This is a continuation of our series on the driver ‘English Proficiency & Cultural Differences’ can create poverty traps for many families featuring speakers:
Homero López (Legal Director, ISLA Immigration)
Marina Biragova (Executive Director, Southern University Law Center Technology & Entrepreneurship Center)
Enlight, Unite, & Ignite!
Pepper Roussel: We are in week two of our Hispanic heritage month honoring of those folks who are new to our community and spending some time talking about the challenges that are very specific to those immigrants who are non-Native English speakers. Today on deck we've got Homero Lopez and Marina Biragova, both of whom are attorneys who are going to be sharing with us some very specific information, not only about their own journeys, but as always, we are gonna hear the first five minutes of who they are, what they do, and how you can be involved. And as always, I am gonna step aside and allow you to show up in this space, however it is that you want to introduce yourselves, the now it is that you wanna be. We'll let ladies go first. Marina, your five minutes starts now.
Marina Biragova: I lead the technology and entrepreneurship clinic at Southern University Law Center. We are a pro bono organization, so we serve business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs and provide them with the legal legal help they might need. That would be intellectual property, business formation and structuring contract drafting, contract interpretation, whatever that might be. So we've been around for about four years and the clinic has been growing. We are looking to expand some of our initiatives because I believe we are the only free legal service provider in the state of Louisiana, at least to at least a comprehensive one. So it's definitely been a journey and we're looking to expand for them. Partner with many wonderful organizations in the community such as yourselves. I look forward to future collaborations. Outside of that, I am not an immigration attorney. I think it's pretty clear already. But I am an immigrant. And when I was looking to schedule this conversation I did mention that I do not necessarily have an expertise in immigration. , but I can weigh in as a as an immigrant and let you know more about my journey. I think the conversation was around 10 10 steps on how to become a citizen or how to get your whatever status that might be. And that's a very. Very simplified version of the process. That is absolutely not what it looks like. Every step might take several years in between. And it's an extraordinary complex process, and it comes from an actual lawyer. And while I do not practice in the field of immigration law, I can still understand certain processes and I can understand what's needed to be done, et cetera. But I truly sympathize with those who actually do not necessarily understand the legal side of this process. And it can be extraordinary complicated because every every immigra, whichever immigration status you're pursuing is extraordinary complex process. And there are so many moving pieces all the time. So if you do not necessarily have the legal expertise to help yourself more often than that, you would have to hire an attorney. And if you don't the likelihood of you succeeding in pursuing certain immigration status is probably not too high because again it's a very complex process. But this is shortly about me. I'll be more than happy to answer any questions or address any points. So thank you so much for having me.
Pepper Roussel: Thank you ever so much for being here. And that's really the heart of the conversation today is about documentation and status. I am the first person to admit that until I actually took a class in immigration law, I was really convinced that it was about finding that application, turning it in to the right agency. And then you take a test and you might pledge agents to the flag, but otherwise it's, easy peas, lemon squeezy and could not really understand. Why or how it was that there were so many people who could not well or did not not that they could not, that did not get a status that would allow them the same access to the to the things that the rest of us have, right? So whether it be financial assistance or food assistance or housing assistance, whatever it is, that they simply could not get to it. And now that I understand that it's a little bit more complex hearing from an actual immigrant who's gone. And even with a law degree knowing that it's harder than it looks hearing from an immigration attorney that's, see, that's a setup. See what I did there? We're gonna go next Homero and let him tell us who he is, what he does, and how you can be involved. And then we're gonna quickly segue into why is it so hard?
Homero Lopez: Good morning. Yeah. My name Isett Lopez. I am an immigration attorney. I work with a small organization named Isla. We are a nonprofit based in New Orleans, and we focus primarily on providing direct legal representation on a pro bono basis to people who are in detention in Louisiana. Most people aren't aware that Louisiana is the state with the second largest immigrant, detained immigrant population in the country. And we have, and all of these detention centers are in central, rural, isolated Louisiana, where that's far away from attorneys, far away from support systems so far away from being able to, properly fight your case and get representation and present your arguments. And so we try to bring as much attention to the to this issue as we can. There's in immigration court, you're not entitled to an attorney. You have the right to an attorney, but if you cannot wanna, you cannot afford one, one will not be provided for you. And when we're talking about people who are coming from, other countries, oftentimes not knowing the English language, not necessarily knowing the judicial process in the United States, and then they're incarcerated in rural, isolated areas far from their families and far from any kind of legal support. And the government is represented by an attorney. And the judge is oftentimes, the judge is oftentimes a former government attorney. It's the system is stacked, basically. And so you, it's a really difficult process for folks to go through and this isn't even getting to the people who already have status and can get in how to become citizens. This is folks who are trying to come to the country or people who have been here for a while and trying to stay in the country. . I used to work with Catholic Charities in Baton Rouge. I worked there for four years and then I started, I moved to New Orleans. I always lived in New Orleans the entire time, even when I worked in Baton Rouge. And then I moved to Catholic Charities, New Orleans where we started a children's program. And then there was no desire at Catholic Charities to do detention work. And there was a huge need cuz I don't know if y'all remember in 2016 there was this ni minor political blip that put immigration on the radar for a lot of people. And it also was part of the expansion in immigration detention in Louisiana. And so as a result it was one of those situations that like we had to do the work and we ended up creating Isla as a result in March of 2018 and it been here ever since.
