David Aguillard, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge says Obama’s announcement is definitely a step in the right direction—albeit temporary and partial. “It will keep families together and give those that are undocumented a reason to enter a legal process, undergo a criminal background check, and pay their back taxes so they can fully be a part of our communities.”
“Everybody gains. Families will remain united and people who are concerned about undocumented immigration should embrace this opportunity,” he added. “As Catholics, with a tradition of supporting immigrants and caring for families regardless of national origin, we see this as an opportunity to put our faith into action, and also a challenge that will stretch our resources.”
“On top of the sponsored children who arrived in Louisiana after fleeing violence in Central America, this will mean a significant increase in work.” CCDBR actually started anticipating some type of executive action one year ago, and estimates that up to 35,000 statewide could be impacted, about 5,000 in the Baton Rouge area. CCDBR will begin giving group presentations and workshops in the area for interested immigrants, but the hard work of applying for relief will take dozens of representatives working intensively one-on-one with each family. Because of a shortage of immigration attorneys in Louisiana, Catholic Charities says they need additional resources.
“We ask people of good will to visit www.CatholicCharitiesBR.org to make a donation or to sign up as a volunteer attorney or interpreter,” said Aguillard.
The agency also plans to ramp up their volunteer force for our Voluntary Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. “Filing back income tax returns is a key component to this announcement,” said Aguillard. “As the site with the only Spanish-speaking tax preparer in the area, we know the demand will be huge.”
Aguillard also says when announcements like this are issued, desperate immigrants often become victims of fraud by “notarios” or unauthorized practitioners of law. “No one should be paying to save a space in line or start any applications because there are no government waiting lists or applications yet,” cautioned Aguillard.