February 2, 2023

PITTSBURGH. Elsa Hernandez’s brown eyes sparkle as her ideas flip to the probabilities that beckon her now that she has a inexperienced card.

Whereas lulling her new child son to sleep, the 24-year-old Pittsburgh girl remembers her highschool aspirations to turn into an FBI agent, a aim she had to surrender when she realized that US citizenship was a prerequisite.

The younger mom then thought-about a profession as a physiotherapist, however that too was out of attain as a result of monetary assist for coaching was solely out there to authorized residents.

Then, after 4 years of making an attempt to get her paperwork so as, this yr the window of alternative lastly widened.

Hernandez owes her dream of the American Dream to the Bay Space Immigration Institute (IIBA), a San Francisco-based nonprofit that gives free, low-cost authorized assist to immigrants.

Victor Hernandez, left, dine at residence along with his sons Sebastian, 3, new child Ezekiel, and spouse Elsa, in Pittsburgh, California, Thursday, October 13, 2022. (Ray Chavez/Bay Space Information Group)

“Now… I’ve excessive hopes,” stated Hernandez, who has labored as a paramedic however is contemplating nursing faculty after which probably a grasp’s diploma to turn into a nurse practitioner.

“Or perhaps, simply perhaps, have a look at a PhD,” added the mom of two.

With places of work in seven cities from Napa to Brentwood and Redwood Metropolis, IIBA positions itself as the biggest supplier of immigration authorized providers in Northern California with purchasers from a dizzying array of nations from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. Final yr, the group filed purposes with the USA Citizenship and Immigration Companies (USCIS) on behalf of two,828 purchasers; this yr it has held 3,646 prospect consultations and opened 2,855 instances as of October.

He additionally presents lessons that put together purchasers for the citizenship take a look at and advises social service organizations in addition to native governments on immigration regulation adjustments.

IIBA hopes to lift $25,000 by way of the East Bay Occasions’ annual “Share the Spirit” marketing campaign, which highlights nonprofits serving those that want their providers most.

IIBA plans to make use of the funds to supply authorized recommendation and authorized illustration to low-income immigrant communities in Contra Costa and Alameda counties. This yr, the necessity is very acute because the nonprofit misplaced a longstanding grant. collected cash will assist immigration authorized providers for 250 folks.

Two of the most typical IIBA providers are for individuals who need to turn into naturalized residents and individuals who need to apply for a inexperienced card on behalf of a relative. The IIBA additionally typically helps violent crime victims apply for visas, most of whom are already in the USA illegally however need permission to remain within the nation.

After which there are these like Hernandez who have been undocumented after they got here to the USA as kids and now need deportation safety and a piece allow, which is granted underneath a 10-year-old federal coverage referred to as “Delaying motion on childhood.” Arrival, or DACA.

Hernandez is amongst some 800,000 immigrants who’ve taken benefit of the short-term reprieve out there to those that meet the age and residence standards.

A local of Nieves in Zacatecas, Mexico, Hernandez was solely 6 years outdated when her mom introduced her and her older sister to Pittsburgh to hitch her father.

Undocumented dad and mom approached IIBA in search of safety preparations for his or her daughters; Following in her sister’s footsteps, Hernandez acquired her DACA standing at age 16 after a year-long wait and has since renewed it 4 instances.

However her husband, Victor, a US citizen, needed his spouse to turn into American too, which meant she wanted a inexperienced card first.

He petitioned USCIS on her behalf within the fall of 2018, however three years handed earlier than he acquired an electronic mail notifying him that Hernandez had an appointment on the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez at 7 a.m. sharp on December 1st.

“I wept with (sic) happiness,” stated Hernandez, who harbored fears that even a minor misdemeanor, akin to a rushing ticket, may end in her repatriation.

“With DACA, you’re feeling a little bit secure since you don’t at all times should look again, however with my inexperienced card, I’ve official standing right here – one step nearer to changing into a citizen.”

Elsa Hernandez (left) with husband Victor and their two children, newborn Ezekiel and 3-year-old Sebastian, spend a light moment in the backyard of their Pittsburgh home.  (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)
Elsa Hernandez (left) with husband Victor and their two kids, new child Ezekiel and 3-year-old Sebastian, spend a light-weight second within the yard of their Pittsburgh residence. (Ray Chavez/Bay Space Information Group)

However she needed to climb; the last-minute information meant she solely had 11 days to assemble the mandatory paperwork and purchase a airplane ticket: since Hernandez had entered the U.S. illegally, the foundations required her to return to Mexico for the interview.

The IIBA officer went to work the following day, serving to Hernandez schedule a routine medical examination and fingerprinting appointment that will be executed in Mexico earlier than assembly with the immigration officer who would evaluation her software.

Her hopes lastly got here true in January when Hernandez acquired her inexperienced card. Now she is ready once more, this time to use for citizenship subsequent yr.

Nonetheless, not all tales finish properly.

Julia Preza, who labored with Hernandez as one of many IIBA DOJ accredited representatives, has seen her share of upset purchasers.

She remembers the lady who denied IIBA the chance to assist her get a inexperienced card when it was revealed that she had stayed within the US twice after her visa had expired. In one other case, a person deliberate to carry his spouse to the USA, however the IIBA was compelled to tell the couple that after the divorce, they now not met the eligibility necessities.

“Generally it may be very irritating, you don’t know the way… to not spoil their goals,” Preza stated.

Nonetheless, when IIBA efficiently navigates the intricacies of the regulation in order that immigrants can carry their family members into the nation they have not seen in years, it pays off handsomely.

“They’re simply crying in entrance of you as a result of they’re so completely happy, so grateful,” Preza stated.


Share the Spirit

Sponsored by the Bay Space Information Group, Share the Spirit vacation marketing campaign brings aid, hope and alternative to East Bay residents by serving to increase cash for non-profit applications in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

The right way to assist

Donations will assist the Bay Space Immigration Institute present authorized recommendation and authorized illustration to low-income immigrant communities in Contra Costa and Alameda counties. Aim: $25,000

The right way to give

Go to www.sharethespiriteastbay.org/donate or print and mail the coupon.

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