Community Engagement

  A Tulane student reads to a kid during childcare a Congreso meeting.

A Tulane student reads to a kid during childcare a Congreso meeting.

CONGRESS OF DAY LABORERS

In 2011, I began working with the Congress of Day Laborers, a member-led grassroots organization that fights for immigrant, labor, and civil rights. As a volunteer, I have worked on multiple campaigns, driven members to the weekly meetings, helped organize workers at day laborer corners,  accompanied people to court, and written country condition reports for deportation cases. In 2014, I worked with the organizers of the Congreso to partner with Tulane's Center for Public Service to organize childcare for parents so that they could attend meetings. I have also worked to organize panels featuring Congreso leaders, including a panel with journalist Jose Antonio Vargas and Honduran environmental activist, Olivia Caceres. Working with the Congreso has been an invaluable experience where I have had the opportunity to learn from some of the strongest, smartest, and most generous people. 

 

COURT-QUALIFIED EXPERT WITNESS                                                                                                                                    In 2015, I was qualified as an expert witness on Honduras and Honduran migration for a Special Immigrant Juvenile Status case in Louisiana Juvenile Justice Court.  The status allows for lawful permanent residency of juveniles despite unauthorized entry if it is found that it is not in the applicant’s best interest to return to their country of origin. Before attorneys can apply for the federal I 360 petition for SIJS, a state court ruling (either juvenile or family court) must find that the youth cannot be returned to one or both parents because of abuse, neglect, abandonment, and/or similar reason under state law.[i] My expertise is used during the first stage of these cases in determining custody rights to advance cases to the federal level. I have served as an expert witness in Orleans and St. Charles Parishes. I have a forthcoming publication on SIJS cases entitled, "Informed Gatekeepers and Transnational Violence: Using Perceptions of Safety of Latino/a Youth in Determining SIJS Cases."

[i] “Eligibility Status for SIJ,” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, last retrieved on June 8, 2017, https://www.uscis.gov/green-card/special-immigrant-juveniles/eligibility-sij-status/eligibility-status-sij.

 

TULANE TUTORING AT INTERNATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL

  Tulane students, International High School students, and ESL instructor Heather Causey visiting the Guantanamo Public Memory Project at the Ashe Cultural Center in 2015.

Tulane students, International High School students, and ESL instructor Heather Causey visiting the Guantanamo Public Memory Project at the Ashe Cultural Center in 2015.

In 2013, I met with teachers at International High School (IHS) of New Orleans to assess ways that Tulane's Center for Public Service could address the needs of IHS's growing Latinx student body. As a result of the meeting, we designed an ESL tutoring and mentorship program for Tulane and IHS students. Each semester, 10-15 Tulane students in my service learning course met weekly with high school Central American and Mexican students. The high school students worked on homework assignments, developed English skills, and investigated career paths/higher education options with the Tulane tutors. Over the semester, Tulane students forged strong connections with the high schoolers, as reflected in their writing assignments and, in some cases, continued tutoring throughout the year. Many of the high school students had just arrived to the United States as part of the wave of unaccompanied minors that fled violence in Central America. Combining the service learning with news articles, peer-reviewed journals, and film provided students with a more holistic learning experience on these complex transnational processes, allowed students to get a firsthand understanding of the realities these students face, and bridged the gap between Latin American and Latino Studies.

ACCOMPANIMENT METHODOLOGY

  Day laborers at the Gretna corner where the workers partnered with the city to create their own space to look for jobs.

Day laborers at the Gretna corner where the workers partnered with the city to create their own space to look for jobs.

Accompaniment ethnography was first introduced to me as acompañando during a keynote speech by Alfonso Gonzales at Global Studies Association annual conference in Austin, TX. When I followed up with Gonzales about his methodological theory, he directed me to an article by Barbara Tomlinson and George Lipsitz, which further informed my perspective on the role of accompaniment in scholarship. Tomlinson and Lipsitz describe accompaniment as, “asking and answering questions important to the increasing numbers of displaceable, disposable, and deportable people in this society,” and call for scholars to work with these individuals in social movement organizations to “respond honestly and honorably to the indignities and injustices we see.”[i]

Accompaniment historically is a popular tool used in liberation theology and reintroduced by Paul Farmer and Roberto Goizueta as an instrument in creating solidarity and empathy within aid work.[ii] This accompaniment has also become a tool increasingly employed by community organizing groups, like the Congress of Day Laborers, to build awareness with allies, particularly concerning the injustices of the immigration system. As the Trump administration’s aggressive new immigration policies call for far more deportations and enforcement, this accompaniment has helped to create protections for undocumented individuals during routine ICE check-ins and court hearings. In my work, this accompaniment methodology not only informed my research for my book project, but also allows for a practical application to be used on the community-level. From interpreting in traffic court and accompanying individuals to the immigration appointments at the ICE office, my worldview has been shaped by these experiences.

[i] Barbara Tomlinson and George Lipsitz. “American Studies as Accompaniment.” American Quarterly, 65:1, March 2013: 12.

[ii]Paul Farmer. “Reimagining Accompaniment: A Doctor’s Tribute to Gustavo Guitiérrez,” In the Company of the Poor: Conversations with Dr. Paul Farmer and Father Gustavo Guitiérrez, edited by Michael Griffin and Jennie Weisse Block (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2013).