Lawyer starts Undocu Angels to link immigrants and citizens looking to help
The border fence separating Arizona from Mexico as seen from the Arizona side of Nogales, Nov. 20, 2016. Undoc Angels links up citizens to immigrants who need help with the legal system.
In efforts to offer a strong sense of protection to the immigrant community in Tucson, attorney Mo Goldman has initiated Undocu Angels, a strategy to link undocumented immigrants to U.S citizens for when they are in need of legal assistance.
“Over the 17 years I've worked in immigration law, I have just seen a tremendous amount of heartache and a lot of ups and downs from my clients and many times I've had U.S citizens who have come to my office for a consultation with people who are undocumented,” Goldman said.
In an annual Department of Homeland Security report, 91 percent of initial enforcement actions with undocumented immigrants by DHS involved their number one priority, national security.
Goldman said because of the way U.S immigration laws are structured, it's nearly impossible for his clients to do anything for individuals who are undocumented that are not an immediate relative like a U.S. citizen spouse. Consequently, the majority of people that come to him are not left with many options to help.
When President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration surfaced, Goldman began to think of logical ways US citizens eager to help could do so.
“Most of the people are not lawyers,” Goldman said. “They would like to help but don't really have an option. I basically put it out there on Facebook for people to utilize, it's not a program yet, it's just the idea that in this time, where people are stricken with fear or anxiety, they need people to lean on and act as a guardian angel.”
Becoming an Undocu Angel for undocumented immigrants remains lawful as long as people do not harbor undocumented immigrants or provide legal advice. Participants can only give assistance and advocacy of a person arrested or detained.
Since Goldman put forth his idea on social media, he took the next steps to host a question and answer session and clarify his idea where he explained how citizens could legally help undocumented immigrants.
“If a person were to get arrested and they need access to legal documents, or if they get taken into detention and they need legal help getting released, maybe that U.S. citizen would be able to help them,” he said.
Goldman said he thought the initiative would also help ensure no person would be wrongfully deported or detained.
People are already starting to get involved.
“I'm concerned about our neighbors about the people who live here, their families being separated,” said Leslie Yerman, a self-employed U.S citizen interested in the initiative. “It's almost to me like having a partner or ally. It's just pure humanitarian decency to me and I feel it's important to be part of the situation.”
Yerman added she is in full support of the idea and understands the initiative for more of a one-on-one personal approach rather than a big organization.
Knowing they are not alone is important to those caught in the confusion.
“I think that from an emotional standpoint there is so much fear and uncertainty right now.” said Lynn Marcus, co-director of the UA immigration law clinic. “Knowing that there is someone in the community who has documents is of some comfort to people and emotionally helpful. I don't see how it can hurt.”
As President Trump’s promises of building a bigger wall on the border of Mexico remain in the works, the focus on national security has intensified.
“The recent sweeps that are going on where ICE is going out and arresting individuals are in more unconventional fashions then we’ve seen in past years,” Goldman said. “Locations where people would typically feel more protected or safe are eroding."
Goldman said he believed it is best to have a trustworthy relationship with a person willing to help in urgent moments.
“It's a work in progress,” Goldman said. “If you're not gonna get ideas out there where everyone is stricken with fear, then you're not doing your service. I'm a lawyer first and a human advocate second.”
Additional information and steps to become and Undocu Angel can be found on Goldman’s website here.
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