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Grow Grand Island hosts first educational seminar on importance of immigrants

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The Grow Grand Island Cultural Engagement and Understanding (CEU) group’s first educational seminar emphasized the importance of immigrants in Central Nebraska knowing the difference between relief programs.

The presentation titled “Immigration 101: Is Getting in Line an Option?” examined which application lines are worth getting into and what applicants should expect.

Carlos Barcenas, Grow Grand Island CEU chairman, was joined by Mindy Rush-Chipman and Rosangela Godinez, both from Justice for Our Neighbors-Nebraska (JFON-NE), for the seminar.

Rush-Chipman is the managing attorney for JFON-NE. She works to promote inclusion statewide by offering immigration education and advocacy, as well as low-income immigration legal services.

Godinez works in the organization to provide immigration legal services and support to rural communities in Nebraska. She facilitates community efforts to meet immigration legal needs.

The nonprofit organization provides free immigration legal services, education and advocacy to individuals and families in need.

Monday’s seminar covered immigration terminology — for example, why “undocumented” should be used to describe certain immigration statuses rather than “illegal.”

Rush-Chipman explained to about 35 community members the different types of immigration statuses, as well as the limited forms of immigration relief currently available to those seeking citizenship.

Godinez said there is often a stigma surrounding who is eligible for asylum.

“I think there’s a stigma that Mexico necessarily cannot apply for asylum, and that’s not true,” she said. “You can apply for asylum as long as you have a good case.”

Asylum is an immigration benefit that allows certain immigrants who fear persecution in their home countries to lawfully remain in the U.S. indefinitely.

In addition to humanitarian forms of relief such as asylum and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the women discussed family-based immigration options. Some areas of relief set unrealistic timelines, Rush-Chipman said. Depending on what type of application is submitted, it can take anywhere from three to 162 years for the forms to be processed and citizenship to be granted.

One idea that was heavily stressed is the importance of those at the seminar reaching out and help community members in any way possible. Immigrants, especially in rural communities, can be targets of ill-intentioned attorneys looking for easy money.

“It is our job as advocates to inform, but it’s also all of our jobs just to look for opportunities to increase knowledge within our community,” Rush-Chipman said.

The seminar was hosted by the CEU group, a Grow Grand Island Initiative. Barcenas said the CEU group has goals to increase diversity in community decision making, increase efforts to provide information in multiple languages and create and promote more opportunities for learning that reflects the current population.

Future topics will include community awareness on census numbers, intercultural communication and unconscious bias.

“It’s, here’s the information and now let’s explore it,” Barcenas said. “If someone might feel on the fence about one of the topics, just come and listen. Let’s just have a conversation and go from there.”

With the turnout on Monday afternoon, Barcenas said, he looks forward to the continued success of the program. Dates have not been set for future workshops, although he hopes to release those soon.

Only one presentation was offered on Monday, but the CEU group wants to make more seminars available by offering multiple sessions of presentations. Monday’s seminar took place at noon in the community meeting room at Tom Dinsdale Automotive.

For more information on the free seminar and the CEU Grow Grand Island initiative, contact Barcenas at (308) 383-3103 or

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