Year- end report
For the past 6 years, Public Counsel and SHIELDS for Families have worked together to provide holistic services to some of the most vulnerable members of the South LA community. Three days per week, I provide direct legal services to SHIELDS’ participants on-site at the ASK program, located in Lynwood. I write to give you a year-end report on the immigration legal services that Public Counsel provided this year.
In 2016, I provided consultations for 25 new SHIELDS’ participants, which includes 19 adults and 6 children from 18 different families. We have assisted 13 of those clients, who are immigrant victims of crime and their family members, in applying for U visas, which will give them temporary status in the U.S. and place them on the path to legal permanent residency. We assisted 7 clients in applying for legal permanent residency based on their previously approved U visas and provided full consultations and appropriate referrals to the remaining 5 clients.
We also obtained immigration relief for 19 SHIELDS’ participants, which includes 15 adults and 4 children from 15 different families. These clients came to SHIELDS seeking assistance with their immigration matters in prior years and received their desired results this calendar year. 12 of them received U visas; 6 of them legal permanent residency based upon their previously approved U visas; and 1 of them received protection under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
In addition, I continue to manage 70 active matters, which I opened in prior years. This number represents 50 adults and 20 children from 46 different families. We have submitted U visa applications for 68 of these clients, an application for legal permanent residency on behalf of 1 of these clients, and provided a consultation for the 1 remaining client. Due to backlogs in the immigration service, it may be some time before we receive decisions on these cases, but we expect positive results on most, if not all, of these matters.
We continue to serve some of the most vulnerable clients from the most undeserved communities in South Los Angeles. As you can see from the numbers that I mentioned above, we are now helping a significant number of clients, who previously received U visas, in applying for legal permanent residency. This will put them on the path to U.S. citizenship and protect them from any upcoming changes in federal immigration law that may otherwise negatively impact them. By working together, SHIELDS and Public Counsel are providing cutting edge holistic services to some of the most needy individuals in our County. I’ve included a success story below, which showcases the ongoing work that we are doing to address the complex needs of our community members.
Mr. A, a Guatemalan immigrant, came to SHIELDS seeking assistance with a U visa, a temporary visa for immigrant victims of crime who have cooperated with law enforcement in the investigation and/or prosecution of their perpetrators. Mr. A qualified for a U visa because, on June 15, 2009, while walking home from a night club in Los Angeles, an unknown assailant attacked him and pushed him to the ground. As Mr. A struggled with the man on the ground, a car drove straight toward him, struck him on the chest, and then came to a complete stop. As one man exited the vehicle with a gun in his waistband and another picked Mr. A’s wallet up off the ground, Mr. A was able to flee to safety with only minor injuries.
During the course of representation, Mr. A revealed a lifetime of trauma, beginning with childhood sexual abuse and culminating in a gang rape, which caused him to flee Guatemala in fear for his life and enter the U.S. in search of safety and security. He felt safe in the U.S. for a few years until the brutal attack of June 2009. This ongoing abuse and violence caused Mr. A to use drugs to numb his pain and eventually develop a substance abuse problem.
In 2012, the immigration service granted Mr. A’s U visa application and issued him a work permit. He has since worked a steady job, but has struggled to heal from his past trauma and get on his feet. When he returned to SHIELDS in May 2016 to request assistance in applying for his legal permanent residency, Mr. A also utilized SHIELDS’ wrap-around services to find a stable living situation, as well as ongoing support in his struggle to remain sober.
Mr. A is mere months away from receiving his green card, which will allow him to travel home to visit his 15 year-old son, whom he hasn’t seen in 10 years. It is Mr. A’s dream to bring his son to the U.S. so that he can provide him with a better life. Mr. A has proven himself to be a resilient man who is determined to overcome the trauma that he has experienced and establish a healthy, stable life for himself and his teenage son. With the assistance of SHIELDS and Public Counsel, it is clear that Mr. A is on the path to success.
Gina Amato Lough
Senior Staff Attorney
Public Counsel, Immigrants’ Rights Project