Creating a More Inclusive Rural Nebraska
Over the last five years, the phone lines at the Nebraska Immigration Legal Assistance Hotline, or NILAH, have been ringing off the hook. Created in response to overlapping services offered by several local agencies, NILAH connects individuals of low income to nonprofit agencies that can meet their immigration legal assistance needs. The Immigrant Legal Center, or ILC, is an affiliate of the Justice For Our Neighbors network (formerly Justice For Our Neighbors-Nebraska). It has worked alongside Catholic Charities, Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska, Multicultural Coalition of Grand Island, Centro Hispano of Columbus, Center for Immigration Legal Assistance, Nebraska Appleseed, Legal Aid of Nebraska and the Women’s Center for Advancement to support and grow NILAH. Now that NILAH is running smoothly, ILC has turned its attention to encouraging immigrant integration state-wide by using another unique service delivery model called the Rural Community Inclusion Partnership, or RCIP.
ILC joined and has been a leader in Nebraska’s Rural Community Inclusion Partnership in an effort to employ a “holistic” approach to growing immigrant integration efforts. This collaboration is made up of six nonprofit agencies: Center for Rural Affairs, Centro Hispano of Columbus, Heartland Workers Center, Nebraska Appleseed and the Multicultural Coalition of Grand Island.
RCIP helps rural counties welcome diversity by creating an environment where everyone has a voice and the same access to equal opportunities. RCIP agencies collaborate with rural community members to determine local needs and service gaps, and to address root causes of local challenges impeding integration. This collaboration also provides the chance to learn from one another while strengthening networks, building relationships with formal and informal leaders, and organizing with existing grassroots organizations from within the community.
In the past, RCIP has assisted the immigrant community in navigating or accessing local community services such as parking tickets, housing, food resources, safety plans and “Know Your Rights” presentations. The partnership has also worked with the receiving community to dispel common misconceptions often present in conversations about immigration. Building on those efforts, this collaboration also provides support to other nonprofits, including citizenship preparation, recruiting and training current and new immigration legal representation, advocacy efforts and civic engagement. RCIP has worked together with local leaders to advocate against 287(g) agreements with rural law enforcement agencies. These agreements would allow local police officers to complete immigration law enforcement protocols after finishing a specialized training with Immigration and Custom Enforcement officers. Additionally, the partnership has been working in rural counties where there are few immigration attorneys and the immigrant community is more vulnerable to scams. RCIP approaches non-immigration attorneys and assist them in bringing immigration legal services to their firms.
“We are stronger together than we are separately,” says legal director Charles Shane Ellison.
CLINIC applauds Immigrant Legal Center and their collaborations to build a community of inclusiveness of immigrants and those underrepresented in their communities. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell us how your community is promoting integration!