Linking Immigrants to Benfits Resources and Education
Linking Immigrants to Benfits Resources and Education
WARNING: In the United States, a “NOTARY” is not a “NOTARIO PUBLICO.”
In the US, only a lawyer or BIA accredited representative can give legal advice.
In many Latin American countries, a “Notario” is a person who went to college and obtained a degree in law. “Notarios” are authorized to give advice and legal help in these countries.
In the United States, a “Notary” does not have go to law school or college; a notary is NOT trained to help people with immigration. Notaries are only allowed to verify the identity of the person signing a document.
If you need immigration help, go to a lawyer or BIA representative. A California Notary cannot legally write a legal document or file immigration forms for you.
Do not be fooled. If you need help, find a qualified and authorized person to do it. Do your homework and investigate the credentials of the person you ask for help.
You can check if someone is a California licensed lawyer & whether they have a record of discipline at the California Bar Website: http://members.calbar.ca.gov/fal/membersearch/quicksearch
You can check if someone is a BIA accredited representative at https://www.justice.gov/eoir/recognized-organizations-and-accredited-representatives-roster-state-and-city
For more information, see https://www.uscis.gov/avoid-scams
Jenny Horne works on the Teen Parent Project and Protecting Victims of Domestic Violence Project. She is a graduate of Stanford Law School and founded the Teen Parents Project as a Skadden fellow at Legal Aid in 1994. Prior to her fellowship, Jenny clerked for Judge Alfred Goodwin in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In recognition of her excellent work, she was inducted into the San Mateo County Women’s Hall of Fame; received the Silver Award from the Peninsula Partnership Council’s first biannual Children’s Report Initiative in 2002; and in 1999, received a Commendation from the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and the San Mateo County Perinatal Council for services provided to San Mateo County school-age parents.
Hope Nakamura is Directing Attorney for the Senior Advocates program and Administrative Law Unit. She is considered a state-wide expert on government benefits. Hope graduated from the UCLA School of Law and came to Legal Aid after working at the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, D.C. In her 28 years at Legal Aid, she has developed programs and worked in partnerships that educate and assist low-income families and individual residents who need safety net benefits.Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
A Beacon of Hope for Immigrants in the Bay Area
“I don’t want to take any risks,” explains a 52-year-old immigrant mother fearing deportation, when asked by the Associated Press why she felt it was necessary to drop her teenage daughter, a U.S. citizen, from the food stamp benefit she relied on.
Fears of deportation plague immigrant families in our community and across the United States, as chilling stories of ICE raids and families being forcefully separated circulate through the media. These fears are at a high in California, where the U.S. Census Bureau states that the immigrant population is twice the national average. The Bureau also found that here in San Mateo County, more than a third of the approximately 750,000 residents are foreign-born. Of the estimated 7.6% of these residents who are unauthorized, the Migration Policy Institute recorded that more than half have lived in the U.S. for over ten years, over 70% are employed, and many have U.S. citizen children.
Despite the fact that immigrants are deeply integrated into our communities—as friends, coworkers, peers, husbands, wives, mothers, and fathers—many still lack knowledge about their legal rights and protections[HN1] . All immigrants, documented or undocumented, are eligible under federal law for basic services such as emergency health care. However, they are increasingly afraid to pursue their legal rights, even for their American-born children.
Legal Aid’s Linking Immigrants to Benefits, Resources, and Education (LIBRE) Program is a catalyst for action at a time when many are paralyzed by their fear of the government. When negative rhetoric towards immigrants is perpetrated by the highest of government officials, LIBRE represents a voice of compassion and justice for immigrants and their families.
LIBRE is a collaboration between the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County and six other organizations in San Mateo County: Redwood City 2020, Nuestra Casa, Coastside Hope, Ravenswood School District, Redwood City School District, and the San Mateo County Human Services Agency. Its aim is to ameliorate the barriers that prevent immigrants from accessing basic services and asserting their rights. To accomplish this task, LIBRE connects immigrants and their families with various resources in their communities such as community centers, healthcare, and other support services to help them obtain the benefits for which they are eligible.
Immigrants turn to LIBRE because it is known in the community as a trusted source of accurate information, in a day and age where it is increasingly difficult to separate fact from fiction. For example, a common myth among immigrant families is that applying for any government benefits will label them as a “public charge,” which will negatively affect their immigration status in the future. In reality, “public charge” is a term only for certain immigrants who are applying for legal permanent resident status, but who the government determines will rely on specific cash benefits. Obtaining non-cash benefits, such as Medi-Cal or Food Stamps, does not raise public charge issues, and even receiving cash benefits is not a bar for many applicants. Through outreach efforts like presentations at local community centers, LIBRE works to ensure that immigrants know these myths are false. LIBRE educates immigrant families about the benefits for which they are eligible, and whether their immigration status will be affected.
