Immigrant Connection new Sites 2022
IC @ Celebrate
As a food manufacturing and production hub, Mankato has attracted a diversity of immigrants to the job market and education centers in the area. Coupled with prolific farming and an outdoor area that boasts of 10,000 lakes, Blue Earth County has a mostly Hispanic minority but also includes Middle Eastern, African, and Asian immigrants who contribute their skills and expertise to the vibrant economy of the area. In this context, Site Director David Norman recognized the need for immigration legal services. Neighbors and fellow residents pointed David to the need so many were expressing but very few were addressing.
Through the community partnerships and relationships David was building, he witnessed the pressing concern that kept his immigrant neighbors and friends up at night. He concentrated his efforts on launching the site which opened its doors in May 2022. He shares, “Immigrant Connection is about relationships with real people. It is only through relationships that we can begin to address the real need. The collaborative beauty of Immigrant Connection is like that skipping rock on a lake surface that touches every aspect of an individual’s life. In turn it impacts the whole community.”
IC @ hart wesleyan
The city of Hart, MI was an immigration legal service desert until Site Director Bob Gray opened this site to serve the growing immigrant population in the community. A dramatic shift in demographics brought forth through the local farming industry over the last four decades has transformed the small, rural county into the area with the greatest percentage of Hispanic families in Michigan. Before the site opened in August, the closest immigration legal service provider was 90 miles away in Grand Rapids - a significant hardship and deterrent for many.
This multilingual, multiethnic church actively serves the local community and builds trust and relationships through ministries such as a Clothing Closet, bi-monthly community meals, a mentoring program at the local schools, and by participating and being a presence at local events. This site is motivated by the impact immigration legal services can make on individuals, families and the community: “As advocates, we can help people - no matter where they are in their immigration process. Families long to be reunited. Individuals seek stability. Employers retain employees that are able to stay. That’s the impact.”
ic @ awaken city
It is typical to hear multiple languages spoken at any given restaurant in the neighborhood of Jamaica Plain in Boston, MA, where Immigrant Connection at Awaken City Church is located. It has been clear to Site Director Melinda Priest that services like ESL classes and immigration legal services are very much needed in this community. Even before the site was approved to provide legal services, it began hosting conversational English and citizenship classes with the help of a growing volunteer base. Through these classes, Immigrant Connection at Awaken City has been growing in credibility, and the local community has been drawn to their genuine care for immigrants.
The site was approved in September 2022, and it is continuing to build partnerships with other local organizations to best serve immigrant families. Melinda shares, “We will together be able to serve more people with different resources. And at our site, as we provide legal services, we want to build a place of belonging where immigrants can really be seen. We want to help alleviate worries about basic human rights such as being able to work freely, have a home, and reconnect with family abroad.”
IC @ la gran comisión
Immigrant Connection at La Gran Comisión, the first Immigrant Connection Site directed by immigrants, was approved in June 2022. The site is hosted by a multiethnic, multilingual church and located in West Columbus, home to the largest population of immigrants in the city. Host Pastor Maria Acuña shares that while there are various services available for immigrants, there are very few places that are able to provide immigration legal services - and the ones that do are often at capacity or very expensive.
Over the past 16 years, La Gran Comisión has networked with local businesses, organizations, and health providers to extend support services to their community. With the opening of their site, they will now be able to offer vital immigration legal services.
As an immigrant herself, Maria expresses that opening the site is an act of solidarity: “I have lived through this. Immigration status affects people emotionally, physically, and financially. We want to get the community involved in helping the immigrants that are here. Too many immigrants have been exploited by outrageous costs and misinformation.”
IC in the valley
The day Site Director Colby Grindean hung up the Immigrant Connection sign, people began to sign up for appointments!
McAllen, Texas is a border town on the Rio Grande Valley with one of the highest crossing points for people and caravans as well as a 92% Latino population. Existing service organizations and churches are at capacity or depleted in addressing the needs in the area. Spurred on by the urgent need for support for immigrants in McAllen, this Immigrant Connection site is focused on providing vital immigration legal services as well as on building partnerships to better serve immigrant families.
Since the site’s approval in August of 2022, the team has been making in-roads with local organizations, churches, a university, etc. to build partnerships that strengthen the work of supporting immigrant families. “There are folks here who have never been able to do anything about their immigration status, who give money to a lawyer and then nothing happens. I think we need at least two other Immigrant Connection offices across the Valley handling multiple levels of immigration work!”
ic of the high country
Boone is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a stretch of the Appalachian Mountains. It is renowned for its Christmas tree farms and home to many immigrant families as well as migrant workers seeking employment and opportunity. While there are various support services for immigrant families such as ESL classes, finance programs, and health clinics, the nearest immigration legal provider is two hours away.
Site Director Carrie Afanador had long dreamt of opening a welcome center for immigrants in Boone. In partnership with Alliance Bible Fellowship, ESL classes have been offered since spring, and in October 2022, Immigrant Connection of the High Country became an approved site. Now that this site exists in Boone, it will spare those seeking legal services from long drives and impossible lines and fees.
Carrie seeks to offer knowledge and hope through this site:“If I can help someone adjust their status or relieve some stress it is good for everybody. It’s not an easy, ‘get in line’ situation. There are all kinds of barriers. Even so, I want to communicate to every immigrant that they are valuable and a gift to our community.”