Noemi Puntier is founder of Puntier Law Firm LLC, which exclusively represents immigrants in family and immigration matters. Noemi arrived in the US without knowing English, but she had a deep passion for serving others, so her goal was to learn the language and integrate into the community. She wanted to have a voice and a bigger impact, so Noemi decided to go to Law School, leading her to eventually opening up her own law firm, providing an important resource for her community.
How the education system and social interactions are crucial to helping the community.
What we are taught and how we interact with each other heavily drives the conversation and attitude towards a marginalized community such as the immigrant community. Help from those outside of the community allows for a smoother transition. A few examples of simple steps in helping as a community are:
- Teaching Institutions: Afterschool Assistance with Homework/Tutoring
Many of the children in immigrant communities do not speak or understand the language. Setting up a grant or scholarship that helps with tutoring and discussing the options and opportunities with the local schools and teachers would be a great first step in helping them feel more welcome and support. They are in a completely unknown environment and at least learning the language can eliminate that disconnect that can cause fear or loneliness, for example.
- Parents: Play dates & inclusivity
Play dates are the best way for immigrant children to learn about the culture they are being raised in, and can help them learn social cues that schools can’t teach them. Interacting with other children that speak the predominant language allows them to start learning it, too.
- Learn and share scholarship opportunities
There are a lot of scholarship opportunities available to undocumented students, and it’s important that they are being utilized. Everyone deserves access to higher education, regardless of any social titles.
Learn more about Noemi Puntier:
We followed up this conversation with
Lauren Blodgett, Immigration Attorney at the Brave House.
As parents raising children, how can we help them understand the role t of Immigrants in our community?
LAUREN: Be an active member of your community! Connect with immigrants around you and support immigrant-owned businesses close to you. The immigrant community is not a monolith: understanding the role of immigrants means engaging with people with different backgrounds, interests, and aspirations. By building connections to immigrants around you, your children will begin to understand that being an immigrant is just one part of peoples’ identities – immigrants are also physicians, lawyers, artists, scientists, politicians, and beyond.
Introduce your children to diverse content about immigrants. Make an effort to show your children stories, videos, and testimonials that show different sides of immigration. The beauty of immigration is its diversity – avoid perpetuating stereotypes and show your children different types of immigrant stories. Find children’s books, videos, and films that tell stories about immigrants from different professions, religions, beliefs, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Talk to your children about your family’s own immigration story. Our country was largely built by immigrants: whether your family immigrated recently or decades ago, share their stories with your children. By doing so, children will see immigration as something closely related to their everyday lives. Are there no immigrant stories in your family? No problem! Our country is filled with wonderful immigrants that you can talk about – from athletes and musicians to politicians and writers, you can find an inspiring story to relate to your children.
Foster and encourage your kids’ curiosity about immigration. When your children ask something about immigration, don’t be afraid to be honest about your own limitations. Think of this as an opportunity to learn and grow together. What are they curious about? Can you find an answer together? Do you know someone who can answer from an immigrant perspective? Model the values that you’d like to see your children uphold when it comes to immigration. Act with respect, empathy, and open-mindedness and your kids will follow your lead.
We see coverage and many opinions about Immigrants crossing across U.S. borders. How can we learn more about up-to-date news and resources for our families to review, to better inform them with accurate information?
L: Stay up to date with news via sources that you trust. Make sure you’re getting your information from sources that are as fact-based as possible. Some news sources that are generally unbiased and offer broad coverage are Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, and BBC. There are also immigration-specific newsletters offered, such as CLINIC’s, if you want very specific and nuanced immigration updates. You can also sign up for Google alerts that you can set up with keywords to stay up to date with a particular issue.
Celebrate and amplify stories that are nuanced and value-driven. Immigration is multifaceted and complicated. Avoid news and stories that are overly-dramatic and that reduce immigrants to stereotypes. Share and believe stories that acknowledge the width and depth of an immigrant’s story and that are written with respect, empathy, and open-mindedness.
Value and center immigrant voices. Before you believe and share a story, double-check if the journalist spoke to immigrants that are directly involved in the situation and/or if the story is coming directly from an immigrant community. We are only experts in our own lives so I encourage you to make this additional effort to amplify the voices that are authentic. Oftentimes, the most authentic stories are the ones that get the least amount of mainstream attention. For example, most of our members at the Brave House are fleeing some type of sexual assault or gender-based violence in their home countries and are seeking asylum here in the United States, a protection that is guaranteed to them under international law. These stories of violence, resilience, and human rights are often not told and shared. It’s important to not only listen to these stories but also to “pass the mic” and create spaces and opportunities for these stories to be told.
What resources can we as families learn about to become better aware of how to help should it be via local and state levels?
L: Engage with organizations that work to support immigrants in diverse ways. Immigrants often need a range of support in order to access the tools that they need to become successful in this country. Multiple organizations exist that support immigrants in a plethora of ways: from legal advocacy, to food assistance, to English classes, to making new friends. Make sure you’re engaging with different types of organizations that meet immigrants where they specifically need support.
Find grassroots nonprofits that are supporting immigrants in your community in a value-driven way. Many small organizations are working to support immigrants with legal and holistic services. Some key questions to ask yourself before you donate your time, energy, and money to an organization are (1) How do they treat immigrants? (2) Do they involve immigrants in their leadership, planning, and programming? (3) Do their values align with yours? (4) Who is leading this organization and why is that person interested in supporting immigrants? (5) How is that organization funded?
