LALDEF advocates for local immigrants

By Liya Davidov
Staff Writer

Representatives discuss the green card eligibility and citizenship process (Photo courtesy of Professor Ann Warner-Ault).

The Bonner El Centro Team organized an informative presentation on immigration and how it has evolved over the past decade on April 17 at 1 p.m. in the Education Building Room 113.

The Bonner El Centro Team presented along with guest speaker Adriana Abizadeh, the executive director of the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund, a social impact organization based in Trenton that advocates for civil rights of the Latin American community. LALDEF educates the Mercer County region in cross-cultural understanding and facilitates access to health care and education.

The Bonner El Centro Team works with the Trenton community and teaches English as a Second Language classes twice a week to the Hispanic population. The team presented first, beginning with facts about youth immigration.

According to the Bonner team presenters, there are roughly 106 million Latino and Caribbean immigrants between 15 and 24 years old in the U.S. Primary education rates for that demographic exceed 93 percent. However, those rates drop significantly once those children reach secondary and higher education. According to the team, roughly 56 percent of both male and female immigrants have a secondary education, while at most only 9 percent of them experience higher education.

The presenters also talked about why immigrants were motivated to live in the U.S. Most want to live a life with better financial security –– that includes having access to a variety of jobs –– and others come to realize a personal goal or start a new life for themselves.

The Bonner team talked about detainment centers and explained how Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s reported abuse of power is causing unnecessary detainment of immigrants. According to the presentation, detainment centers do not have any enforced standards regarding medical treatment, mental health care, religious services or access to telephones for immigrants.

“ICE’s mission is to protect America from cross-border crime and illegal immigration that threatens national security and public safety,” a Bonner team member said. “While this might be true in some cases, it is also very false in a lot of other cases.”

A detailed discussion of the process of citizenship for immigrants was another key topic brought up during the event.

The citizenship process involves green card eligibility, two tests about United States Civics and the English language and a nonrefundable $725 fee for the application.

“My aunt went through the same process of applying for a green card, and I saw how long it took her,” said freshman chemistry major and audience member Kimberly Jarquin and an audience member. “My mom is also an immigrant. This was the opportunity for me to learn.”

The last segment of the Bonner team’s presentation revolved around the types of trauma that arise before, during and after immigration.

Poverty and economic hardship, poor domestic social services and violence influence pre-migratory trauma while loss of family and community, extreme physical hardship and violence influence trauma during immigration. Post-migratory trauma involves factors such as poor quality detention centers and legal vulnerability.

The second presentation by Abizadeh continued the discussion on citizenship that the Bonner team had begun.

“What we have seen from 2004 until now is increased attention, increased enforcement,” Abizadeh said in reference to LALDEF’s work.

There is a misconception that it takes no more than three years to become a legal permanent resident in the U.S., she explained. There is a 10 to 11-year window to become a legal permanent resident, as well as an additional five years afterward needed to become a citizen.

“I think in mainstream America, there is this poorly thought-out idea that immigrants have all these pathways to adjust status,” Abizadeh said. “It’s not that simple…the majority of the people that I consult in a year have no recourse. There is no way for them to adjust status.”

Some attending students found the topic matter interesting due to their personal connection to immigration.

“It was surprising to come here and find out how much I didn’t know, especially because I come from a background where both my parents are undocumented immigrants and it just hits home,” said Saray Ramos, a freshman international studies and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies double major. “This is something I’m very passionate about and I hope to someday in the future get to work with the immigrant community.”

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