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American Gateways’ Team Featured in 2016 Annual VERA LOP Conference

American Gateways is proud to be an LOP provider in the state of Texas. The Legal Orientation Program (LOP) contains multiple levels of representation and assistance and ensures that detained immigrants are afforded due process and an understanding of immigration procedure and relief options. This year’s nationwide conference and training takes place April 12-14 in San Antonio, Texas, where several of our San Antonio staff were asked to present and share their expertise.

Today, Director Griselda Barrera will help kick off the conference as a panelist and contributor in sharing Success Stories from the Field: Pro Se and Pro Bono Victories. Barrera will share some of American Gateways’ recent successes and her insights and tips to other providers, including strategies to win and refer cases. Annabel Barraza (FIRRP), Sophie Feal (VLP), and Mathew Lamberti (PIRC) will comprise the rest of the panel.

Wednesday will consist of the substantive trainings and breakouts. Adriana Bhatt-Kriz will showcase a 15 minute mock General Orientation or GO comprised of slides we actually use in our presentations at 3 detention centers. The presentation focuses on providing our audience with tools that will help them self-identify with different types of relief from deportation and exclusion. Another goal of the GO is to make the removal process run as efficient as possible while still making sure respondents are afforded their due process rights.

Elizabeth Almanza provides an example of the next level, which is practical assistance in Pro Se Workshops. Almanza will present and conduct a brief mock I-589 asylum workshop for observation, along with participating in a panel and debriefing session regarding the workshop. Workshops can be the most crucial step for truly disadvantage immigrants, such as those that may be illiterate, handicapped, or needing special guidance for a less common case type.

Angela Alloju will serve as a panelist for LOP Training Session on Working with Special Populations. American Gateways is the LOP provider to 2 of the 3 total family detention facilities in the country. Given the heavy exposure and experience of our San Antonio office, Alloju will reflect on and discuss special considerations and practice pointers for adapting the LOP script and identifying relief options for women and children in detention. Other panelists Karla Altmayer from NIJC and Fernando Wytrykusz from Catholic Charities Miami will cover young adults aged 18-21 and those with mental health needs, covering a range of populations LOP providers encounter.

Kimberly Koopman will serve as a panelist at the LOP Skills Building Session on Short Individual Orientations. Koopman, along with fellow LOP Providers Arthur Leao of Catholic Charities-Atlanta and Tatiana Obando of the YMCA-Houston Immigration Legal Services, will demonstrate techniques and best practices for meeting with LOP participants one-on-one in a short-time frame. Topics covered include: working with participants who have complicated criminal histories; what to do when a participant has received incorrect information; and how to approach LOP participants in the family detention setting.

When asked about their invitations and roles, each presenter felt “very pleased and honored” to have been chosen to share their skills and present what they have learned to colleagues in this crucial area of the immigration removal process.

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