Pepper Roussel: Excellent. All right, so now we can get to the meat of it. As I was saying at the beginning, we are talking this month from middle of September, middle of October. Thank you for Morgan for reminding me that the month does the month of Hispanic heritage month, the span through the centers, talking about these specific issues that our Latino brothers and sisters and community members may have be, may be experiencing. We started off with housing this week we're talking about documentation, mainly because those things are intertwined and I'm so glad that you mentioned that. There is an overlap to justice involved, right? There are clear correlations between court systems of those folks who are not being able to care for themselves and being kept out of systems that would allow them support with other Black and brown people. Can either one of you share a little bit about how it is that even though folks who are non-native speakers who are not, who are immigrants, who are not native to this country, can get representation if they can afford it, but how do they even find representation if they can't speak the language?
Marina Biragova: So there are a couple of things that I wanna mention, and then I will probably transfer the question to the profess to the actual specialist in the area. But a couple of things that you actually point out, and I want to highlight it because those two are such common misconceptions. There is a misconception that as an immigrant, you receive federal benefits. You do not. I pay taxes. And again, another misconception that immigrants do not pay taxes. I pay taxes just like every other person. But unlike any other person, I also, I am not entitled to any benefits. That's that's a bit of a common misconception. And of course what do you mention? I think in many ways It's a human it's a border aligned violation of human rights when you are not entitled to legal representation in a country where you do not, if you do not speak the language or if you are not even of age. And I think that's important to point out. Even if you are a minor, you are still not entitled to an attorney. And I can hardly mention our minors going out and representing themselves in immigration courts. So all of those issues are absolutely extraordinary to, in my view. But I'm not sure what the solution to to something like this is because it has to be something on the policy level. But outside of that, I think it, it comes down to some of the organizations we have that provide Pro Bon as. And provide help in those situations. What I didn't mention is I am affiliated with Southern University Law Center, and while we do specialize in I personally specialize in intellectual property, business, et cetera we also have the entire university behind us. So if you ever see a space for us to step in as a university and perhaps offer some of the services or look for our alumni who are willing to participate and provide pro bono help, et cetera, we are certainly interested in hearing hearing your thoughts. And I will yeah, and I think you will be able to answer that question maybe more more specifically to some of the legal challenges.
Homero Lopez: And yes people are not generally not entitled to, to benefit as immigrants. There's this huge rate. We see it right now with Abbott and Ducey and DeSantis arguing that all the benefits that are being taken from the states, and that's why they're flying them out to these sanctuary cities or sanctuary states or whatever, for lack of a better word that's bullshit. People the system is set up in a way where immigration is federal, so the states actually receive money from the federal government in order to detain and arrest people and the counties, and there's a federal, there's a bed minimum, which means when people are coming in, even if it's at a time when the place is at a lower amount of people than what the minimum is, which is like 60%. The detention center will be still be paid for at least 60%. So even if they're not at capacity, even if they're not detaining as many people, they're still getting paid that amount by the federal government. And I'll link a, I'll link a article in a little bit that the advocate did earlier this year about how much Louisiana ends up getting and how much the federal government wastes in paying Louisiana detention centers for this at minimum. Where even when these detention centers are not at that minimum amount, they're still getting paid that amount. And so the states and the counties parishes here in Louisiana are actually making money off of the federal government in order to do this for detaining folks. Now, back to your more original question, How do people find attorneys? This again goes to that same argument. People when they're crossing in Texas and California and Arizona and whatnot, they're not staying there necessarily. The real. Texas is not a huge metropolitan area with millions of people who have entered and stayed there. Immigrants come into the country and go to where their support systems are, right? They're not going to stay right where they cross at the border. Some will, because some either don't have anywhere to go or don't know people or flee or have, family that lives in that area. But generally they're going to other places. They're going to reunite with their family and the support systems across the country. And so that part in itself is a lie. But to get to your question, the, how they find people is through those support systems, right? So people come here, they reunite, they go live somewhere. They go live somewhere, those family members have been here for a while, or it's an, or, it's a, nonprofit who assists in the community and they direct them to an attorney, or they direct them to the services. Yeah it's support systems is how people end up fighting each other. And those same support systems are, for example, here in Louisiana, the thing that is stripped away from people because you put them in such remote isolated areas where it makes it impossible for them to really get that support. So yeah. I hope that answered the question. I think that was generally the question.
Pepper Roussel: Yes it does. So we've got a question over in the chat that really makes me think of something else. And the question is from a Alfredo Cruz about immigrants with temporary or permanent residency having access to some federally funded benefits. That's part one of the question in part two is that I just found out that Puerto Rico even though they are Commonwealth, don't have the same entitle. So they get block grants, which means that for things like the nutrition assistance program, so they don't have snap, which is a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, meaning that they would get just money based upon their income. In order to get food assistance. They have a block grant that's given to the Commonwealth. And then their income levels have to be much lower than what they would be here which means that it's easier to get out of the system meaning that you don't have to be super wealthy in order to, or even make a living in order to not qualify anymore. And the benefits themselves are much lower. So the first question is, do immigrants with temporary permanent residency have access to some federally funded benefits? And if that is how. If, this may be a question that you don't know the answer to. How is it that we can assist or what can we do in order to help folks who have those statuses to get more assistance?
Marina Biragova: I can give it a first try. again. I will give the floor to the specialist, but yes. I think the minor disclaimer that we both gave is generally immigrants are not entitled to to federally funded benefits. So the vast majority of us are not really looking to get any, We pay taxes. We are not really participating any federally funded programs or what's not. But outside of that, there are certain exceptions that would be I'm not that familiar with their permanent and temporary I'm not sure what exactly because all visas are. Temporary or permanent. So I know there are some exceptions to that. But outside of that, I know it's refugees that tend to have some access to some type of a support. But again, outside of that the vast majority of immigrants are actually not entitled to federally funded progress.
