By Blake Hart, Director
Carolina Immigrant Alliance
In the midst of the tumult and uncertainty caused by the Coronavirus, we at the Carolina Immigrant Alliance have attempted to give our clients a sense of stability and understanding. We’ve tried to calm fears, to craft communications, and to file petitions that will extend comfort and stability. We have tried to continue our work, offering our clients the knowledge that we are still here for them.
I can think of two cases that highlight this work that we have done in the midst of a global pandemic.
The first is an asylum case. This family arrived in the United States shortly before the pandemic shut down our society. We began working with them on crafting their arguments for asylum and then the world turned upside down.
After uprooting their family and fleeing to the other side of the world, they found themselves looking for a home and work while also trying to seek safety and security from the Coronavirus. All the while we continued working on their asylum case—making that one less thing that they had to worry about. We gathered documents and statements, filled out forms and affidavits, and got their petition ready to file so they could focus on finding work and finding a home.
Marriage petition for visa
Another case I think of is a family petition that we filed in 2018. We filed a marriage petition for a young couple living in our area, which was approved in January of 2020. Normal processing would mean that once a visa was available for our client, the National Visa Center would send them a letter with instructions on paying their fees and filing the remaining forms to attempt to get their visa to the United States.
This letter never came.
By the time that we realized that the National Visa Center had made a mistake, we could no longer contact the appropriate offices. With COVID related furloughs and reduced staff, the Nation Visa Center became unresponsive. Countless emails and phone calls went unanswered. Our client was understandably shaken. Would this petition be in vain? Would they lose their spot in line? Could this lead to a preventable deportation?
While we maintained pressure on the National Visa Center, we also remained a place where our client could be heard and comforted. Finally, in February of this year, the National Visa Center finally responded to our countless requests and our clients are now able to start the next steps of their long journey to stability.
A calming presence for our clients
COVID-19 has posed many challenges to all of us. Some of us have been sick while others have been caregivers. Some have quarantined and stayed at home while others have worked frontline jobs putting their health at risk to care for others. We’ve all dealt with uncertainty and worry. We’ve tried to be a calming presence for our clients, continuing to provide the quality counsel they need at a time when the world is upended around them.
Blake Hart is the director of Carolina Immigrant Alliance. He was formerly CBFSC Missions Coordinator.
COVID-19 has posed challenges for all of us. Parents have had to learn how to work from home while their children do school virtually. Caregivers have had to learn how to care for loved ones from a distance. We’ve all had to learn how to relate and work differently. For more than a year we’ve had to navigate these new and treacherous waters.
For most of us, we’ve been able to deal with these issues in our home country, in our native language, and among institutions which we know. We also haven’t had to deal with the added stress of pending immigration cases, of delayed responses that could determine if we get to live here peacefully or if we will be deported back to violence and certain death. We haven’t had to attempt to communicate with a government bureaucracy that was already unresponsive at best, that also held the keys to our well-being and stability in our new home.