Latino USA

Posts Tagged ‘Immigration’

Damien Cave: On The Way North

Interstate 35 cuts right through the nation’s heartland. New York Times reporter Damien Cave travelled the length of the highway to find out how immigration is affecting the interior states of the U.S.

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Cave, Damien .jpg Damien Cave became a correspondent for The New York Times’ Mexico City bureau in January 2011. He is based in Mexico City where he covers Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. Previously, Mr. Cave had been chief of The Times’ Miami bureau since March 2008.  Before that, Mr. Cave served as a correspondent for The Times’ Baghdad bureau from July 2006 to December 2007. Since joining The Times in 2004, Mr. Cave has covered a wide range of topics, including military recruiting, New York City government and New Jersey politics. Before coming to The Times, he was a staff writer and editor at Rolling Stone and Salon.com. A graduate of Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism and Boston College, Mr. Cave grew up in Worcester, Mass.

 

 

Photo by Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Notarios: Immigration Help That Hurts

Immigration paperwork can be really confusing – endless pages of forms, lawyer fees, and legalese.

Undocumented immigrants with limited English – and in many cases low education levels – face tougher obstacles when navigating the immigration system.

There are a lot of people out there trying to take advantage of all the confusion – and make a quick buck in the process. They are often known as notarios.

Angela Fernandez works toward helping the public solve immigration issues. She’s the director of the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, a nonprofit in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. Fernandez said the process can be long and daunting for new immigrants applying for citizenship.

For every organization like hers that offers free, quality help, said Fernandez, there are many more that prey on immigrants.

“We know that well over fifty percent of individuals that come through here have had some sort of interaction with an individual who has promised them legal status but they weren’t able to help them with it,” says Fernandez.

Immigration fraud has many faces. There are the dramatic stories of big-time scams – immigrants cheated out of tens of thousands of dollars. But more commonly, it takes the much more banal form of work done poorly by people who aren’t licensed.

“If you make a mistake on your taxes – the worst that can happen is you have to pay a fine. When you make a mistake in any kind of immigration application, you can be torn from your family and your community,” Fernandez says.

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Notarios advertise their services all along Roosevelt Avenue in Queens, New York (Photo: Sarah Rocha)

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

All over immigrant enclaves such as this one there are signs, banners and flyers offering help with immigration. They often advertise as a “notario público” – Spanish for “notary public.”

Valeria Treves runs a non-profit in Queens called New Immigrant Community Empowerment, or NICE for short. She said that in Latin America a notario público is actually a very high end attorney.

“Many Latin American immigrants actually confuse notary public for  notarios publicos, and there are notarios out there that take advantage of that confusion and misrepresent themselves as lawyers,” Treves says.

By law, notarios cannot provide legal advice. A study from NICE titled “Dreams and Schemers” found that over 20 percent of the notarios in Queens advertised legal services. It also found that these businesses are required to post signs that state “not an attorney.” Treves says that business aren’t displaying those signs.

There are a few things notarios are allowed to do. For example, they can procure documents for immigrants, set up appointments, and they are allowed to help fill out immigration form with answers given by the clients. “But it’s a very fine line between filling out a form and giving people advice,” says Treves.

A VISIT FOR THE NOTARIO

We visited one notario in Washington Heights named Jay Mercado. He runs a business called “New Age Multi Services.”

Mercado said it’s true that a lot of notarios are scammers – they overcharge for simple services, or promise they can get work authorization for people who are not eligible for it. But he said he’s one of the good guys, doing honest work, and that in most cases, the forms are easy to fill out correctly.

“Like everything—once you learn the procedure, it’s like changing your car oil – you learn the steps and it’s boom boom boom,” Mercado says.

But sometimes, it’s more like “boom, boom… oops we messed up your papers.”

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Immigrants receive legal help at a Queens non-profit called New Immigrant Community Empowerment (Photo: Sarah Rocha)

“THEY TOOK ADVANTAGE OF HIM”

Recently, Juan Ramirez’ father – a long time legal permanent resident – decided to apply for citizenship. A social worker referred his father to a storefront church in Upper Manhattan that runs an immigration service on the side.