Homero Lopez: Yeah. It's mostly permanent residents, so people who have their green card and are legal, permanent residents are entitled to certain benefits, and in order to be entitled to those benefits, they have to meet all the same qualifications, be under the property guidelines, et cetera. In addition to that, they also. Have to have been at least permanent residents for at least five years. So you have to have five year residency because at the five year mark is when you could start your citizenship process. I guess that's how we calculate it, I assume, is the analysis behind it, in order to be eligible for things like SNAP or food stamps or Medicaid or anything along those lines. On a temporary basis people who have things like temporary protected status or are here on a student visa or on a tourist visa. On a work visa, no, they're, they don't get benefits for, they'll get things like emergency benefits. So like after IDA last year when there was the emergency food stamp program, everybody's eligible for that regardless of status. Otherwise, like on a general basis, if you're somebody who's here and you have tps, temporary protected status, you can't get snap, you can't get food stamps, you can't get any of those benefits. Now, if you have children, who are you with? Citizens? Those children are entitled to them. And they'll give you the, you'll get, obviously the parent will be the one receiving it technically. But it's goes to the child, right? It's, or it's for the child who is a US citizen. So that's an argument that oftentimes gets made is yeah, but you have these kids and you're still getting it under your name. It's yeah, but it's for the kids. They're US citizens. Do you want to get rid of the 14th amendment and strip people's of birthright citizenship? Which, Trump did want to do. And so there's how do we get that information out? More than anything, educating the agencies themselves. There's a lot of times that we have clients who go to get their social security card or go get any kind of documentation, and they're oftentimes turned away by the agency itself, who's in charge of doing this because they're unaware. They don't know that, Oh, this person has this status and because of this status, they can actually get this benefit. They're under the impression of immigrants don't receive anything. And so getting accurate information out to the community and getting information and educating the agencies themselves who are in charge of managing these programs I think is the most important. We ran into a lot of that here in, in New Orleans when we had the children when I worked at Catholic Charities, New Orleans, and we had the children's program, when the children would go to get their green card, to get their social security cards or any other kind of Benefit and they would be turned away being because the people themselves didn't know what the process was. Yeah.
Pepper Roussel: There are two things that Marina jogged in my memory is that there are student visas and there are work visas, so is it easier to get permanent residency if you come as a student. And how do you get a work visa? And I asked that question specifically because I've worked with folks in different systems where they've come, as students, they've stayed through college and gotten jobs. But we have also post disaster solicited folks to come from a south of our borders to rebuild our spaces and areas. And I'm trying to understand, are they qualifying for work visas?
Marina Biragova: So there, there are a couple of things and the main one, and it actually also goes into the previous point as well. Permanent visas are extra difficult to obtain because in addition to actually qualifying to get, let's say it's a work permit, that's the only one I'm addressing right now. I'm not quite familiar with other ones. But the permanent visa is where you compete with the with American with American employees. And you have to prove that you are not in a threat in any shape or form to true available American. Workforce. So that's a very heavy burden to prove. So in a time you are applying for a per you need to prove that there are no American employees who qualify for to provide this type of service or do this type of work at your disposal. And again, it's a very heavy burden to prove. Now, as far as the whole process starting from student visa going into H one B or whatever that might be it I've been through most of them. I think I've tried every visa there is and I'm I'm quite familiar with that process. It's very painful. But I've been. and I'm I don't think it necessarily makes it easier. It all comes down to your actual background. There are certain individuals with a particular background that will have that slightly preferential review. So anyone with a STEM background, primarily computer science medical field those tend to have a slightly more favorable review. And so when you mention something about disaster recovery or I think during the pandemic we also had some type of an expedited review for foreign doctors and nurses. So once in a while the government would have a special a special program where they will. Expedite the process for certain professions. This being said, the vast majority of professions actually do not fall into those categories. So those are typically stem related profession, science research medicine, et cetera. So those tend to have a slightly more favorable review. But outside of that, it's a very complex process. Whether you started here as a student or you are trying to move here as a established professional it's it's a very complex process either way.
