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San Diego Nonprofit Provides Free Immigration Legal Services At SDSU, CSU San Marcos

Reported by Ebone Monet , Video by Matthew Bowler

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Jewish Family Service launches free legal services program for students and faculty members with immigration concerns.

Aired: September 10, 2019 | Transcript

A local nonprofit has opened free legal services for students and faculty members with immigration concerns. Jewish Family Service of San Diego launched its free legal services program at San Diego State University and California State University San Marcos.

The program includes aid with DACA Renewals, Know-Your-Rights workshops and consultations. Jewish Family Service Attorney Jairo Castañeda met with KPBS Anchor Ebone Monet to talk about the new program.

Q: A unique partnership has started between Jewish Family Service of San Diego and San Diego State University as well as CSU San Marcos. What can you tell me about it?

A: It's a great opportunity for Jewish Family Service of San Diego to partner with the CSU system. JFS has been in the community for more than 100 years, and we've served individuals from all faiths, religions, backgrounds in bettering their lives in one way or another. We provide counseling services. We provide a food pantry. We provide opportunities and services for the elderly population, for example, and immigration services and refugee services is one of our components, and this partnership is just an extension of that. Working with the community to help provide a holistic approach to empowering and serving our community as a whole.

Q: Jewish Family Service of San Diego will be providing no-cost legal services for students at San Diego State and faculty as well as the CSU San Marcos. What type of legal services does this include?

A: JFS will be providing almost all services that we do here in house to those individuals, staff, students and faculty on campus. And these services range from initial consultation to figure out where it is that I might fall in the immigration spectrum, to DACA renewals, to individuals who might be going through a family petition process, ultimately up to naturalization. Depending on where the individual is we'll do that initial consultation and then assess the situation.

Q: Why now?

A: Why not? This is a great opportunity this is a great time. It's a challenging time in the U.S. But JFS has always stepped in to opportunities like this and, going back to our mission and wanting to help and a holistic approach. This is a great opportunity, a great time to step into a place where we see a need, and to be able to connect with another aspect of our larger San Diego community.

Q: We're just coming off of summer break, do you imagine you'll be busy?

A: We do and so we're preparing for that. We've been preparing for that. We've had conversations with key stakeholders at the different campuses, within our office internally. That process has been ongoing it's something that we're constantly working toward. And as classes begin we've already had consultations. We've already had students scheduled appointments, staff schedule appointments. And so we're excited to see this flourish into an even bigger program.

Q: For people coming to receive services, what are you seeing? Is this a scary time for people? How are people approaching this situation?

A: It varies, and I think it kind of goes back to the knowledge and experience of the individuals. Some students and staff already know what their situation is. Maybe they know that they only qualify for DACA and they're just there to renew that process. Some individuals are new to the immigration world and they don't know necessarily what their status is or what potential relief there is. And so. Us being there is a big help in the first place. Knowing that they can go to someone on campus directly without having to leave is really important for them. And I think it helps them feel a little bit more comfortable, and more sure that hey my campus JFS community is here for me and I have a place to go.

Q: Tell me about the experience of some students who are just finding out their immigration status based upon applying for college. Can you talk about that connection and how that happens?

A: Some of these students, for the first time, are learning of their immigration status. It's something that maybe wasn't talked with parents and so the world stops and they don't know necessarily what next steps to take. And again this is why this partnership with the CSU system JFS is so crucial because those individuals need that assistance, and need that support and need that guidance in addition to those that already have an understanding of where they're at.

Anica Colbert contributed to this story.

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