany her to bring documents for the case. I put myself in her situation and as a mother, it was difficult to imagine facing what she was going through.
Finally, my client was able to submit the waiver, that was approved, and the family was reunited. That was a good day.
How do you engage CLINIC?
I engage CLINIC through personal trainings and webinars. I also take advantage of the technical support service for legal guidance on some cases.
As a case manager, doing immigration work, you encounter a lot of difficult situations. Not only do you have to foresee the best possible outcome for the client but, you must try to find a solution. The real life situations of our clients are not always straightforward cases due to financial limitations, lack of knowledge of the law, or inappropriate previous legal counsel.
Having the legal assistance of CLINIC is the best resource I can have. Even though I have been working for eight years in this field, I continue to have cases where I need the legal opinion of the attorneys at CLINIC. In addition, practicing immigration law demands you be updated with the recent legal changes, policies, and court decisions. CLINIC is always my right hand and the first resource I go to.