After the election, local immigration advocates and their clients look for answers
In response to an outpouring of client concern, local immigrant advocacy organizations are hosting information sessions on what a Trump presidency will mean for St. Louis immigrants.
Among those who are concerned is Kamila Kahistani, who arrived in the United States with her sister seven years ago from Afghanistan. She was a refugee when she came via Russia, escaping war in her native country. Kahistani, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen five years ago, doesn’t worry about how immigration policy changes would affect her. But she does worry for the family members she’s petitioning to bring into the country.
“I applied for my husband, but really I am nervous about it,” Kahistani said. “I want to know how [and if] they’re going to bring them here. I just hope everything will be okay.”
Kahistani successfully sponsored her father who joined her and her sister in St. Louis four months ago. But her husband is still in Afghanistan with other family members.
Many immigrants who are trying to bring family to the United States are uncertain about the future, said Nicole Cortés, an immigration lawyer and director of the Migrant and Immigrant Community Action Project.
“President Trump may change the way that refugees who are currently here or people who come as refugees and get their permanent residency can petition for family members,” Cortés told about 40 people Tuesday at the International Institute.
Cortés and immigration lawyer Kristine Walentik of Catholic Legal Assistance Ministry in St. Louis made it clear that they don’t have all the answers. During the campaign, Trump promised to toughen the nation’s immigration policies but it’s still unclear how they would change.
“There’s a lot of fear and unknowns with any election, regardless of who was going to win,” Walentik said. “Given the rhetoric during the election, we wanted to let [immigrants] know not to be afraid, because there’s a lot of rumors going on and we wanted to clarify as best we could.”
The free information sessions are organized by Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates for immigrants and the larger community. Another is planned for tonight at Kingdom House in LaSalle Park.
Walentik and Cortés said they will plan more sessions as the Trump administration releases more information about its policy plans.
“The most important thing to us is that everybody feels like there are resources,” Cortés said. “More than anything, we want [immigrants] to know that if they were to need it, we’ll be here.”
As she left the session to return to an English language class, Kahistani said she doesn't feel too nervous. She called Trump “a nice man,” and said she doesn’t think he will keep her family apart because he has a wife and children.
“Really, every family wants their whole family be together, because it is so difficult for a father and mother to live without their kids, or a wife without her husband,” Kahistani said. “I just hope it won’t change. Life is going, but you never know about future.”
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