The Complexity of Modern Immigration
When most people think about immigration, they picture an Ellis Island situation. Immigrants line up, the government checks them out, and in they come. What people don’t realize is that immigration has changed completely in the last century. There are now hundreds of pages of laws detailing who can enter the country, for what reasons, and in what circumstances. There are almost 40 different types of visas, and still most of the people in the world do not qualify for any of them. Even simple stuff – getting a student visa or a green card for your spouse – means filling out long forms and providing very specific supporting documentation. Then you get to the really complicated stuff: visas for political asylum, for victims of domestic violence, for victims of trafficking. Cases like that are often challenging even for experienced immigration attorneys, let alone people trying to file for themselves.
Training Immigration Advocates
If we are going to guide immigrants through this labyrinthine system, we need to get familiar with it ourselves. At IMMIGRANT PATHWAY Institute (IPI), we bring in presenters who specialize in these and many other areas of immigration law. The goal is that students will, after getting some hands-on experience, be able to handle the simple stuff and know how to identify and refer out the complicated cases. If our students are going to provide immigration advice, however, they need to know more than just the law. The training has to touch on how to set up a legal practice, legal ethics, case management software, working with volunteers.
Added to all of that is the perspective we bring to the issues: we are a Christian organization motivated by a biblical mandate to serve immigrants and dedicated to working through local churches. We help prepare our students to do immigration legal ministry by bringing in devotional speakers, leading lunch-time discussions on applications for ministry, and talking about applying biblical ethics to immigration practice.
As you can probably tell, we spend a busy week together. I’ve been through the training 3 years in a row, and I know that I’ll keep learning in year 4.