Working behind the scenes, several Jefferson County residents are working as Accredited Representatives (ARs), helping immigrants on their path to citizenship. Accredited through the Kitsap Immigrant Assistance Center (KIAC), and with support from JCIRA, they have volunteered for an extensive training process to aid immigrants in their journey through the US legal system. Two of these volunteers, Bev Shelton and Doug Humes, agreed to be interviewed about their experience, and a third, Sheila Khalov, continues to support immigrants through this work.
Driven by concern over harsh immigration policies (family separations, bans on religious groups), Bev and Doug became active with JCIRA, looking to see how they could help. They were drawn to the process of becoming an AR because of the practical aspects of the work. ARs provide inexpensive legal help to immigrants and are accredited through the US Department of Justice, requiring extensive hours of training, and then shadowing another AR. There are two levels of accreditation: ARs with “partial” accreditation can work on affirmative cases such as family petitions, green cards, etc., while fully accredited ARs can go to court.
Readers may recognize Bev as a retired Port Townsend librarian. She says that at first, she felt like an imposter as she was thrown into complex and emotional immigration cases. After four years she finds the work challenging and sometimes frustrating, but she says she is doing this because “it makes me happy.” The need is great, clients are motivated and inspirational.
Doug has been doing this work for over a year. He found himself in Port Townend in 1978 helping a friend build a boat. But now that he's 'buried the anchor,' he's
always looking around the local community for something new and interesting. His work as an AR is challenging but worth it. He enjoys making a contribution and especially working with the dedicated legal team at KIAC. “People tend to be suspicious by what they don’t know… we need to get over this because the world will have to get used to migrants and immigrants.”
In addition to Spanish-speaking countries, they have “clients” from all over the world including Canada, New Zealand, Jamaica, the Philippines, and more. RAs do work on asylum cases, which they find interesting but also unsettling depending on the background of the case. The learning curve is high, as each case is unique.
If you would like to learn more about becoming an Accredited Representative, contact Bev (email@example.com
) who will put you in touch with KIAC. The AR process takes real commitment, as it takes a year to get accredited followed by a 3 year minimum stint.