By Carmen Stevens, CCASA Guest Blogger
The mission of the SLVIRC is to connect and empower immigrants with resources to achieve legal documentation, fulfill their economic needs, and integrate into the community. It was established in the mid 1980’s under the auspices of SLV Christian Community Service to assist the growing immigrant population in the San Luis Valley. The center is recognized and accredited as an immigration service provider by the Board of Immigration Appeals, since the valley has no immigration attorney. The Center focuses on developing social support systems for immigrants and their families through education, outreach and advocacy efforts. The Center is a private non-profit organization serving the San Luis Valley and the state of Colorado.
The SLVIRC has three staff members who are bilingual (Eng/Span) and provide services to all of the clientele that come to their office. Services provided include legal assistance, translation of documents, formal interpretation for events and informal interpretation when needed. They also help clients navigate and access the resources and services available. Court accompaniment is also provided to clients to help explain the process. The Center also provides basic assistance such as help reading mail and filling out applications for resources as this is often a barrier for non-English speakers. Alamosa has a large Q’anjobal-Maya indigenous community from Guatemala and they all feel welcome at the center.
The SLVIRC’s Por Ti Misma (On Your Own) program has been working to empower immigrant survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and other crimes since 2001. Recognizing the difficulty of the experiences faced by clients, the staff takes a trauma-informed approach to working with survivors of sexual assault and other crimes. The staff works with law enforcement, district attorney’s offices and social services departments to obtain a certification (Supplement B) to file a U-Nonimmigrant Visa on the clients’ behalf. The U-Visa is designed for noncitizen crime victims who have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse from a criminal activity. Most – if not all – of our U-Visa clients are survivors of sexual assault. Under this visa, the parents and unmarried (17 years and younger) siblings of the primary victim of the case are able to apply for legal status because they are considered secondary victims.
In November of 2014, President Obama announced new executive actions that grant deferred action to certain undocumented immigrants. The first program is an expansion of the already-existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and covers certain immigrants who were brought to the U.S. without documents as children. The second program is called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and covers certain parents of U.S. citizens and those with legal permanent resident status. Immigrants who have been victims of violence or sexual assault are only able to qualify for the U-Visa program if they reported the crime when it occurred. Now, under the new executive action, those who did not report crimes and are therefore not eligible for U-Visas may potentially be eligible to apply for DACA or DAPA if they meet other eligibility requirements.
If you would like to learn more about these services or find out if you qualify for protection under the DACA or DAPA programs, SLVIRC can help. Visit their website at www.slvirc.org or call their office at 719-587-3225 x13 for more information.
Image credit: Carmen Stevens