The opportunity for immigrants to receive these benefits is not about taking resources away from American citizens, and it is not about free-riding off the government. It is about accessing the basics of life—food and health care—that every human being needs to survive and be contributing members of the community. Legal Aid attorneys and their LIBRE partners assist pregnant mothers who need prenatal care to give birth to a healthy child, developing children whose parents cannot afford to feed them, and ill grandparents who could die from the flu without basic medical services.
Recently, I had the privilege of attending a LIBRE conference and experiencing these efforts firsthand. The conference was composed of representatives from each organization that makes up LIBRE, who convene regularly to discuss their work. Going into the conference, what I expected to see was a group at least somewhat discouraged by the growing difficulty of advocating for immigrants in today’s tumultuous political environment. However, what I observed was a community of individuals passionately continuing to work against those obstacles.
Rather than feeling defeated, the members of LIBRE seem imbued with a renewed sense of purpose, inspired to do their job even better and to work even harder. I watched as they raised questions, shared experiences, addressed obstacles, and formed solutions as a group. LIBRE’s clients need them now more than ever, and it is clear from what I observed that LIBRE has no intention of backing away from the challenges ahead. Remaining committed to serving its clients no matter what, LIBRE is a beacon of hope in a time of great uncertainty for one of the largest immigrant communities in the country.
To learn more about LIBRE, visit their website: http://www.thelibreproject.org/
The San Mateo Rapid Response Network is a collaboration between Faith in Action Bay Area and Pangea Legal Services. This is a 24 hour number system which has been created to expand the community’s capacity to monitor and document ICE operations in real time and to support the process of gathering evidence used to free someone from ICE custody.
This number is only for San Mateo County. Other counties have their own systems with differnet numbers.
Q: Is there a new rule about how getting government benefits will affect an immigrant’s ability to become a lawful permanent resident?
A: No. The media reported a draft Executive Order that might change the rules about the “public charge” test for immigrants. But, that draft Executive Order was not signed. The rules about immigrants using public benefits have not changed. We don’t know if or when President Trump will sign an Executive Order on public charge, and we don’t know what will change until we see what he signs.
Q: What is the “public charge” rule?
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can use the “public charge” rule to deny a person’s application for lawful permanent residence (“green card”) if it believes that the person will depend mostly on government support in the future. USCIS looks at many things, including whether the person gets cash aid, like CalWORKs, General Assistance, CAPI, or SSI, to decide if the person will depend on government help in the future. USCIS does not look at food and health benefits such as CalFresh (food stamps), WIC, and Medi-Cal for the public charge test unless you are in a nursing home. President Trump has not yet changed this rule. If he does change it, we will update this website.
Q: Does the public charge rule apply to all immigrants?
A: No. The public charge rule does not apply to people who are already permanent residents and are applying for citizenship. It also does not apply to U VISA, SIJS, VAWA, and many other types of immigration cases.
Q: If I am already getting food or health benefits, should I cancel them now?
A: If you are already getting food or health benefits, there is little additional risk in continuing to receive them until something changes. If a new Executive Order changes the public charge rules to include these benefits if they are received in the future, you can cancel your benefits. If a new Executive Order tells USCIS to look at food and medical benefits even if they were received in the past, you’ve already been receiving them and a few additional months probably won’t make a big difference.
Q: Is there anything I should do now if I am receiving government benefits?
If you receive any public benefits, you should be careful to report your income correctly and timely to avoid overpayments and potential fraud charges. Be aware of your Income Reporting Threshold (IRT) amount and report your income immediately if it reaches that amount, even if it’s in between your regular report dates. Being accused of fraud (not telling the truth about your situation in order to get more benefits) can affect your immigration options.
Please look back at this site for any future changes.
(This is not meant to be specific legal advice. If you have specific questions, please contact LIBRE for an appropriate referral)
Hope Nakamura is Directing Attorney for the Senior Advocates program, LIBRE and Administrative Law Unit. She is considered a state-wide expert on government benefits. Hope graduated from the UCLA School of Law and came to Legal Aid after working at the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, D.C. In her 28 years at Legal Aid, she has developed programs and worked in partnerships that educate and assist low-income families and individual residents who need safety net benefits