“They took advantage of him,” Ramirez says. “They filled out his applications poorly and they charged him $125 for it. A lot of questions were left blank, a lot of questions were answered incorrectly.”

Most gravely – Juan’s father had some legal problems years ago that the preparer who submitted his application didn’t include. It put his application in jeopardy.

“There are no guarantees and my father got a guarantee… and it could have ended badly. My father could be deported, he could be in removal, my father could have gotten his citizenship – it doesn’t matter. They got their $125 and that’s the bottom line for them,” Ramirez said.

When Juan Ramirez tried to follow-up on his father’s case, his questions were avoided and phone calls went un-returned.

Ramirez’ father should have been referred to a lawyer. Despite the evasive behavior, the church may not have done anything against the law. It was legal for the church to fill out his father’s forms, so long as they didn’t give any guidance.

“And that’s part of the problem,” says Valeria Treves of NICE. She thinks unlicensed people shouldn’t be able to do this delicate work. But as long as they can, they will.

“We live in a capitalist society and people will extract a dollar anyway they can, and this is identified as something people really want, they really want papers, so you’ll find providers to provide that. Some that are legitimate, and some that are not legitimate,” says Treves.

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Notarios in New York City often are located in close proximity with actual law offices, heightening the confusion for immigrants looking for professional legal help. (Photo: Sarah Rocha)

“A HOLE IN THE SYSTEM”

Immigrant advocates are split on the issue. Some want to train the notarios to do better; others want to shut them down completely.

Last week, the New York State assembly passed a bill creating new regulations for notarios – forcing them to provide clear contracts and offer no-questions-asked refunds, for example. The bill also establishes “notario fraud” as a crime. Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign it into law soon.

But Angela Fernandez from the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights said the problem goes deeper than anything the courts can solve. She said it’s systemic.

“There are very few resources that can guide people through regularizing their status. So, because we don’t have those resources it’s very easy for these storefronts to pop up,”  says Fernandez.

She said funding from the city for organizations like hers has gone down over the years. Most immigrants simply can’t afford to go to a lawyer, and there’s just not enough free help to go around. So, the notarios fill the vacuum.

Despite these challenges, immigrants do their best to figure out how to navigate the immigration maze. Back at the waiting room at Fernandez’ Washington Heights offices, about a dozen people wait to speak with trained paralegals. Gustavo, who declined to give his last name because of his status, says his grandmother warned him about notarios after she was scammed twice.

 “Take it slow, talk to different people,” Gustavo said. “And don’t rush into anything.”

Cover photo by Marlon Bishop

Additional reporting and production assistance by Sarah Rocha

Are Latinos Saving Nebraska’s Economy?

Dan Mulhall owns a plant nursery and landscaping firm. He employs about 200 seasonal employees, who usually work for nine months a year. Mulhall says he’s tried to comply with immigration law, applying for temporary work visas for his workers. But the visas run out quickly and it’s hard to find all the workers he needs among Nebraska’s residents. So two years ago, an immigration audit found more than forty of his workers were not authorized to work in the US and he had to fire them. The workers went to work for a local competitor.

“I won’t begrudge the guys or gals for doing that,” says Mulhall. “I’m glad they didn’t have to leave. It’s just the system doesn’t make sense to us, it doesn’t work.”

Nebraska’s Latino population has increased rapidly in the past two decades. There are not near 200,000 Latinos, roughly more than ten percent the total state population. Most of the growth comes from native-born Latinos, but also from immigration from other US states.

“Nebraska is a state that desperately loses population,” says Lourdes Gouveia, a sociologist at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. “If it was not for immigration it would’ve lost population the last two censuses.”

Like other studies on immigration economics in the United States, several studies from the University of Nebraska show that Latino immigration has had a positive impact on the state’s economy. “The data is incontrovertible: immigrants contribute two and a half billion plus a year to production to the state,” says Goveia. “They generate nearly 20,000 jobs and they pay taxes a little above of what they receive in benefits.” The studies, however, do not distinguish between documented and undocumented immigrants.

