12 Days of Giving: The Bay Area Immigration Institute Supports Legal Needs Of Immigrants To Napa | Local news
Immigrants are closely linked to the culture, economy and community of Napa.
Immigrants make up about 73% of Napa’s agricultural workforce and much of the county’s manufacturing, construction and hospitality industries, according to a 2012 report on the Napa immigrant population from the Migration Policy Institute. .
But many Napa immigrants who may become U.S. citizens have yet to be naturalized. The 2012 report found that only 30% of immigrants to Napa were naturalized citizens at that time, compared to 37% statewide and 36% in the United States.
U.S. citizens can vote and run for public office, can travel on a U.S. passport, have a reduced risk of deportation, and can obtain citizenship for children born abroad, along with a host of associated benefits. .
“There are things associated with citizenship like higher rates of homeownership; higher wages; children of US citizens achieving higher levels of education; and more civic engagement, ”said Madeline Hernandez, North Bay Regional Director of the Bay Area Immigration Institute.
People also read …
The Napa branch of IIBA was founded in June 2013 to help close the citizenship gap. And, over the past eight years, the Napa IIBA has helped 1,771 immigrants to Napa become US citizens.
The organization has also grown to provide other immigration-related services to thousands more. This includes awareness raising, education, support for the renewal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), family reunification, humanitarian services and defenses against deportation.
Various Napa branch success stories – listed on the IIBA website – include helping residents like Yoseline Chavez and Marielle Coeytaux-Britton become citizens.
The IIBA also helped Napa resident Jose complete an application for renewal of the DACA – which allows immigrants who were brought illegally to the United States as children to work in the country and defer l deportation action – every two years so he can stay in the US and become a dentist.
And the IIBA successfully fought a deportation case in 2017 for longtime resident Jorge, who also later became a citizen with the help of the IIBA.
The Napa IIBA branch was launched in direct response to the 2012 Population Report, which was commissioned by the Napa Valley Community Foundation. The foundation believed the county would be better able to understand and respond to immigration challenges with a set of local facts and data, according to the report.
The final report, “A Profile of Immigrants to Napa County,” found that 23% of Napa County residents were foreign-born. This included roughly 12,000 green card holders – immigrants licensed to live and work in the United States permanently.
The report also found that immigrants make up 33% of Napa’s workforce and account for up to $ 1 billion of the region’s gross domestic product.
“The people we serve are the people who make Napa’s economy work,” Hernandez said.
Among several recommendations, the report urged the county to increase the availability of citizenship programs so that eligible residents can participate more fully in the civic and economic life of the Napa community.
So the Napa Valley Community Foundation sought to find a legal organization that would partner with several local organizations, including On the Move, UpValley Family Centers, and the Puertas Abiertas Community Resource Center, to help local immigrants naturalize.
“We, the community foundation, kind of took to the streets to identify how we might build an infrastructure of legal services for immigrants,” said Julia DeNatale, vice president of community impact for the Napa Valley Community Foundation. .
DeNatale said the community foundation ended up essentially importing the IIBA – which was founded in 1918 and has offices throughout the Bay Area – into Napa County through grants.
Napa’s IIBA branch then included only Hernandez, who now runs an office of a dozen employees.
At first, the organization focused almost entirely on building community trust and naturalizing Napa green card holders, Hernandez said. The IIBA held citizenship workshops alongside partner organizations and did “a lot of outreach because people didn’t know who we were”.
“We did a lot of presentations on the benefits of citizenship, voting, civic engagement, higher wages, the ability to travel without limits, all of the things naturalized people can do,” said Hernandez. “We started doing face-to-face workshops where we were trying to get 20 to 50 to 80 people together at a time. “
But the scope of the organization’s work widened as it understood the other needs of immigrants to Napa.
“We really started to focus on fundraising and talking about immigration as a whole, what is needed in the county, what is the demand,” Hernandez added. “And now we really provide almost all immigration legal services. “
Ellen Dumesnil, executive director of IIBA, said the organization had tried to meet people where they were during the pandemic. The Napa team, she said, hosted an outdoor drive-through event earlier in the pandemic for older customers who were concerned about going ahead with apps if they couldn’t. see someone personally.
