The Determination Of Our Neighbors
Hi there! My name is Ben Marek, and I am a BIA Accredited Representative with the Immigration and Citizenship Program at Neighborhood Centers.
My primary role within the Immigration and Citizenship Program is working with refugees and asylees who are seeking lawful permanent residence in the United States. These individuals have typically been living in the United States for less than a year, and many aspects of American culture and our legal system are still unfamiliar to them.
With a referral from their caseworker at one of the local resettlement agencies, these refugees and asylees attend a free consultation with me at which we discuss the lawful permanent residence application process and I answer any questions they may have. I explain the documentation and paperwork required for the application and schedule an appointment for a few weeks later, at which the refugee or asylee completes all the necessary forms with one of our attorneys or BIA Accredited Representatives.
These open consultations are endlessly interesting and truly gratifying: I never know who is going to walk through the door, and I enjoy hearing about the diverse stories and backgrounds that these individuals bring with them to their new home. Seeing the incredible array of nations represented by our clients, I am continually struck by how diverse a city Houston really is, a fact I think many fail to grasp fully: over 70,000 refugees from 78 different countries lived in Houston as of 2013, and that number continues to swell daily.
And while great diversity exists within the refugee population, as individuals from all over the world make new homes in Houston, there are certain traits that remain nearly universal among our clients. One is an emphasis on family: I’ll often meet with families of five or more members all at once, which can be a bit tricky logistically, but reminds me of how important one’s spouse, children, and parents are in navigating a new and often intimidating environment.
Another common trait is a determination to become members of American society, and this is where I truly feel that I can make an impact. Our refugee and asylee clients, by definition, exist in a transitional state of limbo, far from their old home countries and yet to be fully integrated into their new one. A green card, and the lawful permanent residence it represents, provides just that – a sense of permanence; a feeling that for the first time in a long time, these individuals belong. Being able to help our clients secure that feeling and become our new neighbors is one of the most gratifying parts of my job, and I look forward to hearing more of their stories and helping to weave them into our ever-growing, ever-evolving community.
For more information about the Immigration and Citizenship Program at Neighborhood Centers, or to learn about how your organization can become a partner, call our office at (713) 273-3707, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow us on social media.