Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
Kate is a 3L and a graduate of Oberlin College. This summer she is working at Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) in downtown Seattle. NWIRP promotes justice for low-income immigrants by pursuing and defending their legal status. Kate is part of the VAWA Unit, which provides free, comprehensive immigration services to immigrants who have been victims of certain serious crimes, including domestic violence. Because of her background in Spanish, Kate works primarily with Latino/a clients who do not speak much English. There are several types of applications that Kate pursues on behalf of clients at NWIRP but a common one is called a U Visa. A U Visa may be granted to an immigrant who is a victim of a serious crime and cooperates with police and prosecutors in the investigation. Successful applicants receive a 4 year work permit and, at the end of that term, may be eligible to apply for a green card. Part of the rationale behind the U Visa is to encourage immigrants who are crime victims to come forward. Apart from her work at NWIRP, Kate is actively involved with the Latino Bar Association's monthly legal clinics, doing intake for Spanish speaking clients looking for free legal advice.
July 3, 2012
Working at NWIRP has been an eye opening experience. I’ve met dozens of clients who’ve been detained at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma - some for months. Many of them started their road to Tacoma by opening a door or answering a question. Once you learn the havoc that detention wreaks on their family, their economic situation, and their futures, it becomes crucial to teach others how to avoid the same fate.
At a staff meeting today one of the attorneys told a story about ICE knocking on a potential client’s door. The agents waited for half an hour but the person never opened the door. The ICE agents left. Everyone in the staff meeting cheered! One of NWIRP’s goals is to educate immigrants about their rights. Just like the police, immigration enforcement officers need a warrant or certain circumstances to force entry into someone’s home. Far too many times, immigrants get the short end of things because they assume law enforcement in the US is the same as in their home country. They assume the door will be coming down regardless.
The services the VAWA unit offer often surprise clients. Most immigrants know that you can obtain legal status through family or through an employer but not many know that cooperating as a witness to a serious crime is another avenue. Today I turned to a client and told her that it looked like her sister was probably eligible as well. Both gave written statements to the police following a felony they witnessed. Her eyes widened and she said, "Can we call her right now?"
July 30, 2012
"Mom UNDOC, 1UNDOC kid, 3 USC kids, EWIed in 1989."
Immigration law has many abbreviations and acronyms. This string of letters tells a family’s story - the mother and her oldest child are undocumented. They entered the United States without inspection in 1989. The 3 younger siblings, born in the US, are US citizens. I see many files like this, where half the family is “American” and the other half, in the same household, has to struggle with the stigma and difficulties that come with being undocumented.
Many families in the community are divided by immigration status. Some members, the younger ones usually, were born in the US and are thus citizens. Their futures are wide open. On the other hand, parents and older siblings were probably born abroad. In my work with low income immigrants, I’ve seen that this divide can be very painful. For example, an 18 year old sister may have been brought into the US when she was 2 years old. Her 16 year old sister may have been born here. Their lives, while the same in all other ways, are on undeniably different paths due to their immigration status. The VAWA unit works to rectify these sad ironies and to keep families together.