K. Alejandra Andrade EJF Report
The 2009 EJF Fellows
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Working for the Latin American Association
I was attracted by the LAA and the promise of being able to work on a regular basis with clients of the Hispanic community, and their immigration issues.
In Georgia for the last 10 years, there has been a tremendous growth in the Hispanic community, and with that number growth came an increased need for basic services. Not only is the Hispanic community in need of social, health and educational services, but legal services as well. With the immigration reforms, and new laws regarding aliens (both legal and illegal), it is difficult for the Hispanic community to get the help and information they need to merge into society. Because of my background I’ve always had a special interest in immigration law, therefore I found the opportunity at the LAA fascinating.
It is surprising that in Georgia the LAA is one of the only two non-profit organizations that deals with legal aid services to the Hispanic community, (although they only deal with immigration, and they also help others, not only Hispanics). This fact is alarming, since the Hispanic community has become such a large number in Georgia. LAA has such a large range of services targeted to help the community in many ways.
The work at the immigration department breaks down into two sections. There is a family based immigration section. Then there is the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) section. I was fortunate enough to work with Jonathan Eoloff, the head of the Legal Services, he has great passion for helping the community.
My first week I had the opportunity to work with a client who was applying for NACARA ( Law that allows people from Nicaragua, el Salvador, and Guatemala, who entered the US before December of 1989 and applied for asylum, to become Permanent Residents), she was a very interesting person. I am happy to write, that just last week that first case I was handed was closed, and the client got her Residency Card. During the process of filing her application with USCIS and preparing her for her interview, to which I was the translator, I got to know her and her family. She told me about her life experiences, when she fled from El Salvador, the hardships she went through and how she hadn’t seen her mother in over 20 years, because if she left the country she wouldn’t be able to come back, and she had already established a life in Georgia. I also got to experience a little with the VAWA department, translating affidavits, letters, and sometimes interviewing potential clients. It was challenging at times to “keep it together” since some of the stories of what these women experienced, were really sad and traumatic. But it was always a great feeling to find out they were getting their children back, or they were doing well with reconstructing their lives. So whether I was helping in immigration or VAWA, the interaction with the clients was generally the best part of my day, and made me wake up every morning eager to go to work.
I am so thankful to EJF for giving me the opportunity of working in something that I’m so passionate about, helping my community.