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Immigration Legal Assistance Program Turns One-Year-Old

by Ricardo Perez

The Hispanic Affairs Project is celebrating its the first anniversary of their Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) certification and program. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) of the United States is the highest administrative body for interpreting and applying immigration laws. It provides certifications to trustworthy non-profit organizations that may assist immigrants in their immigration proceedings charging just nominal costs.

The Hispanic Affairs Project is the only organization in western Colorado authorized by the Justice Department to provide legal assistance in immigration.

sdop-hispanic-family-9-15-16“This has been a very busy year but a very satisfying one in helping to keep immigrant families together,” Nicole Bernal, director of the program said. “This is a critical program for our community and we assisted many low-income families that had stopped their application process for lack of funds. Other families didn’t have necessary information or had started their applications through unauthorized people who had ruined their cases. We have tried to help each family, advising them on their cases, representing or recommending them to a list of trustworthy attorneys,” she added.

In addition to this, Hispanic Affairs Project played a direct role in policy change at the state level in contributing to the passage of a new law to stop unauthorized people that for years have provided legal immigration services. Individuals and businesses, many of them “notaries,” have offered these services without the training nor the authorization to do it.

sdop-hispanic-affairs-9-15-16Hispanic Affairs Project members presented testimony and proof to legislators about immigration fraud. “Immigration status is the future of the immigrant family in this country, and the laws should help to protect this right,” they stated as part of their testimony.
“The support of The Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People has been crucial for Hispanic Affairs Project in this period of time. In 2015, we received the accreditation to provide the immigration legal assistance, but we had not the financial capacity to build the infrastructure for this program. Thanks to Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People (SDOP), we had the capacity to go ahead with our leadership development, community organizing and advocacy, at the same time we advance in this critical need for many families in our communities.” – Ricardo Perez, Executive Director of the Hispanic Affairs Project.

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