Being an immigration lawyer is more than a job for Mercedes Garcia-French. it’s personal.
Garcia-French came to Bakersfield four years ago, and obtained u-s citizenship a year-and-a-half ago.
“I'm still trying to navigate the system of living in a different country, and also breaking through the language barrier, Garcia-French said. "I understand where they are coming from. but thank God I’m at this point in my life where i have a license, and i can help as many people as possible.”
That’s why she wants to help the Latin-X immigrant population in Kern County prepare for another immigration reform.
The immigrant legal resources center reports an 80 percent increase in naturalization fees and a 150 percent increase in filing fees for an N-336 form.
“USCIS is required to examine incoming and outgoing expenditures and make adjustments based on that analysis,” said Joseph Edlow, USCIS deputy director for policy said in a statement. “These overdue adjustments in fees are necessary to efficiently and fairly administer our nation’s lawful immigration system, secure the homeland and protect Americans.”
Garcia-French hosted a free and confidential consultation in McFarland in light of these changes.
“As an attorney, I realize that a really simple process can really change the life of not just one person, of a family, and then that family, which will tell another family, and is a chain reaction,” Garcia-French said.
She chose McFarland because the city has been considering turning some prisons there into another detention center.
About 50 percent of the population of McFarland is undocumented, according to The New York Times.
“Especially this agricultural and farming county, is based on immigrants. it’s amazing and it’s really humbling and admirable the work that all these people do. the least i can do is provide as much information,” Garcia-French said.
She said a lot of people don’t even realize that they qualify for naturalization.
“It’s many times the lack of information or fear that prevents them and hinders their action and moving forward.”
Garcia-French anticipated most cases to be about adjustment of status, green card renewal, following through the naturalization process and DACA.
She said that regardless of the next presidential administration, immigrants and their families must take action now.
“In order to live a fulfilling life, we have to take control of your life, and follow through this immigration process and actually legalize your situation in the united states--or at the very least acquire as much information as you can because knowledge is power,” Garcia-French said.
The consultations were held in the social room of La Mission De Jesus in McFarland 6:30 p-m Wednesday.