(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Families awaiting federal decisions on immigration reform and the final decision on the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program are becoming anxious as their future remains uncertain.
Immigration appeals representative Donna Salcido works with individuals and families apply for work permits, green cards, and naturalization on a daily basis.
"They're fearful. They're fearful that their families are going to be separated, that they could be deported back to their home countries," Salcido said.
To combat the growing fear immigrants might face while seeking citizenship and community acceptance, the St. Joseph Interfaith Alliance for Immigrants (IAI) is working to destigmatize immigration on a local level.
Interfaith Alliance for Immigrants Chairperson Marsha Rosenthal said the Alliance focuses on helping local immigrant with ‘good’ reason for coming to the St. Joseph community.
“We really have not had much conversation on the national forum. We dwell on our community. We want to take care of the immigrants who are here for a good purpose in our community. I feel that we have enough here to dwell on and work with that that's where our work is,” Rosenthal said.
The Alliance works to break down stereotypes and provide guidance for lawful immigration into the United States.
While there are several options for legal visits and prolonged stays in the United States, Salcido said the road to citizenship can be long.
"A visa is for you to be able to enter the country. That can be difficult just to obtain a visa be able to come to the country to visit. Work permits take anywhere from three to six months. Green cards can take up to a year and so can naturalization,” Salcido said.
The Alliance also noted that issues surrounding immigration can easily dissolve to conflict revolving around race.
"Because we have white skins doesn't mean that we're all good. Just like saying all the immigrants are not all good. They have their good and bad too, but we dwell on the ones that are here for the good," Rosenthal said.
The alliance is working with local businesses and advocacy groups to provide educational programs to the community and support to immigrants living in the area.
"We want them to lead lives that are productive and they have human rights, like everyone else. They can raise their children with the ideals and emotions that they too can lead a better life here in the United States," Rosenthal said.
The Interfaith Alliance for Immigrants will be hosting a series of Community Awareness Forums throughout the spring. The first Awareness Forum will be a panel discussion on politics and advocacy in immigration. The panel will meet Tuesday, February 20, in the basement of the St. Patrick's Church at 7p.m.