Living the American Dream: Helping Immigrants Succeed in America

Posted on 01/05/2016 @ 11:45 PM

Tags: advocacy, ACTober, policy

By: Jessica Velasquez, LULAC Community Programs Intern

Last month, I had the opportunity to volunteer at the “Living the American Dream” Gala, in Sacramento, CA. The event was presented by LULAC’s Lorenzo Patiño Council #2862 of Sacramento and Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional (locally known as Hermandad). Hermandad is a local nonprofit organization that has a decades-long history of serving the community of Sacramento. The gala celebrated and recognized newly naturalized U.S. citizens, scholarship recipients, and distinguished community leaders. Individuals from many different backgrounds attended the event, including key government, business, and media leaders from the Sacramento area.

As a volunteer at the event, I learned more about the great work of these two leading organizations. The LULAC Lorenzo Patiño Council has served the community of Sacramento for over thirty-two years by promoting higher education opportunities and defending the civil rights of the local community. The council partners with local charities and Latino organizations in the Sacramento area. In addition, the council awards annual scholarships to local college-bound students.

Similarly, Hermandad provides low-cost legal services to immigrant communities as well as education, economic, and community development programs. For the past two years, Hermandad has also been a grant recipient of the Hispanic Immigrant Integration Project (HIIP), which was created through a partnership between LULAC, the Hispanic Federation, and the Walmart Foundation with the purpose of providing immigrant integration services to communities across the United States.

A highlight for me was observing how LULAC’s Sacramento Council and Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional are helping Latinos live the American dream by providing them with scholarships, immigration services, and many other opportunities. Coming from an immigrant family, I witnessed my undocumented family members struggle as they navigated through the broken U.S. immigration system. It took my family ten years of sweat and tears to become U.S. residents. Immigration is an issue that I am deeply passionate about, and I was very happy to see how LULAC’s Lorenzo Patiño Council and Hermandad are making a difference in the lives of immigrant families through their services.

As an intern, I have helped redesign the Hispanic Immigrant Integration Project (HIIP) Handbook. This program is helping hardworking Latinos gain access to the American dream by providing free access to U.S. history and civics classes along with application assistance for naturalization, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and family- based petitions. In 2014, the program helped more than 1,881 individuals successfully complete civics classes or the application process for naturalization, DACA, and family petitions.

Observing the gala, and witnessing the direct impact of Hermandad’s work on my surrounding community through the testimonies of HIIP participants was truly an honor. HIIP has helped countless individuals attain U.S. citizenship, work authorizations, and social security numbers. Through their newly acquired statuses, individuals have access to higher education and occupations which ultimately provide better lives for them and their families. I now see how the work that I undertake as an intern can help a community that I deeply care about. I am energized to work harder than ever to ensure that LULAC is offering the most effective programs to ensure better lives for the immigrant community.

Jessica Velasquez is the Community Programs Intern at the LULAC Regional Office in Sacramento, California. Jessica is a fourth year student at the University of California, Los Angeles majoring in Chican@ Studies and Political Science and will be graduating in Spring of 2016.

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