Simple Digital Story

“LASED”- Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development

Antonia Morabito, Immigration Specialist

By: Eileen LeValley

Antonia Morabito, Immigration Specialist at LASED in Detroit, Michigan. Monday, November 11, 2019. Photograph by Eileen LeValley

Meet Antionia Morabito. She is an immigration specialist at LASED in Detroit , Michigan. LASED stands for , Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development. LASED is located in Southwest Detroit, in the neighborhood known as “Mexicantown”

Antonias journey started when she did her internship at LASED from 2007-2008. She received her Masters degree in International Communication of Hispanic Studies. During this time, she was also teaching classes at University of Detroit Mercy, for Italian and Spanish.

She taught classes at University of Detroit Mercy until 2012. After completing her internship at LASED in 2008, LASED hired her full time as an Immigration Specialist and Educational Coordinator. Antonia speaks five different languages, English, Spanish, Italian, Greek, and Latin.

Antonia also teaches classes at LASED. The first class she teaches is “ESL” English as a Second Language. The second class she teaches is “United States Citizenship.” She teaches both of these classes to adults and youths. Antonia also helps with the daily operations of the LASED youth and senior centers.

As an immigration specialist, Antonia helps immigrants apply to be a United States Citizen. She helps immigrants with Green Cards, work documents, and the entire process that has anything to do with immigrating to Michigan.

Antonia works with Cubans who arrived to the United States in the 1980’s and earlier. Some of these Cubans came to the United States under the rules and regulations of the Nixon Administration. LASED is the only one in the area that works with Cubans.

LASED is one of the oldest non-profit organizations in Detroit. The first to work with the Hispanic community. LASED is also the first organization to work with an entire community. Anyone in the area can go to LASED with immigration help or questions. If anyone is scared by what they see on television about immigration, they can go to LASED with questions, and she will explain to them the reality of the situation.

Antonia also works with DREAMERS. Dreamers Education Reform, or Dream Act. Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors. An American legislative proposal for a process for granting residency status to qualifying immigrants who entered the United States as minors. It would first grant conditional residency , and upon meeting further qualifications permanent residency. In June of 2012, President Barrack Obama announced his administration would stop deporting undocumented immigrants who matched certain criteria included in the proposed DREAM act.

Antonia’s successes as an Immigration Specialist include helping over 550 people in the last ten years become a United States Citizen. Lawyers have messed up immigration cases for immigrants, because they were not knowledgeable about immigration rules and laws. Antonia works with immigrants to fix these complicated issues.

Antonia directs cases with children who are being held in determent camps today to the Mexican Consulates.

If an immigrant is deported out of the United States after living for one year in the United States, because of issues, Antonia gets involved and helps them with immigration policy. Immigrants must follow the regulations. If they commit a crime, or have issues with domestic violence, jail time, or drug related issues, they will get sent back. There are limits as to what Antoina can help them with. They will also loose their Green Card.

Citizenship to the United States requires that you live more than 5 years in the United States before you apply for citizenship. You must know the 100 questions related to the United States on the test, and read and write english. It is a 3-5 month process, and Antonia helps with all of these requirements for immigrants. You must also be over 18 years old, file income tax, and have no trouble with firearms, prostitution or drugs.

Today, Antonia faces new challenges. Under the new rules of the Trump Administration, immigration policy has changed. Now, renewing a Green Card takes up to eleven months, and a specific background check must be implemented. In the past, renewing a Green Card was easy. Also new, is the applicant must know 70% English which is difficult, because most did not go to school. If the applicant does not have health insurance, or if they have received some type of public assistance such as Medicaid, they can not apply for United States Citizenship.

Antonia’s toughest decisions in the last year, is telling people they can not apply for citizenship, because they do not meet the new regulations of the Trump Administration. These immigrants then go to a lawyer and pay large amounts of money. The lawyers keep their money, knowing that they do not meet the criteria. These people end up back at LASED with Antonia trying to help them. As of October 14, 2019 immigrants must have Health Insurance, or they can not renew or get a Green Card.

Antonia talked about how today’s immigrants, are different from the immigrants years ago. Statistics say immigrants come from countries that are poor, or dealing with civil war. They live in poverty or hope of a better life. Mostly Latin countries, not Europe. After World War 2 , the United States opened boarders from countries who were affected by war. Now if someone immigrates from Europe, it’s for a job. Middle East, Africa and Asia, come because of a struggling situation they have in their own countries.

Antonia’s work as an Immigration Specialist helps so many people. She helps keep an entire community together, not just immigrants. This is an issue we all should be involved with, building communities and helping one another. And just remember, the United States is what it is today, because of immigrants.

LASED Main Office in Detroit, Michigan. Monday, November 11, 2019. Photograph by Eileen LeValley
LASED Senior and Youth Center in Detroit, Michigan, Monday, November 11, 2019. Photograph by Eileen LeValley
LASED Art work outside on garage doors painted by LASED Youth Center. Detroit, Michigan. Monday, November 11, 2019. Photograph by Eileen LeValley
Antonia Morabito, Immigration Specialist at LASED in her classroom waiting for her students to arrive for the Citizenship Class she teaches. Detroit, Michigan. Monday, November 11, 2019. Photograph by Eileen LeValley
Antonia Morabito at LASED proudly shows the “Different Countries Flag” she created with the youth center children. Detroit, Michigan. Monday, November 11, 2019. Photograph by Eileen LeValley
One of many youth art work pieces displayed at LASED created by the children in the Youth Center. Detroit, Michigan. Monday, November 11, 2019. Photograph by Eileen LeValley
One of many examples of what the Immigrants in the Citizenship Class at LASED have available to them in the classroom as reference. Detroit, Michigan. Monday, November 11, 2019. Photograph by Eileen LeValley

Lab. # 5 Understanding Immigration Issues

What is the process to becoming an immigrant in Michigan? Although the rules, requirements and process can easily be researched on various websites, talking to actual people who have immigrated to Michigan from other countries gives us a better understanding of the process.

What about the immigrant that immigrated 30 years ago, verses today? Are the rules different? Did they encounter more or less problems than the immigrant of today?

More than half of all immigrants in Michigan are naturalized U.S. citizens. While 342,465 immigrants (52.5 percent) had naturalized as of 2015, 124,804 immigrants were eligible to become naturalized U.S. citizens in 2015.

More than 70,000 U.S. citizens in Michigan live with at least one family member who is undocumented.

Figures and statistics can be researched all day long, but hearing the immigrants story of how they immigrated, and the process they went through, gives us a better understanding of the process to immigrating to Michigan.

In this audio series, I will be investigating the answers to the questions I have. I will go out in the community, and interview people who have actually immigrated to Michigan from other countries.

The Paperwork Trail, The Process, The Problems.