Works and Days

Citizenship and Legalization in Immigrant Communities: Portland based Immigration Advocacy, McGill Lawrence Internship Award, Francisca Garfia

This summer, McGill Lawrence Internship Award recipient Francisca Garfia, '17, Anthropology, worked with the portland-based immigrant rights organization CAUSA. Read ahead for her impressions:

As the daughter of Mexican immigrants, the struggle for legalization in the immigrant community has been central to my upbringing; I knew entire families who feared the separation of deportation, I had friends who were unable to attend college due to their legal status. This familiarity with the human side of illegal immigration led me to Causa, Oregon’s leading immigrant rights advocacy group. Causa services the Pacific Northwest immigrant community by educating them on their rights and opportunities for legalization. One way they do this is through community workshops; Causa provides access to legal forms and low cost attorneys since the legalization process is complicated and costly. The majority of my summer internship centered on a workshop, which not only served as a way to support the local immigrant community, but also pledged our solidarity to immigrant communities nationwide.

When I began planning this internship, President Obama had recently announced the expansion of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans). Immigrants across the nation were abuzz with the news; if enacted, millions of undocumented immigrants would be legalized! However, the celebration was short lived as Texas and other states filed a lawsuit that prevented the implementation of the programs. As a result, immigrant advocacy groups that had hoped to help people become “DACAmented,” now had to focus their efforts on convincing the fifth circuit court that DACA was vital to these communities, and that these individuals were Americans despite their lack of documentation. 

As a result of the lawsuit, my internship revolved around one workshop on DACA renewals and work permits. This workshop was vital to the community, as it was scheduled on the same day as the appeal for DACA at the fifth circuit court in Louisiana. This workshop was one of many demonstrations that day; immigrant advocacy groups rallied in support of the DACA 2.0 and DAPA initiatives through workshops, marches, and protests at the court. We all had the same goal in mind; we needed to prove that DACA was a life changing opportunity that benefited not only the individual, but also the community.

During this workshop I had the opportunity to meet with DACA recipients; almost all of them were young adults, and had been in the United States since they were in elementary school. Many were brought by their mothers who were escaping domestic violence, or fleeing gang violence; they all came hoping to live the American dream. However, living the American dream is difficult without the proper documentation; it is almost impossible to find a job, get a license, or go to college. That is why DACA is so important to them. Becoming a DACA recipient means being able to drive without the constant fear of deportation, or being able to apply for a more rewarding job that will help their low-income families. Some of the younger DACA beneficiaries are able to follow their dreams of going to college; one recent high school graduate is going to study veterinary medicine while another recently became a nursing assistant.

Working with Causa this summer has afforded me the opportunity to learn more about the legal system and the people who are impacted by new immigration laws. It has also been an educational experience in regards to all the work put into fighting for immigrant rights. But overall, this experience has solidified my faith in the success of the immigrant Hispanic community and proved that we will overcome and that si se puede (yes we can.)

Tags: mcgill lawrence, summer, internship, immigration, justice, portland, education, rights, law