By Anne Marie Amacher
The slow-down in the economy has affected the immigration office at the Diocese of Davenport.
Since early spring, Laura Raya-Ferreira, immigration program coordinator, said fewer clients have been coming to the office or even calling. “We still have plenty of paperwork to do.”
She said in the past they have had to turn people away or book appointments at later times because so many clients needed help.
The immigration office is now open through the lunch hour. Raya-Ferreira said some potentital clients used to come during the lunch hour when the the office was closed because it was their break during the work day. “Now no one will be turned away.” Someone will be in the office during the lunch hour during the week.
Raya-Ferreira continues to do consultation services at St. Mary Parish Hall in Oskaloosa on the first Thursday of the month and at St. Joseph Church in Columbus Junction on the third Thursday of each month. Appointments are required for those visits.
She said her predecessor did site visits. When Raya-Ferreira took over as head of the department about 11 years ago, she went to West Liberty and Muscatine. Due to changes in the need for her services and duplication of services by another organization, she changed to Oskaloosa and Columbus Junction.
She is considering visits in Ottumwa as she did several years ago, but that option is still being looked into.
The immigration office helps Catholics and non-Catholics with family reunification, citizenship, adjustment of status and temporary protected status situations. The office does not represent people in immigration court. “We are not lawyers.”
Raya-Ferreira and Gricelda Garnica are approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to file paperwork. “Because we are affiliated with the church, we can do immigration work.” The only other people who can do work outside of non-profits are immigration lawyers. She noted there are many “immigration counselors” who are not approved by the government and are out to make money.
About 500 cases go through the Diocese of Davenport’s immigration office each year.
The staff in the immigration department is bilingual in English and Spanish.
For more information, visit www.davenportdiocese.org/socialaction/saimmigrationprogram.htm.
To schedule an appointment in Davenport, Oskaloosa or Columbus Junction, call Karina Garnica at (563) 324-1912, ext. 232 or (563) 324-8119.