“Citizenship is both a system of privilege and a source of social identity” (Gee, Morey, Ro, & Takeuchi, 2016). Throughout my work at Taller de Jose, citizenship has been a constant theme. We have found several different times that citizenship and documentation status plays a gigantic role in obtaining legal, health, and social services.
It has come to be disheartening to see that a client’s need for financial assistance will most likely not be met because of the client’s documentation status. One particular couple sat in my office and disclosed being financially unstable despite both of them being employed and having two children together. They had received an eviction notice and sat there hopeful to obtain supportive services. We called one organization after another after another with no success. Despite my greatest efforts, they were facing the harsh reality of homelessness.
Another client who has been a victim of domestic violence and who is currently going through a divorce case fears being separated from her children due to her documentation status.
Another client is seeking to be the legal guardian and power of attorney over her nephew who has autism because her sister (the boy’s mother) had gotten deported a few months prior.
Immigration related issues have been posing problems for undocumented individuals, and even those with permanent residency cards. Last week, a client and I went to an appointment with an immigration official. He came out of his appointment with a notice of removal proceedings.
Situations like this arise frequently in today’s era. It makes me fear for my clients. I am frustrated with policies that strip my clients of their dignity and of their humanity. I am bothered that I feel powerless in situations where systems are negatively skewed against immigrants.
The encouragement that I receive when assisting in these cases is when I see the love that still overcomes in these cases. As I advocate for my clients on the phone, I see my client hold on to her husband’s hand as a reassurance that everything will be alright. I see my client going through the divorce case find joy in talking about her kids and her motivation to continue fighting. I will only get to see snippets of my client’s lives as they endure their most difficult situation. But I find courage in knowing that I will accompany my clients, always making sure that they are not alone, that I will advocate for them when it seems the most dark.
*Details related to clients have been modified to protect their identity.