ALAMOSE – In 2002, a small but powerful non-profit organization was born. Known as the SLV Immigration Resource Centre, the help provided by a small staff of three over the years has changed the lives of thousands of people who, in many cases, had nowhere to go to acquire help.
The SLVIRC has always been there, and their contribution – not just to the lives of individuals but to the community as a whole – deserves to be celebrated as they enter their twentieth year.
The origin of SLVIRC dates back to 1987. Operating as part of a collection of churches called Christian Community Services, the program was created to help low-income immigrants with applications for asylum, amnesty (which was granted at the time) and other problems. involved in obtaining legal status. It was also at this time that the Guatemalan community, forced to flee and take refuge from the civil war, took root and began to grow in the San Luis Valley.
“There were no immigration lawyers in the valley at the time,” said SLVIRC executive director Flora Archuleta. “There still aren’t any.”
A group of Denver attorneys began helping out with immigration issues, a practice that continued for the next fifteen years.
Then, in 2002, the decision was made to separate and SLVIRC was born as an independent non-profit organization solely dedicated to immigrants.
“It was about time,” Archuleta said.
The SLVIRC team is small but could
It would be easy to tell the story of SLVIRC in numbers, which are impressive.
The Immigration Resource Center has operated for the past two decades with no more than three full-time staff (including Archuleta) and one, sometimes two part-time staff.
Angelica Raya Trejo helps with legal immigration issues and is in the process of being certified in this field. Maricela Lucas, who speaks three languages - English, Spanish and Q’anjob’al – worked for the Department of Social Services, administers the Housing for Victims of Crime program where she helps victims find housing. Archuleta keeps the ship afloat by writing grants, overseeing programs, developing new ones, and bringing home any work that isn’t finished for the day. The three women share a passionate commitment to their mission, ultimately providing a “safe place” where approximately 2,000 immigrants receive help in a myriad of areas.
When asked how such a small group could accomplish such a huge task, Archuleta simply replied, “we work well together.”
SLVIRC strives to help immigrants
Their mission is clear and simple: to connect and empower immigrants with the resources to obtain legal documents, meet their economic needs, and integrate into the community. They do not discriminate based on legal status and work with individuals as individuals of varying legal status and circumstances.
The area they serve, which is one of the poorest regions in Colorado, is home to more than 45,000 residents including 10,000 migrant and seasonal workers. Overall, the population is nearly 50% Hispanic, with over 400 Q’anjob’al Maya (Guatemalians) living in the San Luis Valley.
Geographically, their service area is roughly the same size as the state of Connecticut. But it’s likely that the highly skilled staff and safe, inclusive environment they provide is what brings immigrants to their offices in the San Luis Valley and beyond, including northern New Mexico and New Mexico. other surrounding areas.
Archuleta explains their appeal to such a large geographic area with what can only be described as an understatement.
“Immigration lawyers are very expensive,” she said.
Accredited for more than 20 years as an immigration service provider by the Office of Legal Access Programs (OLAP), the SLVIRC Immigration Legal Assistance Services program helps – for a nominal fee – to provide legal advice to US citizens, immigrants and undocumented persons in a variety of matters.
Staff also help people navigate a very complex immigration system where even the simplest mistake can delay or derail obtaining legal status.
Por Ti Misma-Assisting Battered Immigrants, another SLVIRC program, has been a lifeline for immigrant victims of domestic violence, especially the most vulnerable who are forced to rely on an abusive spouse to gain citizenship. Not only does SLVIRC help victims to become independent, but through the provisions of the Violence Against Women Act, staff have helped victims gain legal status themselves.
“Our education outreach program also offers ESL classes and after-school tutoring in Tierra Nueva, where we help children from migrant farm worker families with homework,” Archuleta said.
For the past two years, the IRC has also awarded the $2,000 Zoila Gomez “Si Se Puede” Scholarship to four SLV students each year.
“It’s a lot to do. And those are just the programs,” she said.
The SLVIRC also offers many interpretation and translation services and helps immigrants to gather their documents and make an appointment with the Department of Motor Vehicles to obtain and renew their driver’s license.
It works with the Mexican Consulate on passport renewal and collection of documents allowing dual nationality and voting in elections held in Mexico. And for those experiencing economic difficulties, they distribute 50 to 60 boxes of food per month.
They also work with First Southwest Bank which, through their Forteleza fund, offers Quickbooks courses for immigrant entrepreneurs and small business owners to use in their accounting practices.
SLVIRC has made a difference in the lives of those it has helped
The scope of SLVIRC’s services touches almost every aspect of life, but the real story of SLVIRC lies in the difference they have made in people’s lives.
Archuleta remembers a few of the stories, including one of their first clients. Sandra lived in the Center and was the victim of domestic violence.
“She had no documents, no personal effects,” Archuleta said. “She had nothing.”
SLVIRC worked with Tu Casa to provide Sandra with what she needed to start a new life, and through VAWA she became a citizen and, years later, lives a rich and fulfilling life.
Archuleta also recalls another story about a young man who had Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. He graduated from the Alamosa School District, went to college and then earned his doctorate.
“He’s so successful,” Archuleta said.
These are just two of the countless stories that can be told.
Although the women occasionally had to deal with people coming to the center or leaving phone messages containing statements condemning immigrants, they felt the community was generally supportive.
This support is vital to this highly effective, frontline, non-profit organization that has aided and supported in truly transforming lives and realizing dreams among people whose presence enriches the economy and cultural landscape of the San Luis Valley.
As the stories posted on their website demonstrate, SLVIRC has spent 20 years building a lasting legacy of hope and realized potential. With the continued support of the community, there’s a good chance the legacy will continue into the future.
More information about the SLV Immigration Resource Center can be found on their website at slvirc.org.