Michigan United is doing our part to address this need by the creation and growth of our Legal Services department. We have years of experience in community education and advocacy: “know your rights” presentations, organizing community support for immigrants in detention. Since 2012, we have organized workshops to help people apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and naturalization. Michigan United has gained experience and developed the institutional relationships to qualify for “agency recognition” by the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) and accreditation of staff. On December 30, 2013, Michigan United’s Southeast Michigan office was granted recognition and MU’s Legal Services director was fully accredited. On April 28, 2015, Michigan United’s Kalamazoo office was recognized and Brannigan Sanchez was partially accredited. We do rural outreach in surrounding areas including Stugis and Hartford Michigan. Our accredited staff can give legal advice, prepare applications and represent immigrant families before US Citizenship & Immigration Services.
The main focus of our services are at opposite ends of the “status spectrum” and family immigration:
Naturalization & Citizenship – At one end of the spectrum are legal permanent residents, who we assist in applying for naturalization which has positive consequences for the applicant and ripples out to her family and beyond:
For the person who lawfully becomes a citizen, this means:
Protection from deportation or losing residence, meaning that the person is anchored here;
For the family of the person who lawfully becomes a citizen, this means:
Minor legal resident children derive naturalization through their citizen parents, also anchoring them;
Spouses and children without status or in the process of obtaining it, can speed the process to legal residence; in some cases, they may process Stateside, raising their level of protection from deportation and family separation;
For the community that the naturalized citizen lives in:
Voting and greater civic participation generally means more attention or responsiveness from elected officials and more resources are directed to the community by various units of government.
“DACA” & Admin Relief – At the other end of the spectrum, we help undocumented who are eligible to apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – DACA recipients have some protection against deportation, a work permit (which means eligibility for a Social Security card) and access to a driver’s license. The safety extended to the DACA recipient can apply to family members. For example, the person with DACA who obtains a license, can drive other family members (which offers protection from local law enforcement working with ICE or CBP).
We are also preparing for administrative relief, including “Deferred Action for Parents of Americans”, once the lawsuit between some States and Homeland Security is settled.
Family Immigration – In addition, we offer consultations, and assistance with the regular family immigration process (petitions, adjustment, and consular processing). We will refer business, detention and removal cases to appropriate providers both non-profit and private.
The Legal Services Program is part of Michigan United’s Immigration Team, which connects interested communities with the program through its organizing and outreach activities.