Homero Lopez: Agreed. I do wanna make a quick distinction between visas and work permits. So visas, you get them typically abroad, right? You are abroad, and then you apply for a visa to come to the us. So either as a student, as a tourist, as a for work, et cetera or you, and for those visa. The tourist one is basically a wealth test. You have to show that you're coming here for a specific reason and you have enough funds, property connections, et cetera, that will bring you back to your home country. We've, our government views it as everyone's trying to come here and stay, and so you have to show that you're going to go back. And then all the other ones are just, as Marina said, really difficult to get. There's a very limited ev all of our immigration visa process works off of a quota, and so there's a limited amount per year that are assigned. And then of those, of that total amount that is assigned, there's a limited amount per country. And so in order to come to the United States whatever the total amount is, and then you have, each country only gets set up to 7% of that total amount of each individualized visa. And so you end up. creating these limitations, not only on how many people can come in per year, but how many people can come in from where per year. And in that process, you have these really difficult visas, which are, extraordinary abilities, having to show that that you're a student in this university and you've already been approved and you can pay for up to three semesters before you can even come in. And so all of these requirements that make it really difficult to get these visas to come in work permits are for somebody who's already here in the United States. And either you have a status that lets you get a work permit, something like a temporary protected status, DACA or some other status that lets you get that work permit through that status. Or you're applying for a status that lets you get a work permit. So if you're applying for a asylum, for example, after six, six months of your asylum application being pending, you can then get a, you can then apply for a work permit and you have to renew it every year because if your application gets united in that meantime, then they won't renew it for you. Something like, something along those lines. The other thing I wanna address really quick is something that's called adjustment of status versus consular processing. C processing is the typical immigration process that we're accustomed to, or that we typically think of, which is somebody lives abroad, the US citizen here, or the employer here applies for them. They get their visa abroad at the consular on the consulate, then they come to the United States. , and that's the more typical process. That has limits on it. There's also the adjustment of status, which is, goes to your question about whether someone who comes in as a student or as a tourist can get their green card easier than someone who came in with no status. The answer is yes. And the reason for that is we have, in 1996 under Ira, which was passed under Clinton, it created something that's called a bar. A bar to admission. So if you've been here without status for six months or more, and you leave the country, you establish a 10 year, you establish a three year bar, which means you can't come back for three years if you've been here for a year or more without status, and you leave the country, it establishes a 10 year bar. And in order to get your green card, you have you, and if you entered without status, you have to leave the country. So it created this limbo situation of people who were already here. Who are married to a US citizen and they can get their green card, they're US citizen. But in order to get that green card, they have to leave the country. If they leave the country though, they now establish this 10 year bar. And so it created this large chunk of people who decided to just stay, because I'm not gonna stay 10 years abroad while I'm trying to get here with my family. And if, however, you entered with some legal status, if you entered as a tourist, if you entered as a student, if you're entered on a work visa and you overstay that visa, you can get your green card here in the United States because you have a legal entry. And so there's this distinction between legal and illegal entry that lets you get your green card here or have to leave, which then subjects you to these additional bars. Okay. And I wanted to address a couple of things. First, what Attorney Lopez just just mentioned I think there is a huge misconception as to what the immigration process looks like.
Marina Biragova: Just in general. There are so many moving pieces. You work with several different agencies. Any work related visa or a per visa for that matter. That's what I, when I mentioned that you have, you will have to compete with American employees. And in that process you work with several different agencies. You work with the Department of Labor, and that department's job is to protect American employees. So they will conduct a study. They will look at some of the employees available in the area. You will have to advertise your position. You will have. Close everything there is to disclose about the position. It has to be in public domain for a certain period of time to solicit potential applicants. So it's a very, it's a very lengthy process. Then you have to work with the United States immigration services, and then assuming at some 0.3 years down the road you finish with that, you also have to work with with American emphasis and get that stamp, which is another edited layer of. But what you mentioned is so important because many do not understand how much is involved in, in, in that immigration process. And I hear a lot phrase, You have to leave the country and come back here illegally. And going back to what you mentioned there, quite often there was actually no legal way to come back once you violated, once they red flag you and you violated any sort of immigration procedure or whatever that might be. Quite likely you will be barred for a very long time, if ever you will be able to come back. And for those who have families here, this can be very disheartening process. I've seen it so many times. And again, I I've gone through many immigration challenges or on the way, but I am still I am still happy and grateful that I'm able to maintain my status legally all these years without any violation. So I cannot even imagine. Losing everything that you build in your family and had been under this potential threat of leaving and never being able to come back or in some cases even see your family. It, it is a very challenging process and there are some many misconceptions about leaving here and Common Beck legally doesn't work like this. Yeah, so a lot of misconceptions and there's definitely a lot of work need to be done on Spotlight and some of those issues and maybe looking at different ways, making it better for some of our some of our fellow residents here.
Homero Lopez: And just to add one last quick thing on the family side, there's even that is a limited group of who can come in, right? So you have what are called immediate relatives, which are parents, spouses, and children under the age of 21 and unmarried of US citizens. Those are unlimited. As many parents, spouses, and children under the age of 21 that are unmarried, that a US citizen has, can come in per year. There's no limit on that one. And then you have parents, and spouses and children of permanent residents. There's a limit on them. There's unmarried sons and daughters, which are unmarried children who are over the age of 21 of US citizens. There's unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents, married sons and daughters of us citizens and brothers and sisters of US citizens. That's it, right? My cousins, my aunts, my uncles, my grandparents, they can't come in through my process at least. And so there's this, and then because there's limits on these, it ends up creating. Incredibly delayed backlog system. For example, and I'm gonna put this in the chat as well, in a little bit if you are the brother of a, if you are the brother of a US citizen and you are from Mexico, they are currently processing cases that were filed in June of 2000, 22 years ago, is when they're processing. If you if you are petitioning for your brother, you're talking about 22 years of a wait period. And that's from Mexico, right? That's the most delayed one. Mexico, Philippines, China and India are the most delayed ones because they're the ones that have the largest populations of people petitioning for. But even if you're not from one of those countries, that's the furthest back. They're still processing cases from March of 2007 for par for brothers and sisters of US citizens. And so you've got this really delayed process and we've got a structure. And the answer which people always ask is what is the problem? We're working off of a structure of the 1950s. The meat, the bones of our immigration law is still mostly the 1950s. We've tinkered with it here and there. We've created mostly more penalties and added that into it, but it's basically a 1950s law that we are still basing off. And what do we do in the modern economy slash modern world that still reflects the 1950s? There's very few things that still reflect the 1950s when we talk about, what it looks like from an immigration perspective.
