For years, we pushed and pleaded. We tweeted, shared, and emailed the stories of immigrant families—working hard, contributing to their communities, and living in fear. We demanded action.
The advocates of the Justice Center’s Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project (IRRP), along with their allies throughout the state and nation, called for justice and mercy, and President Obama heard them. He responded by taking executive action to provide our immigrant neighbors with the opportunity to live, work, and go to school without the constant fear of deportation. These “administrative relief” programs potentially will affect some 120,000 immigrants in North Carolina. IRRP’s community educators and attorneys are excited about what this will mean for their work in the coming year.
As the leading resource on immigration law and other legal matters affecting immigrants in North Carolina, our attorneys and paralegals helped hundreds of people in 2014. At any given time, we have dozens of immigration cases open, and last year more than 100 of our clients received immigrant benefits (asylum, visas, temporary protected status, etc.) thanks to our help. We also assisted and supervised immigration attorneys and advocates with other organizations in order to make sure as many people as possible had access to sound advice and quality representation.
We represented unaccompanied children from Central America in court and influenced the state policy debate about their care. We generated more than 200 calls to Governor McCrory urging him to support policies and programs to protect these children, rather than treating them as some kind of threat. We also had formal meetings with state legislators on a range of policy issues affecting immigrants.
Through our trainings, webinars, and workshops, we educated about a thousand community organizers, advocates, attorneys, and paralegals about important legal and policy issues facing immigrants. These included access to education, public benefits and Affordable Care Act health plans, eligibility for driver’s licenses, and the myriad scams often targeted at immigrants—especially notario fraud.
Notario fraud is when someone targets the Spanish-speaking community and offers to provide legal services for which they are not licensed. This can have disastrous consequences for immigrants—often the notarios take their clients’ money but fail to file essential immigration paperwork properly or on time, putting the clients at risk for detention and deportation. We investigated some of the most egregious notarios in North Carolina and filed a lawsuit against one of them in late 2014. We also gave numerous presentations and media interviews in 2014 in order to warn the Latino community members about the dangers of notario fraud.
We pursued and won victories in several lawsuits in which immigrants were victims of consumer fraud. And we went after employers who cheated their immigrant workers out of the pay they were rightfully due.