There is little doubt that keeping mixed status families together is one of the most pressing issues facing immigration reform advocates today.
This is why we invited Chasity Brewster Alvarez, founder of Fair Unity, to be our first guest on Batara Immigration Live.
Over the course of a few months, Chasity went from being a spouse of an undocumented immigrant with no knowledge about immigration issues to the leader of one of the internet’s largest immigrant family support groups.
In this hangout, Chasity shares her experiences, in the hopes spouses of immigrants, like her, gain valuable tips, strategies, and insights for their personal journey to permanent residency and U.S. citizenship.
Here are some key points and take-aways from the hangout with Chasity Alvarez and Carlos Batara, broadcasting from his Riverside immigration law office.
The Road To Family Unity Advocacy
Chasity’s immigration education began when her husband was placed in removal proceedings. He had been stopped for driving without a license. Shortly afterwards, ICE filed deportation charges against him. She went with him to immigration court in Chicago, an eight hour journey each way to and from her home in Greenburg, Indiana.
Before then Chasity was clueless about the immigration process. She thought, as a United States citizen, she could immigrate her husband without too much hassle.
She did not know about the 3 and 10 year bars for immigrants who had entered the U.S. without inspection and was unaware about that extreme hardship meant.
In short, she knew nothing about immigration. Up until that point, she had buried her head in the sand, refusing to even listen to any kind of immigration talk.
Today, Chasity is the founder of Fair Unity, a Facebook immigration group, and asserts spouses and parents of U.S. Citizens must be a priority for true immigration reform.
Fair Unity believes that a country which enforces immigration policies that rip mothers and fathers from each other, or from their children, is not a country that prides itself on family unity.
What Are Removal Proceedings?
Removal proceedings are hearings at immigration court when the government is trying to deport someone back to their home country. In her husband’s case, she has filed an I-130 petition and an 42B application for him.
The I-130 is a family unity petition. The 42B is an application for cancellation of removal, which means her husband is asking the judge to “cancel his deportation”. To win, they have to prove that she, being a U.S. citizen, will suffer hardship if her husband is deported.
Chasity has been collecting a lot of information to show the judge how much she, and her mother, depend on her husband.
If he is deported, Chasity says she will go to Mexico with him. She has never been to Mexico and she does not speak Spanish.
She is concerned about her mother. Her mother has lots of medical problems and cannot be left alone. A move to Mexico for her mother is out of the question. So Chasity worries about how her mother will do if Chasity has to move to Mexico.
The Ordeals Of Mixed Status Families
Chasity’s family disowned her over her relationship with her husband. This was based on his nationality, not his immigration status. On her wedding date, her father finally gave in. Now, her family respects and loves her husband.
In her home community, there are not many Latinos. The job opportunities for immigrants are slim because even factory jobs have strict educational requirements.
Her husband grew up in a very poor environment. His father died when he was only one year old. There were eight kids. Later his mother remarried. Although they remained in poverty, his family size had grown to 12 siblings. An older brother left for the U.S., found work, and sent money home to help them out.
On his trip to America, he was stopped by crooked police officers who beat him up, took his money, then drove him closer to the U.S. – Mexico border.
Advice For Immigrants Seeking Legal Help
Chasity says that immigrants should not try to handle fighting deportation alone. “Get a lawyer,” she warns them, “because winning is not easy.” She adds, immigrants should not just hire any lawyer. They have to ask questions. “Don’t take the first attorney that offers a cheap deal. Your case is not about a deal – it’s about your life.”
Important Questions To Ask Potential Attorneys
She says immigrants need to check the references of lawyers. Be like an investigator. Look at the attorney’s web site, read what people say about him or her.
Ask about their success record. Ask where they went to college and how long have they been doing immigration law. Ask if they handle the same type of case as yours. Ask about how they communicate with their clients.
What Are Some Keys For Immigration Reform?
Lack of education is the number one problem for immigration reform.
Chasity asserts advocates, like her, have to serve as a support system for immigrants who are lost in the immigration system. Her organization, Fair Unity, attempts to fill this role and act as an immigration center for its membership. She hopes the group become a full non-profit organization someday.
Nothing has been done, says Chasity, for real immigration reform. It’s been a political game.
She supports the American Families United Act, H.R. 3431. It helps families which are separated overcome the 3 and 10 year bars. It is the type of solution, a family solution, which focuses on the problem of tearing family members apart, like some families she has known.
The Central American Refugee Crisis
Chasity says that she doesn’t know what should be done. But she believes our government has a duty to protect all kids, including these kids. They should not be put in places that seem like dog kennels and warehouses, stacked on top of each other.
The message that some kids deserve protection because they are our kids and other kids deserve less because they are not our kids is not a message she can accept.
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Thanks in advance, and if you have an idea or issue you would like us to address with a special guest, please let us know.
By Carlos Batara, Immigration Law, Policy, And Politics