Pepper Roussel: So first and foremost, this is bananas, and my head is throbbing, trying to figure out the math on how do you actually make this work? And the second. We still have racism from the fifties. Don't discount that. Which exactly. So we've got a couple questions over here in the chat. Is there anyone that represents the interest of immigrants and the natural disaster process? Thinking about our family's friends and neighbors in Florida
Homero Lopez: We know of an organization and their local, and by local, I mean on the coast. They were there for Laura, they were here for Ida, they're gonna be in Florida. It's called Resilience Force. And they, more than anything, they're advocating for the workers. Local worker centers usually also do that advocacy work. In order to make sure that folks are more than anything getting paid and not getting screwed over, which we see on a regular basis where, you know, either the contractor just doesn't pay them and then, or the contractor calls immigration on them in order to not have to pay them. And so yeah, we, that's the only organization that I know of locally is called Resilience Force and then the New Orleans Worker Center. And then there's, different states and different areas have their own worker centers as well. But from a national level there is the Department of Labor, which has a section on it that's opposed to assist. Really doesn't really have much teeth to it, and so there's not much that they really end up doing.
Pepper Rousell: I'm really glad that you mentioned that there's wage theft, right? That folks come, they do a job, they wanna get paid, and employers don't want to pay them. And that's not just for contractors. They're famously or infamously. There are some restaurants here in town, or at least one restaurant grocery store here in town where the owners called ICE in order to maybe do their civic duty. Is probably the way that they are casting it, I say that they were being horrible to other people.
Marina Biragova: This is an excellent point and it's definitely some of their most brutal violations of employment laws that I've seen. They were actually on that immigration side and I guess it's important to understand that when immigrants get into get settled in their area and they heavily rely on their employer to move their case forward, there is so much space for violation of that employee's rights because they know they will never complain. There will never leave. There will they can be underpaid, they can be overwork, and they will never say word. And and I've been in those situations too, where I know that I am not in the right position. But I also do not want to speak up on this because and this was of course in the past when I was transitioning from being a student. I've been in those situation and situations and I've seen much worse. Of course I'm not, in no way I'm saying that I had I had that. But there are definitely there was definitely space for exploiting immigrants. Vulnerability and employment is definitely one of those. And Microsoft infamously, they had a huge case of centered around misclassification of employees as independent contractors. That's another example of how immigrants are typically affected in the workspace. And the vast majority of their independent contractors were of course immigrants. And it happens all the time. So sometimes employee employees do not necessarily wanna deal with certain issues. So the higher immigrants they're underpaid, they're overworked, and they have no all of it to complain because just like you mentioned Department of Labor is not going to bend over backwards, protect and immigrants you clearly do not really have an agency that would protect immigrants rights while they're undergo their while they're in this employment process. And that's clearly an issue because any potential employment related d dispute will lead to eventual immigration de dispute. And no one want this to happen. So it's a really situation. I'm not sure what it, what the solution to this might be, but that's the reality.
Pepper Roussel: This is a wild reality. Not to be dense, is there a pathway to actually getting the documentation that's needed that won't take the next 20 years? Me having to leave the country and then come back and hope and pray and do illegally. Is there a way?
Marina Biragova: I I will speak from my perspective again as a as an immigrant. I've done everything right. I came here, I had my doctorate, I received another law degree here. And I've gone through all the process. I was a model model immigrant , always working, always on time, everything filed correctly. And yet every filing filing season you have your anxiety, you have your panics panic attacks, and the process does not always go smoothly. So it's a it's a very complex process. And so I've been here, I wanna say, what, 12th years. And I am not a permanent resident. I am not a citizen. And I think mania really struggle to understand why with. With me graduating law school here and becoming an attorney here and being here so many years, I am not a citizen, but it is that complex with me being a lawyer myself. I also have an immigration lawyer and and yet I am not I'm not even a remotely close to the finish line or in that immigration process. So I think main struggle to understand how the degree of complexity of this process, so it's gonna take years if you want to go through that route if you wanna take that route, it's gonna take years regardless. And right now I'm addressing more or less employment process like those employment related visas, not necessarily marriage or or refugee, other type of immigration immigration related proceedings, but, . But as far as employee going through that employment niche it's a very complex process. There are no shortcuts. Again, been here 10 year, 12 years, and and we are still working on that. So it's a yeah, it's a long journey.
Homero Lopez: Yeah. Short answer is really, what is your status? If you have status, if you entered with status, then yes, you can get the documentation. Depending on the specific status, it might be a little bit more difficult because as I said earlier, some of the agencies themselves are not well educated or well trained on it. However, if you don't have status, then yeah, getting documentation's gonna be really difficult. And there are simple fixes to this that don't require major congressional legislation, right? Illinois, DC, Arizona, Mount Arizona, New Mexico, California, New York have all past laws to allow undocumented immigrants to get either IDs or even driver's licenses. And those, that documentation is state issued. It works for everything. It lets people travel. It lets people drive. It lets them get insurance. It lets you know, it lets them participate in society. And that's the state or the city. The state. DC being the city take responsibility and saying, Look, if the federal government's not gonna do it, we're still gonna address this issue to the extent that we can locally, because there's a need to address it locally, right? If we have an issue with uninsured folks who aren't an insured because they don't want to be, but are uninsured because they can't be insured, then that's not safety for the community as a whole, right? We want to create opportunities and ways in which that can be fixed. From an employment perspective, if somebody wants to get a license to open up an employment place, and they can't because they don't have the proper documentation, or they can't, to get the proper documentation, you're opening up on an avenue for exploitation. If someone says I'll do it for you, I'll create the, the business and whatnot, and then screw the person out of benefits or whatever, profits and everything else. And so there, there's a simple local fix that requires political will, obviously, but from the national level. Yeah, I'm not optimistic that there's gonna be any change on immigration anytime soon.
Pepper Roussel: Good to know. All right, we've got a question in the chat. Can anyone speak to the disparate treatment of immigrants and refugees of color versus European immigrants?
