Students studying in classroom

A trusted guide in an uncertain time

For new immigrants and other Latino/a community members in the Twin Cities, CLUES (Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio) is a place people can rely on for a host of services supporting their health and well-being.

The organization connects people to resources and offers services such as English classes, financial coaching, tax preparation services, employment placement assistance and behavioral health services. Another key offering: guiding people toward citizenship.

In 2014 President Obama announced his executive actions expanding the number of people eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) by an estimated 4.9 million. CLUES geared up for an influx of people wanting their help to apply and were awarded a grant from the Mardag Foundation for that effort.

Ruby Azurdia-Lee, CLUES president, recalled, “There was such excitement at the time. Many people advocated for years to seek reforms to our broken immigration system.”

Two men in CLUES classroom

Responding to uncertainty

The excitement soon turned to questions when a court order halted Obama’s executive actions. The nonprofit used their outreach funds to keep people informed about the order status through social media and other channels. They held open houses and other outreach efforts in greater Minnesota, bringing attorneys to answer legal questions. They also developed a resource guide. Additionally, they expanded their lending circles, which is a way for people to pool money to lend to one another while building credit. It’s also a way to fund expensive immigration application fees.

A few short years later the climate has changed more than anyone anticipated. Instead of directing people to home buying resources and citizenship guides, CLUES is now doing things like role-playing for potential raids and preparing parents for the unthinkable, such as who will be the guardian of their children if they are deported.

“People are living in extreme fear and intense stress,” said Azurdia-Lee. “It’s a new day.”

In the rapidly changing political climate, CLUES has to stay nimble to effectively support the community’s needs. Although they cannot meet every need, they continue to be a lighthouse for Latinos/as.

“Personally and institutionally I feel a great responsibility to do as much as we can to help,” said Azurdia-Lee.

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