Woman smiles by U.S. flag on the wall, which is covered in smaller flags from many countries. The sign "welcome" sits above the flag and "Bienvenidos" ("Welcome" in Spanish) below it.

Consulting on Immigration After Trauma

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By Eileen LeValley

Meet Antionia Morabito. She is an immigration specialist at LASED in Detroit, Michigan, which stands for Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development. LASED is located in Southwest Detroit in the neighborhood known as “Mexicantown.”

She received her Master’s degree in International Communication of Hispanic Studies. During this time, she was also teaching Italian and Spanish classes at University of Detroit Mercy.

Antonia’s journey started when she did her internship at LASED from 2007-2008. After that, LASED hired her full time as an Immigration Specialist and Educational Coordinator. Antonia speaks five different languages, English, Spanish, Italian, Greek, and Latin.

Antonia also teaches classes at LASED. The first class she teaches is “ESL” – English as a Second Language. The second class she teaches is “United States Citizenship.” She teaches both of these classes to adults and youths. Antonia also helps with the daily operations of the LASED youth and senior centers.

As an immigration specialist, Antonia helps immigrants apply to be a United States Citizen. She helps immigrants with Green Cards, work documents, and the entire process that has anything to do with immigrating to Michigan.

Antonia works with Cubans who arrived to the United States in the 1980’s and earlier. Some of these Cubans came to the United States under the rules and regulations of the Nixon Administration. LASED is the only one in the area that works with Cubans.

LASED is one of the oldest non-profit organizations in Detroit. The first to work with the Hispanic community. LASED is also the first organization to work with an entire community. Anyone in the area can go to LASED with immigration help or questions. If anyone is scared by what they see on television about immigration, they can go to LASED with questions, and she will explain to them the reality of the situation.

Antonia also works with DREAMERS – Dreamers Education Reform, or Dream Act – that is, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, an American legislative proposal for a process for granting residency status to qualifying immigrants who entered the United States as minors. It would first grant conditional residency, and, upon meeting further qualifications, permanent residency. In June of 2012, President Barrack Obama announced his administration would stop deporting undocumented immigrants who matched certain criteria included in the proposed DREAM act.

Antonia’s successes as an Immigration Specialist include helping over 550 people in the last 10 years to become a United States’ Citizen.

Woman smiles while sitting at desk, whiteboard behind her reading list of pronouns and conjugation of verb "to have."
Antonia Morabito, Immigration Specialist at LASED, Detroit, Michigan, sits in her classroom waiting for her students to arrive for the Citizenship Class on Monday, November 11, 2019. Photo credit: Eileen LeValley

Antonia directs cases with children who are being held in determent camps today to the Mexican Consulates.

If an immigrant is deported out of the United States after living for one year in the United States, because of issues, Antonia gets involved and helps them with immigration policy. Immigrants must follow the regulations. If they commit a crime, or have issues with domestic violence, jail time, or drug related issues, they will get sent back. There are limits as to what Antonia can help them with. They will also loose their Green Card.

Citizenship to the United States requires that you live more than five years in the United States before you apply for citizenship. You must know the 100 questions related to the United States on the test, and read and write English. It is a three-five-month process, and Antonia helps with all of these requirements for immigrants. You must also be over 18 years old, file income tax, and have no trouble with firearms, prostitution, or drugs.

Colorful framed art of people connected by threads.
One of many youth art work pieces displayed at LASED, Detroit, Michigan, are created by the children in the Youth Center. Monday, November 11, 2019. Photo credit: Eileen LeValley

Today, Antonia faces new challenges. Under the new rules of the Trump Administration, immigration policy has changed. Now, renewing a Green Card takes up to 11 months, and a specific background check must be implemented. In the past, renewing a Green Card was easy. Also new is that the applicant must know 70% English which is difficult, because most did not go to school. If the applicant does not have health insurance, or if they have received some type of public assistance such as Medicaid, they can not apply for United States Citizenship.

Antonia’s toughest decisions in the last year, is telling people they can not apply for citizenship, because they do not meet the new regulations of the Trump Administration. These immigrants then go to a lawyer and pay large amounts of money. The lawyers keep their money, knowing that they do not meet the criteria. These people end up back at LASED with Antonia trying to help them. As of October 14, 2019, immigrants must have Health Insurance, or they can not renew or get a Green Card.

Antonia talked about how today’s immigrants, are different from the immigrants years ago. Statistics say immigrants come from countries that are poor, or dealing with civil war. They live in poverty or hope of a better life. Mostly Latin countries, not Europe. After World War 2 , the United States opened boarders from countries who were affected by war. Now if someone immigrates from Europe, it’s for a job. Middle East, Africa, and Asia, come because of a struggling situation they have in their own countries.

Antonia’s work as an Immigration Specialist helps so many people. She helps keep an entire community together, not just immigrants. This is an issue we all should be involved with, building communities and helping one another. And just remember, the United States is what it is today because of immigrants.

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