Homero Lopez: I think we can see Biden speeches and see it there, right when he is talking about letting in so many Ukrainians and at the same time continue to argue that Title 42 should be kept in place in order to keep out everybody else. Not that Ukrainians should not be let, obviously the thing is we have the ability and we have the capacity and the knowledge of how to let people in and properly process them. And we've done it before and we've done it in the past. choose not to. And that's, that, that's over time we've done this, we've, if we look at immigration laws, historically, the very first immigration law that was ever officially put on the, I guess technically the first one was the aid in this edition act. But the first one that governed who can come in is, was literally titled the Chinese Exclusion Act. It's built into the system. It's, it's built into the cake. And that's, and when I talk about the 1950s and the quotas and how these quotas came into place, and how we're limiting who comes in and who comes when we're talking about quotas that were implemented after basically European immigration had ended, when people talk about, My parents did it that right way, or My grandparents did it the right way, they showed up at Ellis Island. Literally that's what you had to do was show up at Ellis Island. It wasn't, you had to. Money or documentation or some kind of extraordinary skill. It was, you had to make it across the ocean and you were in. And that, there's this disconnect in people's minds or purposeful disconnect in people's minds about what that means and, who is what. There's from an intellectual, legal perspective, there's these cases called the insular cases that were, I think from the twenties or thirties where basically we said, or the Supreme Court said it. We're not gonna give citizenship to all these territories that we have as territories and that we continue to control and that can't do anything without us approval because their cultures are too different. And that's something that's being challenged right now. There's a case outta the Marshall Islands that's coming to the Supreme Court and unfortunately the Biden administration is arguing against overturning those laws or overturning those cases. They're arguing to keep it in place. Yeah. It's not a great look. But same thing that we see with Puerto Rico. We have people that US citizens by law, unlike people in the Marshall Islands and in other countries like Guam and whatnot, who are properties of the United States but are not US citizens and don't get the same benefits or right.
Marina Biragova: Yeah. And then also wanted to point out it's not only on the agency level where we have certain of federal programs that somehow more favorably target certain nations and less favor favorably others. But it's also the general mindset of the public. I remember when we had 14 families from Afghanistan re being relocated to Baton Rouge. There were protests by the capital. I remember that 14 families, there were protests. And I think at some point they were talking about welcoming families from Ukraine and all of the falls from Denim Springs were offering their homes and their their residences and whatever they have to house those families. So really, we have such a different mindset when it comes to different areas in the world. So I think that's really where the problem starts. And Louisiana is definitely a good example of how certain immigrants that definitely have a completely different treatment when it comes to to welcoming them into the community than others.
Pepper Roussel: Baton Rouge has two world class universities that are both employees and students from around the world. How do these policies impact recruitment?
Homero Lopez: I responded to it in the chat as well. I don't know if it was a private response accidentally. But basically , as Marina said earlier, there's a very limited availability of these positions and there's a very large competition process in order to get them. And people are trying to get here to go to these world class universities, so the supply isn't drying up, I don't think. I think even if I'm think of I'm abroad and I'm working as a university professor, and my only thing is, getting into, lsu, I'm gonna take it, I'm gonna apply, I'm gonna try it, right? Because it's, I'll eventually transfer maybe. But so it might affect retention, but I don't think it really necessarily affects recruit.
Marina Biragova: Yeah. And I completely agree. Now we, I do see the question. I completely agree. Those positions are extraordinary competitive and there are so many absolutely wonderful and overqualified individuals that are looking for those positions. So even though yes, we do have two major universities, it is still a very complex process. And even through the university, it is still a very complex process and a very competitive one. That trying to see if I missed any question, and I think I missed a lot, but I do see a question. No. Yeah. Will I please? And it's something that could become a problem. I already already anticipate this being a problem for me, , but yes. I do not think that I actually qualify for the real id as of right now, but something that we'll have to look into. But yeah, this can make traveling substantially more challenging, specifically for immigrants just because it's an added extra layer of limiting new ways to receive in functional identifi.
Homero Lopez: Yeah. And in addition, there's a specific section of the Real ID Act, which basically says when someone's applying for asylum, any limited, any discrepancy on credit on their story can be determined to be, can make them determined to be non non incredible, which then sinks your case if you're not credible. So they, this is what I mean by like we tinker around the edges around the law, but we haven't changed the bones or the structure of it since the fifties. And mostly what is added to it are these additional restrictions, right? In the nineties we added all these criminal additional restrictions to it and these bars. And so you keep on just adding more and more things. It's they're like, Oh, we're passing this bigs crime bill. Let's make it worse for immigrants. And you just throw that thing on there. And so they do that repeatedly as they pass random stuff.
Pepper Roussel: That's fun. If you haven't, please put your contact information in the chat so folks can get in touch with you. So for the call to action, we're gonna be circling back on that in just a second. It is just shy of nine 30. I wanna make sure that we do have time to thank you both of you for being here this morning and sharing all of this information. My noodle's a little on the baking side I'm not sure that I am ready to actually move in any direction to try to help do anything, but as soon as I cool off, I am running to help. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. If we have any questions that have not been answered, please put those in the chat. If there is anything that you wanna ask yourself, please go ahead and raise your hand. We can call on you and make sure that you have a chance to get your voice heard and a ah, fantastic Alfredo.
Homero Lopez: Hey, good morning. Not a question, but a comment. I just wanted to tie this conversation to what we talked about last week, that discussion I focused on housing because what's about to happen in Florida, it's terrible. Lots of immigrant families who have actually applied for legal status are gonna lose their cases because they're displaced. And immigration relies on their addresses to send them information. And if they cannot return to their mobile homes, to wherever they were renting, because it's no longer being rebuilt by the landlord. Or, they have to move back to their countries. All that money, all that investment and filing, all those fees is lost. And to restart that is a huge feat for them. And my heart just pours out to them because I know personally what that's like when you lose your case because you've moved, because immigration can't find you. And everything you worked for to file those papers is just down to drain. So my heart goes out to them, and I just wanted to connect the importa of stable, affordable housing for immigrant families because their cases for their future in this country relies on having a permanent address.
