March 2020 Community Newsletter
In this Issue: How NWIRP is Responding to COVID-19, How the Public Charge Rule Change Is Impacting the Community, NWIRP in the News
Like all of you, we are closely monitoring the spread of the COVID-19 virus throughout the globe and here in Washington State. At Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, the health and safety of our clients, staff, and community is of the utmost importance.
Following new mandates and guidelines by state and local governments and public health officials, NWIRP will be shifting to deliver some of our services remotely beginning Monday, March 16. All NWIRP offices (in Granger, Seattle, Tacoma, and Wenatchee) will be closed for walk-ins, until further notice.
We ask community members who need assistance from NWIRP to contact us by phone instead of coming to our offices in person. You can find numbers for each of our offices at this link.
If you already have a scheduled appointment with a NWIRP legal advocate, your appointment will be kept (over the phone, or in-person if necessary). Please check directly with the appropriate legal advocate or call the front desk. You can read more about the changes to our operations during this public health emergency here.
Additionally, we’ve compiled COVID-19 resources from partner organizations and government health professionals on the community information page of our website. And earlier this week, we hosted a Facebook live for community members with questions about the virus and their own access to health services. Check out these videos at the links below.
Family Services Unit Staff Members Deniz Uysal Ferre (left) and Miriam Cervantes-Gomez (right)
Responding to the Public Charge Rule Change
On February 24th, the Trump Administration began implementing their sweeping changes to the public charge test. This cruel, radical shift to immigration policy is already affecting our clients, making it harder for some community members to become legal permanent residents and live safely and securely with their families.
In anticipation of this rule change, our attorneys, accredited representatives, and legal advocates worked to help as many clients as possible file their applications for green cards in the short window before the rule change took effect. In total, these staff members throughout our four offices were able to file applications for 43 clients from 17 different countries in that one-month window.
Long-time NWIRP staff member Miriam Cervantes-Gomez described the work that went into supporting just one of these clients during that time:
“It was the last case I filed in the evening on Friday, February 21st, the last business day before the rule-change. My client was the mother of a severely disabled U.S. citizen daughter. I had been working with this client for a long time, and our plan was to have her apply for full guardianship of her daughter before the date of her daughter’s 21st birthday. Then, once her daughter was 21, she could serve as a petitioner for my client’s application for a green card. But now, with the deadline just one week after the daughter’s birthday we were in a very significant time-crunch.
I contacted the client and rescheduled the appointment for February 17th, the day of her daughter’s birthday. But to make matters more complicated, the client had not yet applied for guardianship. I had to talk to her several times to help her to schedule a court date for the guardianship hearing which she eventually did schedule… for February 17th at 10am. I was so worried that it was not going to be possible for her to get the guardianship approved on the same day but by a miracle, she did. So we had our appointment but then there was a new problem – she didn’t have some of the paperwork we needed for the application. We’d need her co-sponsor to come to the office to make up for the missing paperwork. So a few phone calls and a lot of stress later, we were able to get everything we needed just hours before the deadline.
It was the most important case I wanted to file and it was the last one. Without NWIRP’s assistance this client would be totally out of luck on the 24th. She has everything against her under the new rules. She only has a 3rd grade education. She doesn’t speak English. She hasn’t been able to work since the birth of her daughter. All of that would be held against her in the new test.”
You can read more about Miriam and staff member Deniz Uysal-Ferré’s experience in this blog post.
NWIRP in the News
NWIRP PROFILED ALONGSIDE LA RESISTENCIA IN THE STRANGER
In a feature entitled, “Turning Up the Heat to Melt ICE,” the Stranger takes a deeper look at how NWIRP and our partners at La Resistencia are fighting for the rights of immigrants in Washington State.
IMMIGRANT RIGHTS GROUPS DEMAND DETAINEES AT HIGH CORONAVIRUS RISK BE RELEASED
“In a letter sent to ICE late Monday, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, and Columbia Legal Services said ICE should release on parole any detainees who are older than 60, pregnant, or who have underlying conditions such as a weakened immune system or heart or lung disease.”
LOW-INCOME IMMIGRANTS AFRAID TO SEEK HEALTH-CARE AMIDST COVID-19 PANDEMIC
“Because the rule makes it harder for immigrants to obtain a green card if they’ve sought government help — which includes any form of government health care — people had been dropping out of Medicaid as the Covid-19 cases began to surface in early March, according to Jorge Baron, executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project based in Seattle.”