On Sunday, February 22nd, KIAC Immigration Legal Services accredited representatives traveled to Forks to process DACA applications and give a community workshop at Peninsula College.
The morning was spent helping DACA applicants complete their application forms. In the afternoon a room full of community members heard a presentation about President Obama’s executive action initiative and asked questions about how these expanded programs would affect them.
The day was a result of a growing partnership between KIAC Immigration Legal Services and the Forks human rights group and we plan to continue working to support our brothers and sisters in Forks.
A similar outreach is planned for Aberdeen in the near future.
On Saturday, February 28th KIAC Immigration Legal Services in partnership with One America and the American Immigration Lawyers Association hosted a free citizenship clinic at the the United Way building in Bremerton. At the clinic we were able to serve 23 aspiring Americans. Four more will be helped by KIAC Immigration Legal Services in the next weeks to complete their applications.
The Kitsap Immigrant Assistance Center is a true grass-roots, community powered organization. During 2014 90% of our funding came from individuals and the remaining 10% came from the local faith community. Our budget is small. Our Executive Director is paid for eight hours a week. We get our work done by volunteering. In 2014 our Executive Director, Board and volunteers donated 3,100 hours of their time to the organization. Based on data from the Independent Sector, these hours are valued at $82,900. Our board also contributed $5,324 of in-kind equipment and supplies as well as over $10,000 in cash. You will see later in this report that our immigration legal services program has been recognized by the Board of Immigration Appeals. It is the only grass-roots, volunteer powered organization to receive this recognition.
We love our community and we love what we do. Here is a brief accounting of 2014. Keep us in your prayers.
Family Services Center
Our Family Services Center is located in the Hillcrest Church on Wheaton Way in Bremerton, Washington. The center serves as a resource hub for the immigrant community in our and adjacent counties. Services include:
• Referrals to medical, dental, legal, domestic violence and social and health services
• On-site medical clinic once each month, and quarterly dental clinic.
• Opportunities to gain English language skills
• Presentations on nutrition and other health topics
• Tutoring and mentoring
• Assistance with everyday needs, such as filling out applications, reading and understanding mail, bills and medical and insurance statements, conflicts with landlords and employers, problems at school
• Information on Affordable Care Act enrollment
• Outreach workshops regarding citizenship and immigration help
• Cultural outreach Folklorica group
• 24/7 hotline emergency assistance
In 2014 we began a monthly medical clinic that is the volunteers of Christian Medical Response Team and provides much needed care for many who would otherwise not be able to afford it.
We also started a quarterly dental clinic staffed by volunteer dentists and dental technicians. It too has provided much needed care. Our first West Sound free clinic was held in October of 2012.
In 2014 the center provided services during 396 visits by clients. 77% of our clients were from families whose income was below the federal poverty level and 45% were unemployed. We served people from twelve different countries with the majority being from Guatemala and Mexico. Many of our clients lack functional English and they are referred to our partner programs at Olympic College, Goodwill and the Kitsap Adult Center for Education.
Immigration Legal Services New Center:
In late October of 2014 we received word that our organization had been recognized by the US Department of Justice Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and that two of our volunteers were awarded the status of Accredited Representative, a status only attainable through rigorous training. This allows us to provide immigration legal services to our clients and to represent them before the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). We quickly established office space in the United Way building on 4th Street in Bremerton and began seeing clients.
Executive Action: In November of 2014 President Obama announced his Executive Action on Immigration. Many families and individuals in our region will be affected by this and we are ready to help them. In December of 2014 we held a community meeting in Bremerton to explain Executive Action and help people learn what they could do to prepare for it. By the end of 2014 we had established representation for over 60 people who wanted to apply for the new or expanded Executive Action programs and that rate continues in 2015. Building on this we have reached out to communities on the Olympic Peninsula – Forks, Port Angeles, Port Townsend, Belfair and Shelton – to give similar presentations and to help people apply for the new programs.
Citizenship: At the same time we offer a path to citizenship for current green card holders. In February 2014 we held a Citizenship Clinic in Bremerton, in partnership with One America and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and helped 35 people complete their citizenship applications. We will be hosting another Citizenship Clinic in February 2015.
Business Classes: In addition to legal services we also offer classes and individual coaching for people who want to start a business and or learn how to keep business records and file state taxes. We held a well-attended class on this in December, again in partnership with One America.