Pepper Roussel: Alfredo, this is a stupid question, I admit it, but if you lose the case, because immigration can't find you, are you starting over? Do you start over? Do you not?
Alfredo Cruz: It might be a better question for our attorney here, but in my experience you could file an appeal, but you have a limited amount of time in which to do and if you missed that period of time, then you do have to start over.
Marina Biragova: Yeah and definitely best question for Attorney Lopez here, but my experience is that you have to stay in communication with immigration services at all times. If you do anticipate any any changes in your residence, you have to notify the immigration right away. So maybe being proactive on that and notify the immigration when something happens. That would be the best way to approach doesn't always mean that it's gonna work, but one way you can approach is to go ahead and notify the immigration that you will be relocating or you anticipate any sort of changes in, you'll live in situation.
Homero Lopez: Yes. As to whether it starts all over, it depends on what type of case. If it happens to be a case that's an immigration court, then that's really problematic because it means that you missed a hearing date, which means you have an order deportation now against you. And so you either have to do a motion to reconsider or reopen or, an appeal on it. If it's with U S C I S, which is, you're applying for a benefit, then you need to, follow up with them, reach out to them, try to get things rescheduled or make sure that things are getting done. But the onus is on the immigrant to have to inform them and let them know and keep their addresses updated and in all of that information, because, you're the one that has the burden of being able to demonstrate that you are where you are, that you're eligible for what you're seeking. Yeah, I can create a huge huge problems. And something that I put in the chat also is dhs, the Department of Homeland Security has both FEMA and ICE within it. And so there's oftentimes problems that come up with natural disasters where FEMA will tap ice to come in for support. And how likely are immigrants coming to seek support or assistance from the agency that's trying to deport them makes it problem.
Pepper Roussel: I was gonna bring that up, but I was thinking I was missing something. So Good to know. I am paying attention. All right. One more call for the questions. Drop those in the chat. We're gonna segue in just a second to community announcements. Once more, thank y'all for being here, especially all of the folks who have joined recently and who are new to the space in One Rouge. I really appreciate the folks who've come, like Nicole who's got her own organization up in Minnesota, Land of the tall people, and Marcello, who's back from last week where we were talking about housing. Thank y'all. Thank y'all. Thank y'all. I do have as we move into, since there aren't any questions, we're gonna move into community announcements and I haven't ask. We are at One Rouge are talking about how it is that we might be able to get some documents, say instructions for folk translated into Spanish and understanding that it's not as simple, at least now I understand thanks to Marcella that it's not as simple as just translating the words that we may need to adjust the language to a level that is appropriate for the readers. That may not be where we start. If y'all know some folks who'd be willing to volunteer and help us out if one of the universities, maybe Southern, it was one of those universities, would have some students who might be able to help. We'd really appreciate it.
Marina Biragova: We will definitely explore this. I would also mention we do have again, our organization that I'm looking to partner the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and I know they have a few really wonderful folks who do offer translation services. I do not know if for certain cases that would offer pro bono service as well, but I think partnering with a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce could be a good idea on that. Specific on the specific part,
Pepper Roussel: Casey, since you are joining us on your day off, any last words?
Casey Phillips: Thank you so much, Marina. And I know Homero already jumped off, but I feel like the two weeks tied in really together and gave a really good and in depth understanding of some of the issues. And this is in just thanks for all the feature speakers and the community members that lifted the voice up. Thank you so much. I wouldn't miss it. Vacation is from the work and this is family, so I'm happy to, I'm happy to be here even though Dr. Bell wore the wrong color shirt again.
08:31:09 From Manny Patole to Everyone:
CHS is getting rain and wind but nothin "that" bad thus far (from the kids who are home from school because of Ian)
08:32:42 From Kim Mosby, Vera Institute of Justice to Everyone:
Happy Friday! Hope you're all doing well today!
08:33:35 From Caitlyn Scales to Everyone:
Good morning! I am listening today while in transit. Excited to be here.
08:33:42 From One Rouge to Everyone:
Good morning, OneRouge!
08:34:07 From Marcela Hernandez, LMSW to Everyone:
Good morning! Hoping everyone is doing well today!
08:34:51 From One Rouge to Everyone:
To become a grants administrator through BRAF: https://www.iphiview.com/braf/GrantsScholarships/Grants/BecomearegisteredGranteeorganization/tabid/254/Default.aspx
08:35:07 From Fran Harvey to Everyone:
Thank you, Casey!
08:35:16 From Casey Phillips to Everyone:
08:39:23 From One Rouge to Everyone:
@Fran, Everyone can see your message unless you change the audience to a particular person
08:45:01 From Manny Patole to Everyone:
Putting this out there (not related but is to the convo) - https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/choosing-the-right-word-hispanic-latino-and-latinx
08:46:43 From Kim Mosby, Vera Institute of Justice to Everyone:
08:47:53 From Homero López, Jr. to Everyone:
someone asked about the map for the detention centers, here's the best one nationally. It's a little out of date for Louisiana, some of those have been shut down, but generally still current
08:47:54 From Homero López, Jr. to Everyone:
08:48:23 From Rev Anderson to Everyone:
Thank you for the map.
08:48:53 From Alfredo Cruz to Everyone:
BUT mmigrants with temporary or permanent residency do have access to some federally funded benefits. no?
