Integrated Community offering legal services for immigrants |

Integrated Community offering legal services for immigrants

Nonprofit Integrated Community provides services for local immigrants and aims to increase intercultural understanding in the community.
Teresa Ristow

En español:

Esta historia discute servicios legales de bajo costo ahora proporcionados por Comunidad Integrada sin fines de lucro de Steamboat Springs y cómo los inmigrantes locales se sienten sobre la reciente elección presidencial. Lea esta historia en español.

— A new accreditation is allowing Integrated Community, a Steamboat Springs nonprofit, to provide legal services to local immigrants, many of whom feel unsettled due to the results of the presidential election.

In August, Integrated Community earned accreditation to be recognized as a provider of legal services under the Board of Immigration Appeals, an administrative body within the United States Department of Justice.

En español:

Esta historia discute servicios legales de bajo costo ahora proporcionados por Comunidad Integrada sin fines de lucro de Steamboat Springs y cómo los inmigrantes locales se sienten sobre la reciente elección presidencial. Lea esta historia en español.

Working with local immigration attorney Elizabeth Wittemyer and Denver attorney David Simmons, the accreditation allows the nonprofit to legally represent clients working toward naturalization, permanent resident renewals, travel passports and family petitions.

“It allows us to do a bigger scope of work,” said Roddy Beall, interpretation and translation coordinator for Integrated Community.

Beall and Executive Director Sheila Henderson said that immigrants often fall victim to scams promising help with citizenship or other paperwork, losing money and not getting the services promised.

Many immigrants can’t afford expensive legal fees for help with immigration documents, and it’s also expensive to travel to see attorneys or go to appointments outside Northwest Colorado, Henderson said.

The new accreditation allows Integrated Community to provide some services at a lower cost and in Steamboat.

While earning the accreditation was unrelated to the recent presidential election, staff members are interested in reminding people to turn to Integrated Community as a resource for accurate information about immigration and any future changes to immigration laws.

“Whenever something changes in law, lots of bad information gets around,” Beall said. “We’re a resource to get the real information out there.”

Henderson said she’s heard from local business owners, teachers and nonprofits who are fielding concerns from immigrants and their friends and family following the election of Donald Trump as president.

Throughout his candidacy, Trump has promised to reform immigration, including building a wall on the country’s southern border and repealing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an executive order by President Barack Obama that allows immigrant children who grew up in the United States to receive the documentation to work or attend college at an in-state tuition rate.

Henderson said she knows of 150 young people locally who are working or attending school under the DACA executive order.

Were Trump to countermand the order, people using DACA would face an uncertain future and could be forced to pay international tuition rates or lose their ability to work or legally live in the United States.

“I think all of us are kind of at a waiting point,” said Tai Nass, English Language Learner teacher at Steamboat Springs Middle School.

Nass said she’s heard from students who are fearful about the changes that might be made to current immigration policies, adding that some students had a tough time after learning the results of the election.

“You could tell how nervous they were on the day of the voting, and after, a lot of them cried,” Nass said. “We’ve been fielding so many questions from scared kids and scared parents.”

Staff at Partners in Routt County said they’ve also heard from mentors and mentees who are fearful and concerned about what might happen to undocumented family members.

“People are definitely worried and uncertain about what the future holds for their loved ones,” said Clarice Atkinson, a case manager at Partners in Routt County.

Henderson said that, for now, Integrated Community is reminding immigrants that no laws have changed yet, and they live in an inclusive community that supports them.

“Nothing is changing yet, and the majority of things people are fearful of would take a long legal process to change,” Henderson said.

Nass said she’s been impressed with how students have treated one another following the election, and instances of bullying have been scarce, she added.

“We’re such a great community, and I’m hoping that everyone sees what a gift having all of these cultures in our community is,” Naas said.

Should any changes that would affect immigrants take place, Integrated Community would hold public meetings to educate people with correct information and answer questions.

For more information, contact Integrated Community, at 970-871-4559, or visit their office at 443 Oak Street in Steamboat.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow

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