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Network Profile (December 2013)

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.       

Sandra Sanchez

Case Manager, BIA

American Friends Service Committee, Des Moines, IA

 

How many years have you spent working in immigration?

I have spent 18 years working in immigration.

 

Why do you do this work?

While I was applying for my Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status through my husband, my mother, who was in Mexico, became very ill. I applied for advanced parole and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) required written proof that it was an emergency. My sister sent a telegram, but I never received it, and getting a letter from the hospital where my mother was receiving care would have taken months.

In any event, I called my congressional representatives to advocate for me, to no avail.

A few weeks later, my mother died. I had not seen her after leaving Mexico, two years earlier.

I am doing this work because I promised myself that I would do everything I could to prevent another person from experiencing the terrible pain, sadness, frustration, and powerlessness I experienced. Needless to say, over the years things have gotten worse for immigrants and not better!

 

What do you love about your job?

I love that, thanks to my work, many families have reunited or have had less traumatic experiences relocating if they end up being deported/removed (I developed a resource called “Repatriation Guide”). Even for those who have no legal remedy, the fact that someone gives them answers in a clear, respectful, and non-judgmental way makes me feel like I can honor their human dignity and help them better understand their situation. Also, I have responded to numerous workplace raids and defeated various law enforcement tactics tried first in the Midwest. I have been in the middle of history in the making!

 

Tell me about a client’s case that has stuck with you over the years?

One such memorable case involved a victim of domestic abuse who was a teacher in Mexico. I identified her case while I was working for the Des Moines School District. A colleague and friend of mine reached out to the woman in various ways. The woman was completely isolated.  Eventually the husband found out and threatened to kill my colleague and me if we continued reaching out to her.  That very day, the husband had set their house on fire, so we took his threats seriously. After the fire, the family moved somewhere else and we, unfortunately, lost track of them.

For years we didn’t know if the woman was dead or alive. Later on, we learned that she was alive but had started drinking heavily to cope. As her sons grew up and started acting like their father, the woman finally realized that she had to do something. The woman used the information we had given her years before to get to a shelter and petition for herself based on domestic abuse. She and her older daughter eventually received legal status and my friend and I got a big respite knowing that she and her daughter had survived!

The woman’s words continue to encourage me: “Your words and support never left me, they gave me hope but I just needed to gather the courage to take the final step: conquering my fears to leave him.  Knowing that he could kill me if I left him was not easy but I finally did it!” Now she has quit drinking, is working, and her daughter is a mother of two and in a healthy relationship.

 

How do you engage CLINIC?

Before webinars and email lists were available, my colleague and I took several trainings from your staff. I am especially grateful to Susan Schreiber. As technology advanced, we joinedyour email list and became CLINIC affiliates to have access to CLINIC’s full array of resources.  We absolutely love webinar trainings because there are not many resources as far as learning immigration law in Iowa and our small program cannot afford to travel. I am very glad that I have CLINIC as a reliable resource on immigration law and that we can get timely and accurate information!

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