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Austin, Texas May 23

CLINIC conference

Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC) invited Global Workers Executive Director, Cathleen Caron to be one of the three plenary speakers for its 15th Annual Convening held this year in Austin, Texas.

CLINIC was founded in 1988 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to support a network of community-based immigration programs that offer free or low-cost immigration legal services to immigrants. CLINIC's network is comprised of more than 201 diocesan and other affiliated immigration programs with 290 field offices in 47 states. The network serves 600,000 low-income immigrants each year.

It was a truly honor to be invited to the event. Global Workers core mission is to combat worker exploitation. We have only occasionally worked on cases related to immigration as opposed to labor rights. Although immigrants served by the CLINIC network are physically located in the United States, they often have needs in the home countries to support their petitions to remain in the United States, whether that be as a trafficking victim (T Visa) or family-based petition (marrying a U.S. citizen then “adjusting” status to permanent legal resident). A need in the home country could include obtaining a copy of a birth certificate, or helping family members fill out paperwork to be reunited with parents in the U.S., as is the example for two cases we have at the moment. In both cases the parent was a human trafficking victim and now has the opportunity to be reunited with his/her children who are now, in hiding, in Honduras and El Salvador.

Drawing inspiration from a U.S.-Mexico joint pastoral letter, “Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope” Cathleen explored how Global Workers unique model can support CLINIC’s work by providing the on-the-ground legal support needed to collect evidence or documentation in the migrant home countries.  She also asked the 200 plus audience to think outside the box if and when their clients are deported.  Most of their immigrant clients are working in the low-wage sector.  If the client loses the immigration case and is sent back home the person may well have pending legal claims against an abusive employer. Additionally, she broached the subject of temporary foreign worker visas. “Look beyond the immediate immigration question” she urged. If the client was trafficked, and arrived in the USA on a visa, one should ask how that could be? What is it about the temporary worker visas that allow trafficking to flourish? Bringing the immigrant rights community together with the labor rights community to think bigger picture about the visas could result in much more effective polices. There is no room for trafficking anywhere, and especially not in a government-controlled program. Maria Odom, CLINIC Executive Director, thanked Cathleen for making the connection to the immigrant’s rights world and called the work of Global Workers “genius.” 

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