Family & Safety Preparedness Resources (For Undocumented Immigrants)

I recently attended a workshop designed for service providers of refugee and immigrant support programs. It was created for staff to gain a better understanding of existing immigration policy and to learn preventative measures undocumented immigrants can take in light of recent changes and the risk of potential deportation.
For Houston-based folk, here is a list of resources that offer free and low-cost legal services and who take clients by appointments. This information was created and prepared by BakerRipley immigration services. Copies of the presentation are provided below in English and Spanish.
Resource List

  1. African Law Center
    (281) 624-6421,
  2. Boat People SOS
    (281) 530-6888,
  3. Justice For Our Neighbors Houston
    (713) 454-6470,
  4. The Immigration Clinics at South Texas College of Law Houston
    (713) 646-2990,
  5. University of Houston Law Center Immigration Center
    (713) 743-2094,
  6. Chinese Community Center (citizenship/naturalization only)
    (713) 271-6100 (ask for Immigration Program),
  7. Bonding Against Adversity (citizenship/naturalization only)
    (713) 471-5832,
  8. United We Dream (DACA only)
    (713) 863-1422,
  9. Kids In Need of Defense (unaccompanied minors only)
    (832) 412-4937,

Legal Consultations are available at the following centers: 

  • Catholic Charities Cabrini Center for
  • Immigrant Legal Assistance
  • BakerRipley (formerly Neighborhood Centers)
  • YMCA International Services
  • Memorial Assistance Ministries
  • Human Rights First
  • Tahirih Justice Center

*Additional information is provided on the resource packets below.
Family and Safety Preparedness Packet English – PDF
Family and Safety Preparedness Packet Spanish – PDF

You Are Part of the Problem

I didn’t want to upset her more than she was already. She was angry and frustrated and needed an explanation. It wasn’t the first time her paycheck was late, but this was the holiday season.

It was my first Christmas there and an honest mistake. I hadn’t been in charge of her timesheet initially; when it was handed to me, the due date had already passed. I didn’t want to pass judgment or pass blame, but there was also the most important issue: she hadn’t submitted it on time. And this wasn’t the first time.

Now it was New Year’s and she didn’t have any money; she needed someone to blame.

You are part of the problem.

And sometimes it is your fault.

It’s what I say to myself when things don’t work out the way I hope, or when they don’t work out in my favor. I have a good support system. When I get too big for my britches, they let me know. Sometimes it takes years for me to see it clearly, sometimes mere seconds.

When I was in law school there was only one other black person in my section: 2 total out of 76 or so. I’d been used to being a minority so it didn’t faze me much, but for some reason this felt different. It just seemed more significant. Unbalanced.

We had 3 of our 4 classes with the same 76, and for 2 of the 3 the same guy sat next to me. At first it was a nice relief. I’m introverted and it would mean less repetitive chit-chat.

In Crim Law he explained the history of the L.A. riots when some of our classmates inappropriately joked about the elements of the crime.

Both of his parents were special education teachers, and he’d attended an all black high school. He was comfortable around black people, but curious. If I changed my hair, he wanted to touch it. If he didn’t understand something  he’d read on urban dictionary, he wanted me to explain it. For his birthday I got him The Last Dragon, and he was so excited he talked about it all year.

He won the MLK scholarship in law school that January and did a solo dance to Raspberry Beret at the birthday party. I missed it, but everyone had stories to tell.

A group of us went out for Halloween. I wore all black and slapped on a name badge that said “sheep.” I called myself clever, but he said it was the laziest costume he’d ever seen.

We’d all commuted separately to the bar, but split off in groups for round two of the party. I hadn’t noticed that we were partnered up, or noticed the whispers as the two of us walked to the party together.

He came to my birthday party that summer. There was a crowd of church people, some friends from work, and him. When he hugged me goodbye he rested his hands at the small of my back, and I realized (without acknowledging) that we had wanted to be together.

It wasn’t a relationship I could entertain. I was struggling, failing out of law school, and ashamed. I wouldn’t (couldn’t) ask this young, white man for help. I couldn’t find him attractive. I certainly couldn’t date him. I’d never been with anyone before. My first boyfriend couldn’t be, wouldn’t be, white.

You are part of the problem.

