The focus is on legality.
For all the public angst and political rhetoric expended about immigrants who are not documented, much is missed. Namely, the hard work being done for the millions of immigrants to become lawfully present, or who have yet to apply for U.S. citizenship.
The Kansas City area is stellar in this regard.
A solid example will occur Saturday. Legal Aid of Western Missouri will help permanent legal residents take the further step to become U.S. citizens. The goal is getting them naturalized and then registered to vote before deadlines pass for November’s general election.
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It’s crucial right now to get voters who understand our immigration processes ready to exercise their views by ballot.
That’s why the citizenship work is among the efforts of the Administrative Relief Collaborative, formed in April through funding by the Hispanic Development Fund. It’s made up of Legal Aid, the social services agency El Centro and the Kansas/Missouri Dream Alliance, which has worked diligently to help children gain lawful status and a college education.
The citizenship push is one of the collaborative’s first efforts to mark itself as a trusted source of legal help and information.
Two three-hour sessions will be held at the Tony Aguirre Community Center in Kansas City starting at 9 a.m. Ronald Nguyen, supervising attorney of the Immigration Law Project at Legal Aid, consulted with Kansas City’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office to ensure that if people had their applications in by July, they should be able to get approved in time to register for voting in the general election.
More than 10 immigration attorneys will be available free to assist people with the necessary documents. But people should first call 816-474-9868 for prescreening.
Legal permanent resident means exactly what the wording indicates. This is an immigrant who has the status of lawfully being in the U.S. for a lifetime. The term green card holder is sometimes used. But it is not full citizenship; that’s a further step that also gives the person the ability to vote.
The acerbic tirades on illegal immigrants by GOP presidential contender Donald Trump are mentioned by many people in their desire to become full citizens. They all feel branded by his broad-brushing and twisting of the issue.
Immigration is considered among the most complicated aspects of the federal government, usually right behind tax law. So it’s understandable, but still offensive, the things that people believe when goaded by politicians.
Outside of El Centro’s offices in Kansas City, Kan., a man regularly walks by screaming slurs about immigrants. President and CEO Irene Caudillo’s calm reply is civic engagement, tied to the agency’s advocacy work.
An example is a session on immigration’s complexities, offered last week for teachers in the Olathe school district. One teacher was in tears. She gained a better understanding of why some of her young students were so fearful that they’d return home and find their parents gone, deported.
One common assumption is that undocumented people simply didn’t want to go through the process available, that they refused to pay fees or were otherwise unwilling to be square with the law. Not true for many. There was no line for them, no process that they qualified for to gain legal entry. When a legal route is made available, many jump to react.
An example is Homeland Security’s 2014 Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA. Four million people could qualify, and many eagerly lined up to pay fees, prove they have clean criminal records, get fingerprinted and photographed and jump through a variety of other hoops.
DAPA is a hold on being deported. But the program is being challenged by a U.S. Supreme Court case. Texas and 25 other Republican-governed states filed the suit, arguing this is overreach by the White House.
Republican and Democratic administrations have long made priorities on who is deported and who isn’t, usually focusing on criminals. The legal question is, did this order go too far with such prosecutorial discretion, creating new law? Arguments were heard in April. A decision is expected in June.
The new collaborative is preparing for the fallout of whatever decision is rendered. If the executive order holds, there will be a rush of people to apply. Scam artists will try to get a cut of the business, possibly jeopardizing applications by mishandling paperwork better left to immigration attorneys.
Many think the court will tie 4-4, which means no opinion, throwing the issue back to a lower court’s injunction. Either way, advocates locally will continue to try and educate both the foreign-born and the broader public about the nuances of immigration, and encourage U.S. citizenship and voting.