Immigration workshop grant for St. James/Santiago Apóstol

Helping immigrants understand their legal options to stay in the United States and how to plan for their family in a time of increased enforcement are subjects for immigration community meetings organized by the Family Life Center at St. James Lutheran Church/Santiago Apóstol and held across the Houston area.

The board of Live On, the Gulf Coast Synod’s endowment fund, recently approved a seed money grant to enable the workshops to continue through the year.

“A number of participants discovered that they have a path to citizenship,” said Robert Rivera of St. James. “For example, a person who has been a victim of a crime may qualify for legal status or visa to stay in the country and eventually gain permanent resident status.”

Meetings have been held primarily in churches that contacted St. James but also in Houston schools and an apartment complex in southwest Houston. The meetings have served a total of 387 families and impacted over 1,200 people. Each meeting includes discussion of rights and “how to make a plan” in case of detention. Volunteer lawyers meet briefly with individuals or families to assess whether further legal help would be beneficial. 

Lawyers who have volunteered include Javier Rivera, Craig Pena, Francis Valdez, Carlo Torres and Edwin Reyes; Catholic Charities Legal Team, and Kathy Patrick and lawyers from Gibbs & Bruns. Other partners include the Weekley YMCA, Catholic Charities, United We Dream Houston and the Houston Public Library.

“As our congregation grows, it is important to our Latino membership to support these efforts,” Rivera said. “As we stand with undocumented families as many of our families are, our families become more dedicated to our church.”