Know Your Rights workshops inform and prepare immigrants and their damilies
The neighborhood of East Harlem has traditionally been a home to immigrants, from its roots as the city’s first Little Italy, to its transformation to “El Barrio” and the recent influx of immigrants from China, Africa and the Middle East.
Having an Immigration Outreach Coordinator on staff helps LSA to respond quickly to the flood of questions that arise when something changes with immigration policy. Melina Gonzalez has been in the role since July. The position was previously held by client advocate Pura Cruz. Through a partnership with Action NYC (from the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs), Melina conducts Know Your Rights workshops at schools, churches, food pantries and other locations throughout the community.
In addition, she makes appointments for individuals seeking legal help to meet with free legal advisors through CUNY Citizenship Now! and Legal Aid Society. On average she schedules about 50 such appointments each month, and clients meet with the legal advisor at LSA—in other words, in their own community.
Her message is for families to be organized, informed and prepared. “They need to know what their rights are, they need to have their documents organized, and their children need to have their passports,” Melina said.
The demand for the Know Your Rights workshop remains great. Churches and schools have reached out to Melina to conduct the workshop for their communities. “People are interested in knowing how to be prepared,” she said.