Cambio de Colores 2005

Latinos in Missouri:
Connecting Research to Policy and Practice
Hoy y Mañana

Reynolds Alumni Center, University of Missouri-Columbia,
March 30, 31 & April 1st, 2005

Panel on Local Issues in Immigration Law

Theme: Civil Rights

Organizer and moderator: Suzanne Gladney, Managing Attorney, Legal Aid of Western Missouri


  • Alejandro Solorio of Garcia & Solorio Attorneys, Kansas City: “Current Immigration Law Issues for Missouri Immigrants”

Suzanne Gladney, managing attorney for Legal Aid of Western Missouri, began the discussion with a reminder that the government agency that formerly handled all aspects of immigration, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, doesn't exist anymore. INS was completely absorbed into the Department of Homeland Security and its functions divided up between three bureaus: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Gladney said the structural change has been hard for employees in the agencies, causing worker discontentment.

"They're not friendly, they're not kind, they're not the type you want helping anybody," Gladney said.

She said this is mostly due to the difficulty on the employees' part to adapt to the new system, but she said it has created a more enforcement-minded organization rather than one aiming to help people.

"They don't see themselves as there to help anyone," she said. "They try to figure out ways to keep people out and arrest people."

This is why, Gladney said, having an immigration lawyer is so necessary.

Another important change is that applications and consultations with the agency are rarely accepted in person. A previously scheduled appointment is necessary to get into the building and the appointment must be made online. Gladney said that some days walk-in appointments are still accepted, but it can't be counted on.

"It's probably going to end up that you won't be able to do anything in person," Gladney said.

Gladney also discussed the importance of contacting legal assistance immediately if an immigrant is arrested. In that case, she said, he or she may need two lawyers- a criminal and immigration lawyer.

She also mentioned the problem with scams in which people who are not qualified to perform legal services will charge large amounts of money, promising to do things that people have been told aren't possible- such as obtain a green card. Gladney said that her office can be contacted if one has doubts about who is legitimately offering legal services and who is not.

Alejandro Solorio, an immigration attorney, spoke about some of the changes made to laws relating to drivers licenses. The situation in Missouri makes it very difficult for a person without legal status to get a drivers license, Solorio said. It would be even more difficult, he said, if Congress passes the Real ID Act, a piece of legislation that would unify all the drivers license bureaus in all 50 states and create across-the-board standards for issuing drivers licenses.

Solorio also discussed the possibility of a guest worker bill, which would naturalize some workers in the agriculture industry. Solorio said that no bill of any great extent is being proposed, but there is currently one bill that would make it possible for some workers who, prior to the bill's passing, had worked a certain number of hours (100 days or 585 hours) in an 18-month period to obtain legal status. For workers who might be eligible, Solorio said, it's very important to save pay stubs and verification of hours worked. Even better, he said, is obtaining a letter from the immigrant's employer- complete with the employer's name, address, telephone, and a contact person- saying that the person was employed. Employers need not fear repercussions for having hired undocumented workers, Solorio said.

"I've never seen that used against the employer," he said.

Day 2, Thursday March 31, 2005 , Breakout 4, 3:30 P.M.

By Jack Beesson

By Jack Beeson

This conference report contributed by

Mid-Missouri bilingual newspaper.