For this month’s Thought Leader piece, New American Pathways Immigration Services Manager, Whitney Kweskin, reflects on the challenges of the United States Immigration System and the ways in which the New AP Immigration team are expanding and evolving to support a growing number of new Americans.
New American Pathways has been established as one of the country’s most respected and innovative refugee serving organizations, and we are continuing to evolve to serve an increasing number of new Americans including immigrants and asylum-seekers, among many more new arrivals. We believe everyone has the right to achieve the highest level of status they are eligible for, and our Immigration Services team assists clients throughout that process.
Our department is recognized and our staff accredited through the Department of Justice’s Access to Law Program, and our purpose is to provide quality legal assistance to low income families in the Atlanta area and beyond. Our goal is for every person we interact with to have complete and accurate information about attaining the most stable immigration status that they can or want to. For some people this is Temporary Protected Status or Cancellation of Removal. For others, it is full US Citizenship for themselves and their children. We have assisted thousands of people in obtaining green cards, work permits, citizenship, in reuniting with parents and children, and in overcoming what seemed insurmountable obstacles.
The New American Pathways’ immigration department has over 15 combined years of experience in legal research, in interviewing, in making compelling arguments, and in winning cases, and that has made us a leader in the region. We are expanding, however, into a new area of practice: representing clients before the immigration court.
Just like in civil and criminal court, there is a language to immigration court, and without being fluent in that language, it is almost impossible to succeed at getting your case approved. It’s fair to say that most people living in America today do not have any prior experience with immigration courts as they are typically hidden from public view. People who find themselves in removal proceedings are left to rely on others navigating the system alongside them. If clients are placed in detention and removal, they are then left to figure out if they qualify for cancellation of removal and how to pay for immigration court and applications.
Under US immigration law, people who are in removal or deportation proceedings have the option of having legal representation, but this cannot come at the expense of the government. Many thousands of people in and on release from immigration detention centers all over the United States cannot afford good legal representation and so try to go it alone. Removal defense can cost tens of thousands of dollars, a sum well outside the reach of many families. We believe that no one should go through this process by themselves, and that we are uniquely placed to take on these new types of cases. As a low-cost, legal services provider, New American Pathways is able to step-in provide information and support to clients to help them navigate the system. Removal defense is very complicated, and while we look forward to the challenge, we don’t want this new case type to come at the expense of our established clientele, so it is critical that we are prepared to expand our department through substantial community support.
Marty Rosenbluth, a tireless attorney who practices in Lumpkin GA fighting the endless battle to get people released from Stewart Detention Center calls his freed clients “starfish.” It might seem that we’re battling against an endless tide, but this is the business of saving lives, and it matters to each starfish that we’re able to return to their family and their home. New American Pathways is ready and honored to join the fight to help people achieve justice and to have an equal chance at the safety and stability necessary to a successful life here.