For over 45 years the Immigrants’ Assistance Center (IAC) has been at the forefront of providing a broad range of services to assist the immigrant community integrate and often attain citizenship status. The communities that IAC serves are primarily Portuguese, Cape Verdean and Spanish, although the client base is incredibly diverse.
Services offered include but are not limited to the following:
- Assist immigrant families to advocate for their children’s education
- Assist families in navigating the complex healthcare system
- Assist elders and families in accessing critical social services
- Teach English as a second language
- Guidance and support to attaining citizenship
MESSAGE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
People tell me it is not easy to know what to do these days to be a positive force amid all the rancor and division in our country. But here on the ground in a city made by immigrants, waves and waves of them, that is surrounded by neighboring towns dependent on New Bedford for employment, culture and more, may I suggest one small way – not for you to take a political position, but to take a compassionate one. Support the Immigrants’ Assistance Center team’s now Herculean efforts to assist those who come seeking answers to their questions. There is nothing political in supporting a cause that helps people, who, not unlike many of us, came to SouthCoast from somewhere else. It is just being good neighbors. Please enjoy this first IAC Newsletter.
Helena DaSilva Hughes
Since January 2017, President Trump’s Executive Orders regarding all un-documented immigrants have caused extreme fear and insecurity in the immigrant population, resulting in increased demand for IAC’s services.
New services now include KNOW YOUR RIGHTS workshops to provide immigrants with the tools needed to protect their families from deportation. These workshops are held at a number of different locations and directed to students, their parents and immigrant adults. Bi-monthly sessions are held at IAC’s office on Saturdays from 10AM – noon; in several New Bedford public school classrooms for students during the day – New Bedford High, Keith, Roosevelt, and Normandin Middle schools, and evening sessions at the High school for parents.These workshops are in collaboration with Attorney General Maura Healy’s office.
The IAC now has a staff member at New Bedford High School working with at-risk immigrant and unaccompanied youth. This staff person provides language support, immigration information and when necessary, referrals to immigration attorneys.
U.S. CITIZEN APPLICATIONS
Additionally the IAC continues to see a dramatic increase in immigrants seeking information about the criteria for U.S. Citizenship. The IAC helps these clients fill out Naturalization applications daily, at a rate of more than three times than in the past. Approximately 500 Naturalizations applications were completed and submitted to United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) between July 2016 and May 2017, compared to approximately 150 applications per year in past years.
HUMAN SERVICE OUTREACH
The IAC is providing immigration information sessions to local human service providers and has just signed an agreement with South Coast Hospitals in order to educate these providers about basic immigration information and how best to provide services to their immigrant clients without jeopardizing their immigration status.
ACRONYMS – what?
ESOL-English for Speakers of Other Language
DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also know as the Dreamer program
MIRA – Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy
CORI- Criminal Offender Record Information
INS – Immigration Naturalization Services
Can you answer these government questions? Every individual going through the pathway to citizenship classes must answer 100 history and government questions.
1. What is the supreme law of the land? – the constitution
2. How many amendments does the Constitution have? – 27
3. Why do some states have more Representatives than other states? based on state population numbers
4. Who makes federal laws? Congress
5. How many justices are on the Supreme Court? – 9
AUGUST 10th FUNDRAISER
The Immigrants’ Assistance Center will hold their annual August fundraiser this year on August 10th at the Madeiran Heritage Museum located at 27 Hope Street, New Bedford. Tickets are $40 per person. The IAC relies on its fundraising efforts to provide services to the immigrant community in this time of uncertainty for the immigrant community. The proceeds will help fortify the IAC’s modest budget as it confronts a dauntingly big task. Don’t miss out. Be sure to get your tickets.
NATURALIZATION OATH CEREMONY
The IAC will be hosting a Naturalization Oath Ceremony on Friday July 21, 2017at their office at 58 Crapo Street, New Bedford. This is one of the most moving events where immigrants who are legal permanent residents become new U.S. Citizens. The IAC hosts two of these ceremonies per year. Please call the office if you plan to attend (508-996-8113). Space is limited.
A CASE STUDY
An undocumented client whose daughter died in a car accident, now has custody of her 3-year old grandson who is also undocumented. The little boy was in the car when his mother died and is suffering from terrible nightmares. His grandmother, who is a non-English speaker came to the IAC seeking services for her traumatized grandson. The IAC is working closely with the grandmother to provide the necessary services, and referrals for both the grandmother and her grandson. The grandmother is ready to move back to her Native Country with the grandson, but a pending court case regarding the death of her daughter is delaying their departure. The heartbreak and human and legal complexity of this situation represents just one example of the challenges the IAC faces daily.
SCAMS AGAINST IMMIGRANTS
The consequences of heightened deportation rhetoric has seen an increase in immigration scams. Undocumented immigrants desperate to legalize their status become easy targets and fall prey to con-artist attorneys making false promises for large sums of money. Immigrants are also receiving phone calls that appear to come from the Canadian Government’s Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) that say the individual is under federal investigation and demanding payment. Many again are afraid and believe that this is legitimate help.
The IAC held a wonderfully successful Spring fundraising event at the New Bedford Whaling Museum on March 31, 2017. Tony Sapienza, recently retired CEO & President of Joseph Abboud Manufacturing, was recognized for his Outstanding Contribution and Support to the immigrants Community.
A very hearty thanks to the following sponsors for the evening: United HealthCare, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Tufts Health, Walgreens, Fallon Health, Bank Five, BayCoast Bank, Victory Human Services and Dignity Funeral Homes, and SouthCoast Health.
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Thanks go out to all the individuals who attended or purchased tickets, A total of $30,000 was raised. These are critical funds to help meet the urgent needs of the IAC today, as the demand for their services grows daily and their very limited current budget remains inadequate.
And special thanks to all our dedicated and hardworking volunteers, and Robert Hughes for generously donating the above photographs of the IAC’s March Event.