08:50:13 From Rev Anderson to Everyone:
Thank you for that clarification.
08:52:55 From Homero López, Jr. to Everyone:
08:57:07 From Helena Williams to Everyone:
Out of historical curiosity, what was the reason for Reagan's Amnesty in 1982, and then the The Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1985? Is it ever possible to see another amnesty program like that again?
08:57:12 From Marcela Hernandez, LMSW to Everyone:
There are a lot of misconceptions in regards to public assistance. Anti-immigrant laws and beliefs have made harder for families and children to obtain certain benefits. This is particularly true for people in Louisiana. It is a little different in other states that embrace immigrants and include them in the State resource budget. Also, there is a general fear to apply for any assistance among community members in need and their resilience and hard work allows them to survive without this assistance.
08:58:26 From Manny Patole to Everyone:
Proof of Extrodinary Abilities
08:59:09 From Manny Patole to Everyone:
08:59:29 From One Rouge to Everyone:
How do you prove that you aren’t a threat to American workers/taking American jobs and manage to get a job????
08:59:44 From Homero López, Jr. to Everyone:
In response to the question about Reagan's amnesty, see this video of a debate between Bush and Reagan at the Rep Primary Debate in 1980. They sound like they're left of most current major Dems
08:59:45 From Homero López, Jr. to Everyone:
09:00:25 From Marcela Hernandez, LMSW to Everyone:
Also, student visas required prof that you can pay an international fee at the school (which is extrodinary expensive), sponsorships, etc.
09:00:34 From Helena Williams to Everyone:
09:02:56 From Alfredo Cruz to Everyone:
Here's a resource on benefits immigrants with visas, work permits green cards can and cannot access:. https://immigrationforum.org/article/fact-sheet-immigrants-and-public-benefits/
09:02:58 From Helena Williams to Everyone:
My ex-husband (first generation American from Guatemala) had a family member who had to go through the tourist visa process to attend her sister's funeral and got approved 7-10 years after her burial.
09:03:24 From Alexis Jones - Habitat for Humanity to Everyone:
That's very unfortunate, Helena
09:03:34 From Alexis Jones - Habitat for Humanity to Everyone:
A terrible system
09:07:15 From Rev Anderson to Everyone:
Is there anyone that represents the interest of immigrants in the natural disaster process? Thinking about our families, friends and neighbors in Florida.
09:09:05 From Rev Anderson to Everyone:
Can anyone speak to the disparate treatment of immigrants and refugees of color versus European immigrants?
09:09:23 From Marcela Hernandez, LMSW to Everyone:
And it must remembered that in most situations we are talking about children and families seeking for safety, running from poverty or persecution.
09:11:43 From Kevin Guitterrez to Everyone:
09:13:18 From Homero López, Jr. to Everyone:
This is the visa bulletin, which tells you what date of visa applications they're processing
09:13:19 From Homero López, Jr. to Everyone:
09:13:45 From Rev Anderson to Everyone:
Baton Rouge has 2 world class universities that have both employees from around the world and students from around the world. How do these policies impact recruit?
09:13:46 From Aimee Moles to Everyone:
which one? Im boycotting
09:14:20 From Alexis Jones - Habitat for Humanity to Everyone:
Is it the same grocery store who showed up at the insurrection?
09:15:24 From Homero López, Jr. to Everyone:
Rev Anderson: Given the limited availability of those positions, there's not much harm in the recruiting side. As Marina said, there is incredible competition for these limited visas, so, it's not like the supply is drying up.
09:15:27 From Aimee Moles to Everyone:
I was wondering the same thing
09:16:00 From Homero López, Jr. to Everyone:
09:16:14 From Alfredo Cruz to Everyone:
Farmworkers Association of Florida is another org. that is working with immigrants in this disaster crisis.... https://floridafarmworkers.org/
09:16:19 From Homero López, Jr. to Everyone:
@islaimmigration is our handle on social media
09:16:43 From Marcela Hernandez, LMSW to Everyone:
There are a lot of working violations but very few information about workers rights. This is why education is so important and advocacy for more legal services that are not extraordinary expensive
09:21:38 From Rev Anderson to Everyone:
How does the Real ID impact folks in states that create identification locally?
09:25:23 From Homero López, Jr. to Everyone:
If we look at that visa bulletin, the super delayed countries are Mexico, Philippines, India, and China. Not European countries
09:28:03 From Alfredo Cruz to Everyone:
The European colonization of our countries established white supremacy and systems of oppression that still today are manifested in the discrimination and racial injustice Black and indigenous immigrants face from their own people and in their own countries. It's another layer of trauma with which immigrants who are either Black or indigenous carry...
09:28:04 From One Rouge to Everyone:
09:29:19 From Veronica Reyes- TruFund Financial to Everyone:
This was a great conversation and very insightful!
09:29:22 From Marina Biragova to Everyone:
Marina Biragova firstname.lastname@example.org
09:29:38 From Homero López, Jr. to Everyone:
Homero López, Jr.
09:29:43 From Homero López, Jr. to Everyone:
09:30:16 From Kim Mosby, Vera Institute of Justice to Everyone:
Thank you for the great conversation and all of the knowledge dropped today! Greatly appreciate your time and insights.
09:31:04 From Homero López, Jr. to Everyone:
DHS houses both FEMA and ICE
09:32:11 From iPhone Nicole to Everyone:
Thank you so much for the invitation Pepper! This was a great conversation!
09:32:33 From Casey Phillips to Everyone:
Thank you for joining us Nicole!
09:32:50 From One Rouge to Everyone:
Thank you for coming, @Nicole!