A big example of the Latino immigrants’ impact on the economy is the state’s meatpacking industry. During the 1970s, the sector’s unions were busted. The wages plummeted, the benefits and pensions disappeared and the jobs stopped being attractive to locals. So in the 1980s, industry leaders revamped the sector, moving factories to the countryside into towns like Fremont and Lexington in Nebraska. To find the new workforce, they turned to Latino immigrants in California, Texas, and soon they even moved south of the border.

The industry’s new reality is that the cattlemen and meatpacking factory owners would struggle to fill the jobs without the new Latino workforce. 

Opponents of immigration turn to the Federation for American Immigration Reform – FAIR – for numbers against immigration. FAIR believes this incoming undocumented immigrant workforce is actually hurting the state’s economy, and that it’s the cause of declining wages and the quality of jobs. Their studies say that business owners pocket the profits while American taxpayers are left to pick up the check for healthcare and school for the incoming undocumented Latino immigrants.  

“What we are doing is creating a subsidized labor pool for a lot of industries,” says Ira Mehlman, FAIR spokesperson. “These are not mom and pop shops. And it’s another form of subsidy.”

FAIR advocates for a return to high-paying jobs in sectors of the economy. And they want reforms and law enforcement that will make undocumented workers leave on their own. “If you make it clear to people that even if you can get into the United States illegally, you’re not going to get a job because the government is out there policing the labor force, the jobs are going to dry up,” says Mehlman.

The University of Nebraska’s studies find that the foreign-born workforce in the state put more money in through income, gas and sales taxes than they take in social services. It’s also unlikely that wages will hike in the near future, attracting more of the native-born workforce. But what is certain is that the new immigrant workforce has become vital to many of Nebraska’s key industries.

Even as Nebraska’s Latino population grows, the state will remain predominantly white, even in 2060 when Latinos become 25 percent of the population. Lourdes Goveia says that the new Latino workforce is the new reality of the state, and that the immigrants have become an easy target for political electioneering from outside the state.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images 

Hunger Strike At Immigration Detention Center

Living conditions at the Northwest Detention Center in Washington state are alarmingly bad. Detainees eat rotten food and can go through long stretches of solitary confinement, with little to no communication with the outside world. The center is run like, or maybe even worse than, a prison.

Recently over 1,000 of the detainees, mostly Latino undocumented immigrants, have organized the only way they could — with a hunger strike to protest the living conditions. Reporter Ryan Katz goes inside the detention center to find out how and why these detainees have risked their health and their lives to be heard.

 

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KatzRyan Katz is a writer and radio journalist based in Portland, Oregon. His work has centered on topics ranging from trends in political advertisements to post-9/11 Islamophobia. He currently works at Pagatim FM.

 

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of reporter. 

 

 

“Deportation Orphans” In Oregon

This story is a heart-rending depiction of what a family goes through when a mother is deported. We meet kids not unlike most any kids you’d meet, with one exception: their mother lives hundreds of miles away. It’s forced them to grow up faster, and left them in the care of their grandmother, who is undocumented. There are enough children living like this now that there’s a term for them: deportation orphans.

 

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A Mother Of “Deportation Orphans”

We hear the story of Liliana Ramos, a deportee living in Tijuana, Mexico. Her children live hundreds of miles away in Oregon. She’s as involved as she can be, calling to remind them to wear scarves and hats when it’s cold out. But she’s had to start over in a strange town and join a community of mothers who can’t sleep at night for worrying about their children. She moved to Mexico 2 years ago after her deportation.

