I just returned from an amazing week with a group from our church who went through a 40 hour immigration law training put on by World Relief. It’s the first step in becoming Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) accredited, meaning we can provide legal immigration counsel.
Ay caramba! It was intense. Our textbooks were 2,000 pages long. From 8am-5pm each day, we sat under fluorescent lights listening to legal jargon (there’s a long document of JUST the acronyms folks were dropping all day long). But there was chocolate, good friends, and legit tacos around the corner for lunch – so we survived.
It was also exciting to think about becoming an advocate for our immigrant neighbors! I had the realization that I was becoming the advocate that Karlos and I so desperately searched for when we were going through the immigration process.
In the book Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers, Shane Claiborne put it so well:
“Prayer is not so much about convincing God to do what we want God to do as it is about convincing ourselves to do what God wants us to do.”
I walked into our immigration journey wide-eyed, lovestruck, and naive. I didn’t know how to advocate for myself or where to turn with questions along the way. I prayed that the Lord would raise up someone to help guide us because we had no money to pay an attorney.
He sent a church family that surrounded us during that time, parents that prayed for us, and countless friends that sacrificially gave us their time and financial gifts.
But no immigration help.
Nevertheless, He absolutely softened my heart to the plea of the foreigner among us, especially for the families that desire to remain intact and in the country they call “home”.
So when I sat in last week’s training, it was life giving to see each person sitting there – representing an organization that is doing exactly what I prayed for (our church included!)
If you’re embarking on your own immigration journey, here’s some hindsight advice for you:
- Be your own advocate! We learned in our training that most attorney-client relationships place the power in the attorney’s hands. But that’s not true! Immigrants hold the power of their story and the keys that may unlock different options. Become super familiar with your own story and be prepared to clearly articulate it to someone that knows immigration law. Together you will be a dream team
- Find legitimate legal advice! Use the American Bar Association’s website to locate legal advice in your state. If you can’t afford an immigration attorney, locate a BIA accredited office near you. They are required to keep their fees low and may even be able to offer you more of a discount based on financial need.
- Know your rights! The Immigration Legal Resource Center has a great page dedicated to informing you of your rights as an immigrant in the US.
A big thank you to our church for making this journey possible!
Stay tuned as our organization, Open Door Immigration Services (ODIS), continues to develop and serve as Jesus’ commanded us: “I was a stranger and you invited me in…’When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘I tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.’” (Matthew 25:35, 40)