Category Archives: Touchpoint

From the Desk of KIAC’s Executive Director

Friends of KIAC,

Greetings to you all. This is the first time I have the honor of addressing each of you. My name is Jayson Vega, and I am a native of Puerto Rico. On September 19, I started working as Executive Director at Kitsap Immigrant Assistant Center, replacing Interim Executive Director Thangam Chandrasekaran, who did a masterful job leading our organization for the past nine months.

It is an honor to be part of this organization and to be able to lead an excellent group of professionals, who every day give their best to assist those who require our services. I accepted this new role with enthusiasm and hope, and with the certainty that our organization will build upon the successes of the past.

Here are a few highlights from September:

  • KIAC team members began outreach and application assistance as part of our contract with the Washington Immigrant Relief Fund (WIRF) — a fund advocated for by immigrants, for those immigrants impacted by the pandemic who did not qualify for existing assistance. KIAC applied for and was contracted, along with dozens of other community organizations around the state, to do outreach and assist immigrants in applying for relief checks. So far, we have completed over 300 applications totaling $300,000 in assistance for our immigrant neighbors. Applications close November 14. To find out more, visit immigrantreliefwa.org
  • We partnered with KiDiMu in early September for a space-themed event for KIAC’s youngest clients. Here at KIAC, books in both Spanish and Mam were read aloud for the kids to enjoy, and they colored pictures and put together paper solar systems. 
  • Several KIAC team members have participated in outreach activities to talk about KIAC, the work we do in the communities we serve, and the challenges immigrants face in our region. Larry Chin, KIAC’s Legal Services Director presented at Enlighten Kitsap and Heron’s Key and Kimberly Cizek Allen, KIAC’s Development & Marketing Director spoke with the League of Women Voters and the Bremerton Rotary.

Thanks to your support, we continue improving and expanding our services. I urge you to continue supporting KIAC, our work team, our volunteers, but above all our immigrants who every day rise and contribute to the progress of our community.

I encourage you to watch our animated video about “KIAC the Hub” and make a gift today.

In gratitude for your support,

Jayson Vega, Executive Director 

From the Desk of KIAC’s Executive Director

The vote is precious. It is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in a democratic society, and we must use it.

 –John Lewis,  member of the US House of Representatives for Georgia and late civil rights activist

Dear Friends of KIAC,

John Lewis’s quote about voting being the most powerful nonviolent tool we have resonated with me as I voted for the first time after having become a US citizen a few months ago. We witness so many acts of explicit and implicit violence around us — whether it’s the continuing war in Ukraine or the eroding of rights by the Supreme Court and individual states leading to violent outcomes for the people concerned. And while all the violence leaves one feeling helpless and impotent, the very process of voting is a truly incredible antidote to reinstating the power of each individual voice.

After the first round of primaries in early August, we witnessed the power of this nonviolent tool expressed by the voices of the voters in Kansas who vetoed an initiative that would have taken away their right of choice. I was excited and grateful to participate in this ritual that I could only observe from the sidelines prior to becoming a citizen. In doing so, I felt a part of the larger collective who were also expressing their voices through their votes.

I wanted to share a few highlights in July from the work we do at KIAC:

  • Over the past few months we have grown as an organization with 10 staff members at KIAC as of July. One recent addition to our staff is Alex who has joined as a Paralegal in Immigration Legal Services. Alex brings his lived experience as an immigrant and his trilingual skills to the passion and dedication for his work.
  • In addition to our regular weekday health and dental clinics, we continue to offer a Saturday clinic for those needing services who are unable to attend on a weekday. One of our medical clinic providers helps KIAC clients manage their diabetes. Learn more about that program by watching this video. 
  • Our one-on-one services / drop-in resource center continues to see an increase in activity as immigrants reach out for resources:
    • Family Services staff members fielded over 200 phone calls in July and provided 43 in-person client appointments, for a total of over 150 unique households.
    • Healthcare or medical bills were topics during 109 of these conversations. Legal inquiries came up 29 times. And housing was an issue 24 times, in addition to other questions.

I cannot sign off without acknowledging that our work at KIAC would not be possible without your support. We remain grateful to you for expressing your voice through your continued support of KIAC.

In Gratitude,

Thangam Chandrasekaran

From the Desk of KIAC’s Executive Director

Dear Friends of KIAC,

May was a month of high and lows. From a personal standpoint, I received my long awaited letter from USCIS for the final part of my immigration journey – notice of my Citizenship Interview. After restudying for the civics exam, and with all my paperwork in hand, I attended my interview and was sworn in as a US citizen later that same day. I stood with nearly 100 other immigrants from various parts of the world. The whole experience was a positive one for me, and I ended the day feeling grateful about becoming the citizen of this country I’ve called home for the last thirty years of my life.

It was during the same week that we as a country responded to two incidents of mass shootings (and many more have followed). I had to pause and reflect on this reality as I became a citizen. As an immigrant and the head of an immigrant assistance organization, the racial profile of the victims caused even more devastation and concern. As I grappled with the duality of celebrating citizenship while recognizing there is much work to be done, the quote by Dr. King, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable … Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals” resonated and brought back gratitude and hope. I know that our team at KIAC and our extended family of volunteers, donors and community organizations is comprised of dedicated individuals who continue to do tireless work with passion. 

Here are a few KIAC highlights from May:

  • In addition to our regular weekday health and dental clinics, we continue to offer a Saturday clinic for those needing services who are unable to attend on a weekday. It continues to be well attended.
  • Dozens of immigrant families received clothing and pantry staples through KIAC’s clothing closet. We had a dental focus for the dry goods we provide with each closet visit. Thank you to those who donated toothbrushes and toothpaste.
  • After rigorous study and hard work, KIAC’s Legal Services Coordinator Carmen completed her Comprehensive Overview of Immigration Law (COIL) course and passed her examination. The COIL course is a necessary prerequisite to becoming an Accredited Representative.
  • KIAC’s Accredited Representatives continued to assist with a variety of immigration legal matters including naturalizations, asylum cases, and green card renewals, among others. We are continuing to experience record-high volumes of calls from immigrants seeking immigration legal representation and support. 
  • We finalized our annual Report to the Community. We are blown away by what KIAC has been able to accomplish thanks to the dedicated support of you, our donors, volunteers and partners. Check it out online here!

This is the first Touchpoint I’ve penned as a citizen of the United States of America. I feel privileged to stand with all of you – dedicated individuals with passionate concern, as we work towards the goals of justice and equity.

In Gratitude,

Thangam Chandrasekaran, Executive Director 

PS. In doing our part to continue combating misinformation, we have debunked a few immigration myths. Please enjoy our “Myths vs. Facts” below.

PPS. Our Marketing & Development Team said that NOT sharing a citizenship photo would be a disservice to our work. You can check it out below.