Despite Arizona immigration law, we can support immigration services

Despite Arizona immigration law, we can support immigration services

Monday's Supreme Ruling about Arizona's controversial law SB1070 does not make the immigration debate any clearer.  While the 5-3 ruling maintains the federal government's oversight of immigration policies and enforcement and knocked out three other controversial parts, the decision still gives Arizona law-enforcement officials the power to ask for a person's "papers."

In CNN's words, "the court let stand one of the most controversial parts of the bill -- a provision that lets police check a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws if 'reasonable suspicion' exists that the person is in the United States illegally."

What's unclear, however, is "reasonable suspicion."  There will be reasonable stops of people who run a red light.  But unreasonable stops happen already and more will continue.  How do I know?  It happened to me in Chicago.

When I was about twenty years old, my buddy and I drove down 63rd Street to get some tacos.  Near a gas station, a cop car slammed its brakes.  The driver jumped out and drew her gun.  "Get out!" she yelled.  We did.  We put our hands up, put them on the car, and let the cops frisk us.  We didn't get an explanation.  We didn't run a red light or speed down the street.  We were two young Latinos in a car on our way to get tacos.

I hear about situations all the time from good students who get harassed by cops.  My advice: "Just shut up.  Do what they say."  That's what I did at twenty.

Even though the "show me your papers" doesn't exist is Chicago, myths about immigration, legal and illegal, exist.  Many experts promise legal assistance, paperwork processing, or answers to questions, but the quality can be unreliable and the cost ridiculous.  This week, we can support immigration services and education and arts programs that dispel these myths and create a greater consciousness.

Since 1998, Latinos Progresando has effectively addressed the need for high-quality, accessible legal immigration services.  Nearly 20,000 immigrants and their families found a path to reunification and a lawful immigration status because of this nonprofit organization's dedicated staff.

This Wednesday, June 27, from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., Latinos Progresando (LP)  celebrates its success and Tomorrow's Heroes Today at Moe's Cantina on Kinzie.

Here's What Latinos Progresando Does:

  • Assists undocumented immigrants with applications for lawful permanent residency and petitions to immigrate family members
  • Aids victims of domestic violence through the Violence Against Women Act with their applications for citizenship
  • Represents clients in front of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services because LP is one of the only organizations on the South Side accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals
  • Holds community education programs at schools, women’s shelters, and other nonprofit organizations on immigrant rights, status legalization procedures, the Violence Against Women Act, updates on immigration law
  • Dispells myths of the immigration process

Here's What They Don't Do:

Anything illegal.

All of the services provided by Latinos Progresando are legal, affordable, and abide by U.S. immigration policies.

Here's How I Know They're Good:

Aside from volunteering at their anniversary events a few years ago, I know the need for and benefit of LP's services.  A good friend of mine is an undocumented immigrant in Chicago.  For over twenty years, my friend worked hard, raised a small family, bought a home, paid taxes, and contributed to the arts.  Now, my friend's oldest child, who is a natural-born citizen, is of legal age to submit a petition so my friend's immigration status can change from undocumented to legal resident.  Latinos Progresando is assisting my friend.

Critics will raise hell along with American flags in protest.  But nothing illegal is happening.  My friend is a responsible resident and contributor to this nation.  My friend is following U.S. policy to live here legally.  Latinos Progresando is helping my friend and thousands of others understand their legal opportunities.

Here's What Else They Do:

In 2003, LP launched Teatro Americano to address the dearth of quality arts programming on the Southwest Side.

This youth theater group performs and produces plays about Latino life. The program introduces under-served youth to the arts and creates opportunities for self-expression and personal advancement.  Many of the plays are performed at Chicago public schools.

In 2005, LP's College-Bound Youth Group started providing students and their parents with information about getting into and succeeding in college, accessing financial aid, and finding professional advancement resources.  Through their workshops, youth advocated for the passage of the DREAM Act on their own behalf, even securing a meeting in the office of Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, the bill’s co-author.

The group's efforts contributed to the movement that led President Obama to begin immigration reform by stopping the deportation of undocumented young people and granting them work permits if they meet this criteria:

  1. Came to the United States under the age of sixteen
  2. Have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years and are present in the United States now
  3. Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States
  4. Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety
  5. Are not above the age of thirty

As a teacher, I know many students who will benefit from and deserve this opportunity.  As a supporter of Latinos Progesando, I'm proud to promote an organization that educates young people to take on reasonable positions of power so they can change their lives, and others', positively.

Here's How You Can Help:

1. Become a supporter: Attend the Latinos Progresando Tomorrow's Heroes Today event on Wednesday

2. Become a hero: Make a tax-deductible contribution through LP's 100 Heroes Campaign and support their immigration services or arts and education programs

3. Become more informed: Like LP's Facebook page to stay accurately informed about their services and success

To buy tickets, make a donation, or stay informed, visit http://latinospro.org/ .

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