Overall, she said, the organization has grown over time to employ 60 current staff, directly in response to the needs of the communities served by IIBA and has opened a branch in the Sonoma County in 2017.
“We are grateful for the support we have received from members of the Napa community on behalf of other members of the community,” said Dumesnil. “It’s really something to see a community intensify for other community members who are less fortunate, and that’s what we’ve seen in Napa.”
Throughout its existence, volunteers have also assisted IIBA in much of its work. In total, Hernandez said, 463 volunteers have so far donated around 12,300 hours of work to the Napa branch.
Volunteer work can vary, but most of the time, volunteers served as pseudo-paralegals helping Napa immigrants complete citizenship or DACA renewal applications in workshops of more than 20 people before the pandemic, or remotely during the pandemic.
This volunteer effort cuts down on the time that IIBA paralegals and lawyers have to spend researching each client’s information on each case, allowing the organization to file more claims each year, a Hernandez said.
In total, the organization filed 2,278 citizenship applications and 2,777 applications for other immigration benefits, including DACA. (Although the Napa IIBA has had a 98% success rate with naturalization applications, it currently takes over a year for these applications to be processed by the federal government, according to Hernandez.)
“Each circumstance should be analyzed by a lawyer,” Hernandez said. “And so it’s important that people applying for citizenship have this support so that we can properly analyze each situation and not put individuals at risk. That’s our main goal, isn’t it. We are not going to file an application knowing that they are not eligible.
Lenore Hirsch, who has been a volunteer with IIBA since 2016, said she has trained several times with IIBA and is now trained to help clients complete all different parts of the application. of citizenship.
Different aspects of the application require different training, such as determining whether the applicant is prepared for a test of their English skills or is eligible for a fee waiver – which depends on low income or receipt of a means benefit such as MediCal or CalFresh.
Hirsch helped immigrants complete citizenship applications. Some aspects of the application can be difficult or time consuming, Hirsch said, such as a section that requires applicants to list all of their children and their children’s addresses.
Sections can also be offensive to some candidates, Hirsch said, such as a section that asks candidates if they’ve ever been a habitual drunkard or prostitute, or if they’ve been involved in genocide.
“It is very important that they respond honestly because if they lie about their request, they could in fact be kicked out,” Hirsch said. “So this is a very serious thing, but I’m trying to make it easier by letting them know that I know these questions are quite offensive.”
Without a fee waiver, applicants must pay a government fee of $ 725 to apply for citizenship. There is no fee waiver for DACA renewal requests, which cost $ 495. The IIBA does not currently charge legal fees for DACA renewals or citizenship applications.
“We don’t charge any fees or very minimal fees to customers,” Hernandez said. “The fees actually only represent about 15% of our total budget. And we want it to be that way. To keep things that way, we need to raise funds so that our budget can cover our staff and the work we do. “
A new “hangout” in Napa: Barnhouse Napa Brews opens on Clinton Street.
Lake Curry is a Napa County reservoir owned by Vallejo that has not been used since 1992.
The Napa City Planning Commission has recommended that Napa City Council allow the retail sale of cannabis to adults 21 years of age or older in the city.
A non-profit professional association of falconry companies and professional falconers, the PFA will offer a series of member benefits for…
NVUSD’s education council is expected to vote on Dec. 9 on approving the charter school, which will open next August in downtown Napa.
Napa County will spend up to $ 800,000 to stabilize a landslide and attempt to charge the landowner.
At the annual Emeril Lagasse Foundation auction and gala, a bottle of Coombsville wine sold for $ 1 million, with proceeds…
Surprise! The frontline healthcare worker and her fiancé won their “dream” wedding at the Meritage Resort in Napa.
Napa’s homeless community is evicted from a long-standing camp called The Bowl.
Napa’s Shackford’s Kitchen Store is closing its retail store and going online.
You can reach Edward Booth at (707) 256-2213.