Help where and how you can. The non-profit that I founded, the Brave House, works with young immigrant women in NYC who are seeking legal aid, holistic support, and community. If you’d like to support this population, especially the young mothers in our community, you can help out with our Baby Drive that is open between now and the end of 2022 by contributing to our mothers fund or sending donated items to our office. Thank you for your support and for your interest in learning more about immigration and ways to support the immigrant community in the US.
Lauren Blodgett is the founder and Executive Director of the Brave House, a non-profit that supports young immigrant women and gender-expansive youth in NYC with free legal advocacy, holistic services, and a community.
Support immigrant moms in NYC by contributing to the Brave House’s 2022 Baby Drive at bit.ly/BraveHouseBabyDrive.
Our next interview with Dr. Laura Minero highlights the importance of mental health and ally advocacy in times of uncertainty for immigrant students.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your story so that the audience can get an idea of why you fight so hard for immigrant rights.
- MINERO: I was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, MX. I spent only 5 years there because at the age of 5, my parents and I immigrated to the U.S. The way the situation has been and continues to be is that there is no line to get
Behind; especially if you are of Mexican descent. There’s nationality quotas, etc. But it’s a brave decision. Imagine leaving everyone and everything you knew; your language, culture and loved ones, and coming to a place that is oftentimes very explicit about not wanting anything to do with you, other than exploit your labor. My parents made that decision to give me a better future and more opportunities; so I grew up seeing them experience discrimination and hardships as people who are monolingual in this country and only speaking Spanish. I saw them show up to work everyday, even if they were ill/very tired; however, they never, ever, a single day in my life have heard them complain.
This is what completely fueled me to do whatever I could focus on my education because not only was that a way to open up doors for myself, my parents and community, but also I realized that there was a lot of misinterpretations and myths about what it means to be undocumented, and what we go through. There’s a lot of talk about us being criminals and taking advantage of the system, etc. I then used my privilege once I had DACA.
Before I became a DACA recipient, I was afraid to be vocal because I felt like I had no protection and would be threatened with deportation. Daca allowed me to share my story with people so that everyone can understand that the things said in the media are not true. We are a diverse group of hard working people, loving and kind. My advocacy really stems from wanting to counter and reclaim the narratives out there.
Congrats on your launch of your therapy business (YolotlLibre). What are the reasons you believe therapy and providing this specific resource to the community is important and connects to the fight for immigrant rights?
- M: YolotlLibre is all about the combination of therapy, training, and consultation. I have been participating in conferences, public speaking and serving as a consultant for different entities, whether that’s nonprofits, schools, universities, and other organizations like medical studies, social workers, and other professionals. This is finally happening now that I received my CA license.
There are a few different factors that come up for me in regards to the reasons therapy and these resources are important and greatly contribute to the advocacy. One is the reminder that Latin/Hispanic/Indigenous communities have always had their healing practices and our decolonial ways of healing. That included healthy and loving relationships with each other, the Earth, stars, etc. But because of colonization, many of those practices were swept away and literally ripped away from us. Healing is something that has always been. I like to state that at the outset because sometimes there’s this interpretation of these communities having a stigma against mental health now. I like to give that historical context, because white supremacy is really the entity that took that away from us.
So now, we have a lot of mental health impacts because of colonization, patriarchy, imperialism, racism, and all these intersectionalities that come together and pretty much tells us that we do not belong here and we should not exist, and further than words, sometimes people within the community die because of this view. After so many generations of this attitude, of course we are going to feel it in our minds, bodies, and spirits. Mental health is and has always been for us.
The pandemic has enabled people to turn inward (forced or not), and reclaim what has been taken for us. We have started to see folks reclaim and realize that generational trauma. There were things that my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents have had to keep to themselves and suffer in silence. We need to understand the context that this carries, because it is trauma and realizing this creates more spaces in our communities.
I also want to acknowledge that Western notions of mental health and mental health treatment are very colonial. That has also contributed to our community feeling as if it isn’t for us, because it’s not. As a psychologist, I can say that this field has harmed my community and oftentimes, because training sites don’t train people well or at all on this very thing that I’m telling you, which is why we see the problem persist.
The recent DACA decision shows us that the fight for immigrant rights is nowhere near over and there is still a lot of work to do. How can our audience help in regards to the DACA decision and even further than that?
- M: First of all, I am so sorry to my immigrant community; for DACA folks, folks who never got to benefit from it, our youth coming down pipelines, those who never made it across, and all the 11 million people that are affected by this. We really need to come together on this. Allies, your job is so important; you can call your Congressional representatives and encourage Congress to pass a pathway to citizens that is humane, just, and immediate. Sometimes they come up with this 10 year plan, but some of us have already been waiting for more than that, why should we have to wait? Nobody should have to wait for so long to become a U.S. citizen. Put Congress on blast, that’s something you could do today. Look up your congressional representative and email or call them everyday to make them see that it matters. If you know any DACA folks: buy them a coffee, treat them to a meal, or anything to show love and appreciation because that’s what community is all about; caring for each other. Lastly, a lot of legal entities are able to renew early since there is a lot of demand, but remember it is almost $500 for each application. Offer to help out one of your DACA friends with that fee or donate to organizations that take care of these funds. That’s another direct way you can help.
Connect with Dr. Laura Minero: