A meeting in downtown Ardmore gave people a chance to pose their questions about immigration to an expert on Saturday.
Janie Tapia, an attorney who holds meetings like the one in Ardmore through the Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, answered people’s questions about their rights, the ins and outs of immigration law, petitioning for a loved one to join them and adjusting one’s own status.
“I’ve been going to Woodward, Lawton, Ardmore and Ada,” Tapia said. “We’ve gotten a good crowd.”
She said turnout in Ardmore was comparatively low, possibly due to spring break. But they may have been deterred by something worse.
“(Many people are) afraid they’re not going to be able to attend things like this, that immigration is going to be out there waiting for them,” Tapia said. “They’re afraid to report crimes. There’s a lot of people that fear. They’re afraid to call the police because they think they’re going to call immigration on them.”
One attendant asked about the process of petitioning for a family member to join her in the states.
While she tries to make the subject easier to understand for people, she said it’s important to remember that there’s nothing easy about navigating the immigration process.
“We try to stay abreast of any changes, we get daily briefings from American Immigration Lawyers Association,” Tapia said.
She said the U visa, which is a kind of visa afforded to a person who has been the victim of a crime and are working with law enforcement to prosecute criminal activity, is just one kind of visa that most people aren’t aware of.
“They could report it and qualify for this,” Tapia said. “They need to cooperate with law enforcement, but they might not even know that’s available to them.”
Tapia said for many people, it’s the possibility that their families could be separated that scares them the most.
“There is a lot of fear,” Tapia said. “For a lot of people it’s uncertain. They’ve been here for so, so many years, their kids say the pledge of allegiance with us and their parents could be deported.”
Catholic Charities also provides free immigration consulting every other Friday in Ardmore. To find out when the next meeting will be held, contact Catholic Charities at (405)523-3001.