Groups that provide immigration services in eastern Iowa see an increased need
The Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque is stretched thin when it comes to their immigration legal services.
Two attorneys cover 30 counties and more than 300 immigration cases.
To keep up with the work and to help more immigrants, the charity has added a third attorney to their team.
Attorney and Director of Immigration Legal Services Yer Vang said, "there's such a huge need in northeast Iowa for qualified, high quality legal immigration services."
She believes the need has increased in the past year in part because of the political climate and the uncertainty of immigration laws, including the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
"The changes in immigration law and I think the increased presence and activity of ICE enforcement in our community has raised the level of fear and anxiety in immigrant communities," she explained.
She said because immigrants are more anxious, they're seeking out the charity's services to check their status and be proactive.
"We know that with that fear and anxiety, a lot of folks are reaching out to us to say, 'what can we do to help' in terms of helping to stabilize their immigration status," Vang said.
Vang said she hopes to add a fourth attorney to legal team soon.
With more attorneys, she hopes they can work on providing help other than legal.
She said, "doing outreach into the immigrant community, providing information so that people know what their rights are and that they can be prepared in cases of emergencies."
In Dubuque, Director of Hispanic Ministry at St. Patrick's Church Gabriela Vega Bauerly said she has also seen an increase of immigrants seeking help.
She says most of her days are spent translating English to Spanish. She translates health care documents, notes from teachers and even helps schedule appointments.
"We try to make sure that language barrier doesn’t keep them from getting the services and the help that they need," Vega Bauerly said.
She also helps immigrants find legal services, "to find an immigration attorney or someone who could help them notarize a document or just to figure out what they can do with their case and if they can apply for any immigration assistance.”
She refers some people to Catholic Charities, and now that will be easier with more attorneys.
"I think the expansion of Catholic Charities is a great benefit to Dubuque and the surrounding areas because we are in desperate need of just those resources," she said.