Immigrant Advocacy Group Surprises Many By Declining To Help DREAMers
August 17, 2012

Photo by Hernán Rozemberg
DREAMers held a hunger strike protest on the campus of the University of Texas at San Antonio in November 2011.

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- A leading South Texas immigrant legal aid group will not be helping young people in the country illegally apply for a new temporary legalization program.

Catholic Charities of San Antonio has offered immigrants low-cost legal help for more than three decades. But a decision was made this week to forego helping so-called “DREAMers” seeking to benefit from a new federal program giving them partial legal status for two years.

It’s a somewhat limited, watered down version of the long-proposed but never approved federal legislation, the DREAM Act, targeting immigrants between 16 and 31 years old who were brought into the country illegally as children.

It remains unknown why Catholic Charities made the controversial decision. The interim CEO and acting spokeswoman did not return repeated calls for comment.

And three members of the board of directors refused to comment. It’s unclear if it was a board-approved directive or an executive call by the interim CEO.

The organization’s immigration services director, Linda Brandmiller, reportedly disagreed with her bosses and her decision to not abide by the edict resulted in her firing.

Reached by phone, Brandmiller declined comment.

Juan González, an immigration lawyer in San Antonio who has referred low-income immigrants to Catholic Charities for years and who is under contract with the group to provide free legal clinics in the region, was disappointed and frustrated with the turn of events.

“I’m very surprised that this is happening — it goes against their mission,” he said. “So they would not be providing them with any assessments or any forms or any information for those who are eligible for deferred action.”

As opposed to other regional Catholic archdioceses across the country that have taken staunch stances supporting illegal immigrants, the San Antonio archdiocese has traditionally maintained a more moderate position. It has backed so-called “comprehensive immigration reform,” but it has tended to shy away from outright support of amnesty programs.