Sometimes it’s because you just don’t want to do it. Sometimes it’s because you don’t know how and lack the desire to learn. Sometimes it’s because you’re not sure if the outcome would be in your favor, and you want to be sure. Sometimes it’s because you’re too tired, or too angry, or too hungry (happens to me all the time) to care more.

Sometimes it’s because you’re ashamed of how you feel, and you don’t want to have to explain.

You are part of the problem.

It’s what I tell myself when my bias creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s what I tell myself when I’m not willing to put forth the effort to figure it out: when the rut and the barrel are mine.

You are part of the problem. It’s become my mantra. A reminder that if I can do nothing else or give nothing else, I must at least be willing to consider that this outcome, this mess, this rut, was mine. I am (at least partially) responsible. Sometimes it is your fault.

When have you been part of the problem? When have you gotten in your own way? 

College Isn't the Answer (but the answers might be there)

A few months ago I had an afternoon meeting that was scheduled down the street from my alma mater. Since I was still on the clock but the drive back  was treacherous, I wandered over to the Student Center to finish out the day.
I graduated from college almost 13 years ago. Since returning to my home state, this was my first real visit.
I hated college.
It was too conservative. It was too liberal. It was too small; it was too big. We took ourselves too seriously. I took myself too seriously. It was a predominately white institution and there were plenty who took it upon themselves to remind us that we weren’t welcome. I know that I wasn’t supposed to, but I took that ish personally.
On top of that my clothes were always too tight. And I was weird.
And not in the cool, hip, self-aware kind of way that I am now. Not in the Robin Williams kind of way. I shared too much. I didn’t share enough. I was always worried about being invited and having a seat at the table.
I liked MMMbop and boy bands. I wanted to meet Robert Frost. I liked Beowulf. I could quote Act 3, Scene 2 from the Friends, Romans, countrymen monologue by heart (and I was proud of that!).
I was a white evangelical Christian (more on that later). 
Sitting in the lobby, now 13 years my senior, I realized that everything they say about college is true. College isn’t the answer, but the answers might actually be there.
1. Identity & Culture
On Who You Are & Why That Matters 
Finding yourself takes time. Some might argue that it is a luxury. In college, you have more time at your disposal. More time to craft the schedule that suits you and to choose the hobbies, activities, and events that you enjoy. Not every school is the same, but on the whole, there are more opportunities for self-expression and self-discovery in college than in any job I’ve ever known. And I’ve had more than 22.
2. Leadership
On Who’s In Charge & What That Means 
Due to sheer quantity and proximity, there are more examples of leadership to choose from, emulate, or critique. You can develop solid mentors and create meaningful networks that will sustain you for a lifetime.
My college friends were fearless. I looked up to them; I learned from them. It wasn’t so much their confidence that I admired, but their ability to craft a plan and to execute it. They were detailed and meticulous. Their theories were well-researched, evidence-based, and sustainable. They were thoughtful, compassionate, and wise. They were business savvy, entrepreneurial, and had emotional intelligence.
Good leaders are everywhere; they’re not solely reserved for academic, potentially elitist spaces. But good leaders are bred and fed by their communities, and because of the communal aspect that college can provide + opportunities to explore identity and culture; we may find our leaders there.
3. Work/Life Balance
Because Work is Not a Marriage 
I went to college four times (but it wasn’t completely intentional). The first was undergrad. The second was dual enrollment in an Alternative Teaching Certification program and a graduate program in elementary education. The third was law school. The fourth was a Master’s in Instructional Leadership/Education Policy.
The first, second, and third were private. The fourth was public. If I can say so without disrespecting my alma maters, I didn’t learn very much. It wasn’t the school’s fault. It wasn’t necessarily my fault either.
I say this to say that sometimes it can take us more time than we think to find a career or to make a life that satisfies us. Sometimes it’s because we weren’t thoughtful and intentional. Sometimes it’s because we were. Sometimes it’s the recession’s fault. Sometimes it’s our mom’s. (Just kidding momma.)
Sometimes work/life balance is simple. You just need a shorter commute. You need time for a walk. You want a closer gym. You need a closer grocery store. You need a more flexible schedule. You need time for naps. You want your friends closer. You need someone to play volleyball with.
Voila! College (usually) has it all. Work/life balance solved.
4. Relationships 
Because I’m Not Making Two Trips 
At the risk of sounding unromantic or crass, it really is a numbers game. The more opportunities for love/marriage, the greater your chances (if love/marriage is your aim).
I hated dating. I was weird and melodramatic. I didn’t like being touched. At my small liberal arts school it was hard to find people I could connect with; in the years afterwards it was considerably harder.
If for no other reason than proximity and access, college has the answers here too.

