Partner Mark Prada volunteers with activists from the Florida Immigration Coalition (FLIC) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
at local San Juan Bosco church in Miami, Florida, to educate local immigrants about upcoming changes in law.

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MIAMI - Tuesday, August 27th, 2016 -- By Laura Gamba - Reporter

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In the cafeteria of the church San Juan Bosco, in La Pequeña Habana, about 27 people listen to the immigration experts with great attention. In the front row, sits Ariel Gómez, a Nicaraguan who has been living in the United States for 16 years and has been struggling for six years to obtain a residency.

"My wife is American and my daughter is also. But I was told that to give me the residence I have to go back to my country. Is that true? He asked."

Personal cases are going to be dealt with at the end of the session, attorney Mark Prada said Saturday at a forum hosted by the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) during which lawyers and activists spoke to a group of Central American citizens about the recent changes in immigration programs, through which more immigrants are eligible for legal benefits.

Gomez is afraid of being separated from his daughter for a long time. But with the changes in the provisional forgiveness program to the punishment law for having lived without legal documents in the United States, Gomez may not have to.

With these amendments coming into effect Aug. 29, undocumented family members of US citizens and residents, such as parents, husbands, children and siblings, can apply here and find out whether or not they are approved before leaving the country. This means that people only have to go to the country of origin to attend an interview so they do not have to stay away from their relatives for long periods of time and also ensure they can re-enter the United States.

The forum also discussed the extension of the legal refugee application program in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, which was announced at the end of July by the Immigration Service. The Central American Children's Program (CAM), which exists since 2014, allowed minors who had a parent with legal status in the United States to seek refuge to come to the United States. Now the program will accept requests for siblings, parents and other guardians - such as uncles and grandparents - from the person who has been granted asylum, to sort and come as well .

"We want people to know how to go to school, university, hospital, how to become citizens and how to bring their relatives back home," said María Mejía, the forum's organizer."

These informative sessions are held every month in that space offered by the church, a strategic place for people to feel secure.

"There will be no raids here, nor will the police enter. The church is a sanctuary and the father will not allow anything to happen to his community, "said Mejia."

Taking advantage of the start of classes, this time the organizers also answered questions about the enrollment and the necessary papers so that the young people can go to school and university.

Julio Calderón, an undocumented Honduran who fought to be able to go to university, also gave his testimony. He addressed the people present, including mothers with their children, to talk about ways to benefit from the state registration law that benefits undocumented immigrants.

According to Mejia, undocumented immigrants arriving from Central America are afraid of putting their children in school because they think they will ask the social security number and then deport them.

"They are very afraid," he said.

The organizers then sometimes invite other people who have spent 10 or 15 years living in the country to talk about their own experience.

"Other parents who went through this situation stop and explain what to do, where to go to the doctor, what hospitals and schools to visit, requirements, where to enroll for DACA benefits, and what to do to get help for tuition costs" .

In fact, he said, there is a whatsapp group, made up of about 40 people who use to protect themselves from the authorities, especially the immigration police

"We send messages alerting people about the presence of the police so that if something happens, they know what to do or they can call the lawyer."

According to the organizers, these workshops are done because the number of Central American families continues to increase in order to escape the violence in their countries, they come to the United States in search of opportunities for their children.

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