EILS Newsletter: December 2019

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Esperanza Immigration Legal Services Welcomes New Executive Director, Camille Van Kote

Since 2009, Esperanza Immigration Legal Services (EILS) has empowered 1,500 clients seeking a path to full participation in American society. We are pleased to announce that, starting this past September, Camille Van Kote has joined EILS as its new Executive Director!

Camille has dedicated her career to providing trauma informed legal services to immigrants, particularly those who are survivors of violence and human trafficking.  She comes to EILS after completing an Equal Justice Works Fellowship during which she served as a staff attorney in the Crime Victims’ Assistance Program of Catholic Charities in Houston, Texas.

Camille obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science at Barnard College and a Juris Doctor at the University of Houston Law Center.

Camille notes, “Over the past three months, I have seen firsthand how difficult the process for citizenship, among other immigration reliefs, can be for those we serve. I look forward to strengthening EILS’ mission to assist individuals in their journey of becoming American citizens or receiving permanent legal status in the U.S.”

Please join us in welcoming Camille to the EILS family!

EILS Expands Citizenship Services, Provides Holistic Approach to Immigrants

After 10 years of delivering services in the heart of Hispanic North Philadelphia, EILS is looking with hope towards the future. EILS will continue to provide citizenship access through innovative methods and utilizing new technologies- such as online software or text outreach- to naturalize citizens. While the majority of legal services agencies are located in Center City, EILS is a trusted service provider with local roots in this community.

EILS looks to act as a community partner in North Philadelphia and to collaborate with other local organizations to meet clients’ social, psychological and economic needs. Additionally, EILS is well-equipped to refer clients to a broader array of social services on-site at Esperanza’s campus. For example, EILS clients can take advantage of Esperanza’s housing counseling services; enroll at Esperanza College and the Esperanza English Institute to strengthen English language skills or pursue an associate’s degree; search PA Careerlink’s job opportunities; or speak with new BenePhilly support staff to apply for public benefits, among others.

EILS is looking forward to a bright future in its next decade of service—a decade full of empowering future citizens in North Philadelphia!

Citizenship Spotlight: Margarita Achieves Citizenship Thanks to EILS

Recently, EILS helped Margarita* to achieve U.S. citizenship. Margarita is now a proud new citizen in a country that has become her home.

Margarita came to the United States in 2003 from the Dominican Republic. Although she always wanted to become a citizen, Margarita struggled with English and did not feel comfortable sitting for the citizenship exam. At more than 50 years old, the prospect of learning the language well enough to take the exam in English felt daunting.

EILS worked with Margarita to apply for a language waiver. Erick Barragan, EILS’ Legal Coordinator and DOJ Accredited Representative, went with her to her naturalization interview, which was conducted in her native language, and identified an interpreter to go with her for her exam.

EILS equips immigrants like Margarita with the tools to address barriers to becoming a citizen, and support so that they do not feel alone in the process. Margarita shares that one of the most powerful changes to her quality of life since becoming a U.S. citizen is that she now feels safe and at peace here.

Congratulations to Margarita and EILS for working together to make Margarita’s dream of citizenship a reality!

*Client name has been changed to protect confidentiality

EILS Welcomes New Staff; Wishes Good Luck to Interns

This fall, EILS proudly welcomed our new Mission Year intern, Linnae Keys. So far, Linnae has helped EILS contact clients to share their stories about the impact our services have made in their lives, and to prep clients using mock naturalization interviews. She will also shadow EILS’ intake process and eventually help with prescreening potential clients. Thank you for sending Linnae the best of wishes working with our clients the rest of this year!

Additionally, EILS said goodbye to two legal interns, Dakota Baeringer and Joe Fitzsimmons, who were instrumental in helping our staff this past summer. EILS partnered with the Bridging the Gaps Community Health Internship Program, composed of Philadelphia academic health centers, including Drexel University. The program links the training of health and social service professionals with the needs of underserved communities.

Dakota and Joe aided EILS with everything from citizenship screenings to gathering documentation and practicing with clients for their interview in the Citizenship Access Center. EILS looks forward to continuing this novel and promising partnership next summer!

Thank you for your support!

Thank you for all you’ve done for EILS this year. You have acted as the driving force behind our mission to serve the ‘least of these,’ those who are frequently underserved and marginalized in our community. You ensured that hardworking immigrants—like the Madrid family in North Philadelphia and Margarita— could pursue the American dream of citizenship in 2019.

Tenemos esperanza, gracias a ti. We have hope, because of you.

It’s not too late to make your gift of esperanza or hope to EILS this holiday season. It’s simple and easy to do just by clicking on the button below.

Thank you for making a gift to EILS this holiday season!

p.s. We’re not done yet! We are so thankful to reach our 10-year anniversary as EILS. We will continue to advocate for immigrants to realize their dreams here in the U.S. Your support allows us to transform lives every day at EILS and to look towards a brighter future.  Gracias.