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JordanaGustafsonJordana Gustafson is a freelance reporter based in Oregon. She began her radio career at WBUR in Boston and has reported and produced for numerous outlets, including NPR, Marketplace and This American Life. Jordana graduated from Connecticut College. She was a member of the WUNC-Chapel Hill team that won the 2006 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Broadcast News Award for the series Understanding Poverty. In 2010, she and her colleagues were awarded the Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for their documentary series, The Arab World’s Demographic Dilemma. Jordana is a 2013 immigration reporting fellow with the Institute for Justice and Journalism. She speaks fluent Spanish, and she recently rode her bike from Slovenia to Spain. She was born and raised in Ojai, California.

#1418 – A Latino History Of The U.S.

Before you head out for a Cinco de Mayo margarita, take a trip around the country with host Maria Hinojosa to learn about Latino history. Hear about the patriotic celebrations of Laredo, Texas andthe first colony in the US—it’s not where you think it is. Also: could Zorro be the first American superhero? A high school class in East LA learns about the Chicano movement. And just where did the term “Hispanic” come from?

Feature photo courtesy of Mimictrash

What Is “Reasonable Distance”?

The border patrol is best known for working in the Southwest. But regulations authorize them to operate within a “reasonable distance” of 100 miles of any border–creating a zone the ACLU claims is a  “Constitution Free Zone.” We hear from people who experience border patrol checkpoints and complain of harassment and racial profiling. And on the flip side, we hear from a border patrol agent about the difficulties of balancing enforcement with community policing.

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Check out additional information about Constitution Free Zones here.

Feature Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

 

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ACValdezA.C. Valdez is Latino USA’s Senior Producer. A.C. Valdez comes to Latino USA by way of public radio shows like America Abroad, The Diane Rehm Show, WAMU-FM’s The Kojo Nnamdi Show, and Tell Me More. He’s worked with reporters from around the world, coordinated performances with groups like The Noisettes, and done in-depth work on the U.S. military’s counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan. A native of Washington, D.C., A.C. Is a graduate of Emerson College.

 

 

 

Dream Nine: Lulú In Detention

Maria Hinojosa went to the University of Illinois in Chicago for a long, deep conversation with Lulú Martínez. She is one of the Dream Nine, the group of undocumented activists voluntarily detained after re-entering the US from Mexico in 2013. The young Chicana activist talks about her two weeks in a detention center, her activism and the meaning of citizenship.  Watch the extended interview, where Lulú talks about the intersections of her queer and undocumented identities, her struggle to create a civil rights movement that doesn’t exclude anyone and her activist work in Chicago.

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Lulú Martínez is an undocumented queer Chicana from Mexico City and a student at UIC in the Gender and Women’s Studies Department at the University of IL at Chicago. She is also a member of the Fearless Undocumented Alliance (FUA). She immigrated to the U.S. with her parents and brother at the age of three. She helped co-found the Immigrant Youth Justice League (IYJL), a Chicago-based undocumented youth-led organization. She is currently organizing the third Bring Them Home campaign in which 150 families will turn themselves into Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and ask for re-entry into the U.S. to be reunited with their families.

 

Photo of the Dream Nine (from left to right): Luis Leon Lopez (Marion, North Carolina), Maria Inés Peniche (Boston, Massachusetts), Adriana Diaz (Phoenix, Arizona), Lulú Martínez (Chicago, Illinois), Ceferino Santiago (Lexington, Kentucky), Marco Saavedra (New York, New York), Lizbeth Mateo (Los Angeles, California), Claudia Amaro (Wichita, Kansas); courtesy of photographer Steve Pavey on Flickr

 

Jorge Narvaez: Youtube Star Turned Immigration Activist

One in four Latinos say they personally know someone who has been detained or deported by the federal government in the past year. For Jorge Narvaez, that someone is his mom, who is currently being detained in Arizona. Jorge became Youtube famous when he uploaded a video of him and his 6 year old daughter, Alexa, singing “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes.”

 

 

Since then, they’ve been on the Ellen Degeneres Show, America’s Got Talent and have starred in a Hyundai commercial.

 

 

Jorge is using his social media platform to bring attention to his mom’s case, and to talk about the hundreds of thousands of mothers being held in immigration detention, most who have committed minor crimes or no crimes at all.

 

Photo courtesy of Jorge Narvaez

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