Day 1, Week 12: Mind the Gap

Data is important. A good analyst, motivated to collect and use data in meaningful ways, can provide recommendations and theories that could uproot an entire program, company, or continent. They can use data strategically in creative, statistically significant, and compelling ways.
Data is important, but it can be deceptive. A good storyteller can use data any way she wants to satisfy her own ends. She can spin a story that is true, but relies on her specific interpretation of the facts.
My mother was my first supervisor. My father was my second. I don’t mean this in the metaphorical sense. I mean that I worked for them, and I was compensated. All things considered, I’ve been working for more than 25 years. In that time, I’ve had more than 20 positions and more than 20 supervisors.
If grad school and volunteer work count, my total is closer to 30.

  1. I worked as a young beautician, braiding and unbraiding hair.
  2. I mowed lawns and raked leaves during summers.
  3. I worked at the library, sorting stacks, archiving files, and approving requests for Inter-library loans.
  4. I was a fifth-grade teacher.
  5. I was an Americorps volunteer.
  6. I sold life insurance (well, I worked for the company. I never actually made a sale).
  7. I was a receptionist for a mall management company.
  8. I was a stock associate with Banana Republic.
  9. I was a Title I tutor.
  10. I was a basic skills computer literacy instructor at a women’s correctional facility and a residential substance abuse treatment center.
  11. I was a GED instructor.
  12. I was a program coordinator for a workforce development nonprofit.
  13. I was a program coordinator for a special department at a theological seminary.
  14. I was an academic director and scholarship coach for a program that prepared high schoolers for college.
  15. I was a researcher with Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.
  16. I helped determine clients’ eligibility for expunging and sealing criminal records with the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago.
  17. I was a life skills instructor, teaching resume writing and interviewing skills for adults in a transitional jobs program.
  18. I was a program manager of adult education & literacy programming with a city college.
  19. I was a reading and math tutor for students in a residential home and for young men who had been wards of the state.
  20. I wrote supplementary curriculum for basic skills computer classes and contextualized GED courses.
  21. I was a long-term sub, assigned as the 7th grade math teacher, at a charter school.
  22. I am a program manager for ESL, GED, and computer literacy courses with a local nonprofit.

I’ve had more than 22 supervisors. Six full-time jobs, 16 part-time ones. If grad school and volunteer work count, it’s closer to 30.
I’m 34 years old.
I don’t say this with pride or with shame. Data is important.
Sometimes when I get frustrated with progress, people close to me remind me that I enjoy change.
Change can bring relief and satisfaction, but it also comes with a price. You’ve had more than 20 jobs, more than 15 roommates, lived in more than 8 apartments (as an adult). Perhaps the issue is commitment, consistency, and relationships. The message is implicit, but clear: you are part of the problem. (More on that later).
This is the story the data tells, but I prefer a different story:
I have more than fifteen years’ experience in education. Seventy percent of all my work has been in education, and more than 85% has been in service.
Of all my residences, I’ve only lived in two cities. 22 years in one, 12 years in the other.
I’ve been a bridesmaid in 3 of my former roommates’ weddings and have traveled internationally with 2. Former roommates remain some of my closest friends.
I dislike change, although it is a necessary evil. My problems are not consistency, commitment, and relationships. They are patience and discipline.
Mind the gap.
Mind the gap between what the data tells you and what experience teaches you. Between what you understand and what you can successfully do. Between what you are capable of and what you have already accomplished. Mind the gap.
Sometimes this means analyzing the data in the way that your friends would. Isolate patterns of behavior that are troubling. Isolate patterns of behavior that produce disparate results. Isolate patterns of behavior that yield results antithetical to what you initially intended. Show you the gaps you aren’t capable of seeing. Use the data to tell the story that scares you. Tell the story that you don’t agree with, but might actually be true. To help you progress. To help you aspire. Mind the gap.
Mind the gap.
Acknowledge it.
Interpret it.
Then do all you can to close it.
What story does your data tell? What data is significant in your life?