*All quotes are direct from anonymous participants at the BGAV Law Training
In the middle of last month, LUCHA’s administrator and co-founder Greg Smith facilitated a Basic Immigration Law and Procedure Training event at the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV). Co-sponsored by the BGAV and Poarch Law Firm, this 40-hour training seminar was designed for staff and volunteers serving through non-profit religious, social service, and charitable organizations who wish to provide legal services to qualified immigrants. This training fulfilled one of many requirements to receive Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) recognition and accreditation—without which a person, representative, or organization cannot officially provide legal services or counsel to immigrants. Considering that Virginia “has the ninth-largest immigrant population in the U.S., with 11 percent of the state’s population being foreign-born,” and only 16 BIA-recognized organizations, there is indeed a big need.
“These people [immigrants] have been stigmatized by the media and politicians…”
The participants of this training spanned numerous states and careers, some motivated to learn more about immigration law by their church’s Latino immigrant ministries, others by the dismaying stories of undocumented children, and others still by the work of LUCHA and their hope of becoming BIA accredited. Regardless of the various reasons why they were there, the participants were collectively motivated by the human faces behind the media coverage of immigration stories. Undocumented immigrants in particular have receiving the brunt of adverse and untrue media, and the extremely polarizing election season this year has only exacerbated antagonistic media coverage of immigration issues. Consequently, the rhetoric of this hot-button issue has overshadowed its humanity and our responsibility, as Christ-followers, to love and serve our neighbors. As one seminar participant noted, irrespective of political affiliation, that: “There are a lot of good people—a lot of good Christians—who have been spun into the narrative of the media.” This training brought back into focus the rights of immigrants and the opportunities we all have to protect and uphold those rights.
“I don’t want to know this stuff and not be able to use it.”
Participants left the Immigration Law Training at the end of the week with heads and hands full of information on how to (and how not to) help immigrants regarding legal issues. If you are interested in immigration law or issues, here are some great resources to check out suggested by this training’s participants:
Enrique’s Journey, by Sonia Nazario found here
The Stranger, a short film by the Evangelical Immigration Table
Immigrant Legal Resource Center website
Recognized Organizations and Accredited Representative Roster by State and City