Recognizing the Need
In October 2010 a small group of members from a variety of churches in Bryan-College Station, Texas began meeting monthly to share our concerns about issues faced by immigrants in the community. After assessing the needs and existing resources, the group organized the Brazos Interfaith Immigration Network in May 2011.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 23.3% of the population in Brazos County is Hispanic and 37.4% of them live below the poverty level. Approximately 41% of this population speaks English less than “very well.” As a result, their access to services and available resources is limited by the language barrier. The needs of the immigrants with a low-level of English language are very diverse; among these are understanding and negotiating legal documents and systems, accessing health care, locating assistance services and educational resources, communicating with the schools, recovering wages, understanding their rights, and dealing with domestic violence and family issues.
The new organization chose as its purpose to facilitate better access to legal, educational and social services for the immigrant population, who otherwise may not receive them. We believe that improved access will contribute to the well-being of the immigrant population of Brazos County and therefore of the entire community.
To realize this purpose, we have three goals:
Goal 1: To respond directly to the needs of the immigrant community
Goal 2: To build a sustainable organization
Goal 3: To advocate for justice
Responding to needs
Providing information and referral services
In the Fall of 2012 Brazos Immigration began offering information and referrals for limited immigration legal services. We work closely with a private immigration attorney from Houston as well as the attorneys and staff of Catholic Charities of Central Texas Immigration Legal Services (CCCTx-ILS) to provide initial screening, make appointments and follow up with clients. These services are greatly needed in the community currently without any local immigration lawyers and services. We also sponsor clinics on deportation and immigration reform.
Serving as advocates
Once the client assessment is performed, and intake volunteers find that services other than information and referrals are needed, one of the case coordinators will connect the client to a volunteer advocate. The advocate serves as translator/interpreter as well as liaison with schools, agencies, banks, employers, police department or other entities, helping with paperwork or with wage recovery. These services are performed in various locations throughout the area as necessary. No other organizations provide similar services locally.
Providing immigration information and legal services
In the Fall of 2012 Brazos Immigration started working toward offering limited immigration legal services. Several volunteers began training for accreditation by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) with the purpose of offering limited immigration legal services once per week at the same location where intakes, and information and referrals take place. These services are greatly needed in the community currently without any local immigration lawyers and services and we look forward to completing the accreditation process so that we can begin offering help in this area.
Building a sustainable organization
Brazos Immigration seeks to partner with any faith community or organization interested in helping us to fulfill our mission. We partner with local groups to offer citizenship classes and co-host and sponsor informational sessions for immigrants with Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services, Bryan Independent School District, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and the Mexican Consulate. We seek opportunities to build connections and collaborations that strengthen immigrant support. We welcome expressions of interest from individuals and organizations who would like to join with us in this work.
Advocating for justice
Through a Speakers’ Bureau, volunteers with public speaking experience offer presentations on issues regarding immigrants to churches and organizations in the community.
We anticipate offering workshops on workers’ rights and hope to encourage immigrant integration and civic engagement through advocacy and training.
Brazos Immigration’s mission to build a more just society is built on the hope that, if we can help others recognize the humanity of all our brothers and sisters, more people will stand up for justice.