S3E3: The Worth of Immigration
S3E3: The Worth of Immigration
Cost versus Worth, shifting the mindset on immigration from one of zero sum game, to value for all. In today’s episode, Anu Thomas, the Executive Director of Esperanza Immigration Legal Services (EILS), sits down with us and shares the work she does leading and serving through EILS for the immigrant population. We chat about the realities and economic impacts of being an immigrant in the US today, the difficulties and barriers they faced, and the genuine, powerful stories from New Americans.
ABOUT THE SPEAKER
ANU THOMAS serves as the Executive Director of Esperanza Immigration Legal Services (EILS) based in the heart of the Latinx community in North Philadelphia. Her superstar multilingual all-female team includes Juana Perozo, an attorney from Colombia serving as the Legal Coordinator and DOJ accredited representative, and Gina Slonin, who serves as the Intake Coordinator. Becoming a part of the fabric at Esperanza taught her resiliency, authenticity and the strength of community.
The journey to immigration law began back during her undergraduate studies at Villanova University, where she traversed around the world seeking “beauty in its lair” and studied a slew of languages and cultures. After living in Spain and building her Spanish fluency, Anu came back to serve as a Spanish interpreter at the Farmworkers Clinic at Villanova while a student, working alongside law students and professors to grapple with the immigration needs of its clients. Anu went on to law school at Temple University, where she worked with brilliant and tireless professors, colleagues and attorneys at local non-profit immigration orgs, which galvanized her to pursue a robust pro bono immigration law practice, focusing on asylum seekers and detainees, while working as a labor and employment lawyer at Ballard Spahr, LLP in Philadelphia. Now the march continues and Anu and the team at EILS stand ready.
[00:00:00] Mary and Nolan: Hi there, happy money people. Welcome back to another episode of 'Your world, Your Money.' This is Mary and together with our cohost Nolan - hi, there - we're excited to share an important episode with someone from an absolutely amazing organization. That's right, Mary, our guest this week is Anu Thomas, the executive director of Esperanza Immigration Legal Services based in the heart of the Latinx community in North Philadelphia.
[00:00:27] Nolan: For those unfamiliar, Esperanza provides a wide variety of programs and services to the Latinx community of Hunting Park in North Philly. A fixture in the community, building advocacy and faith, Esperanza has set a national example for elevating and serving a community without compromising its cultural values and needs.
[00:00:47] Mary: That's absolutely spot on and we're big fans of Esperanza over here and their humanistic and community-based work that they are tirelessly striving for. In today's episode, Anu will share with us more about Esperanza's current mission, illuminating the community she serves, and of course, graciously teaching us all what's being done on the ground for immigrants during this contentious time here in the United States.
[00:01:14] Nolan: In this conversation on immigrants, we really want to get into the financial side of the conversation, talking to the macro economic impacts and the household economic impacts of being an immigrant in the U.S. today. The landscape of immigration has been through so much in the last decade and its' future is still looking a bit tumultuous. Today, we are going to talk about some real people in a hard-won community that are fighting for a better future for immigration and families alike.
[00:01:45] Mary, Nolan, Laquita Ann: Hi, I'm Mary. I'm Nolan. I'm Laquita Ann. We are your hosts, and this is 'Your world, Your Money.' We will be talking real money, with real people, in a real way. Because everyone deserves the opportunity and tools for freedom, financial or otherwise. 'Your World, Your Money' is brought to you by Hangar Studios, a New York city based recording studio, and Global Thinking Foundation, a global nonprofit working toward financial freedom and equality.
[00:02:30] Nolan: Hi, Anu. It is so amazing to have you joining us today. For those unfamiliar, can you tell us a little bit more about Esperanza and some of the work that you all do with this amazing organization?
[00:02:42] Anu: Absolutely. So, the community that Esperanza lives and thrives in is really quite a vibrant one. You know, it's funny. I grew up in Philadelphia and I did not know the sort of depth that existed in North Philadelphia where we're based. We're in the 1-9-1-4-0 zip code. And you know, it's really crazy because you have such a mix of cultures here. You have a strong Dominican population. You have a Colombian population, a lot of Puerto Ricans as well.
[00:03:13] Anu: But in addition to the sort of Latinx communities that you see here, we have Polish community. We have a Korean community. We have a Palestinian community all within blocks of each other, and I really love and can appreciate the sort of multicultural nature of this neighborhood. And I think that it really is a microcosm of the world in our own little corner.
[00:03:40] Nolan: With such a diverse population in, in such close proximity, tell us about how that impacts your work? Like what kinds of communities are you working with? What kind of services are you providing? What does that look like?
[00:03:52] Anu: Sure. Yeah. So, I am the Executive Director of Esperanza Immigration Legal Services. We are affiliated with Esperanza, which is the bigger sort of organization here. And it has many sort of prongs of the work that it does. We offer immigration legal services to - predominantly to this neighborhood, but we're starting to see a lot more folks, since we've been remote, from other neighboring areas as well. But you know, there is in terms of the services that Esperanza offers, we have an arts community, we do housing in the community. We do community development in, in various different forms. And I think the benefit of being part of this type of multifaceted organization, Is that there is always this collaboration and ongoing dialogue that goes on. And I think what exists at the heart of all of it is really a focus on the individuals. Right? So being led by the individuals, and it's funny, one of your previous guests who I really enjoyed listening to, Tori Cooper, I think she said it really well when she talked about people being the subject matter experts of their own lived experience. Right. And we recognize that at Esperanza and I think we do what we can to kind of create the opportunity to find a community that will lead, right. Lead us to tell us what it is that we can do to serve. And we definitely do that at EILS in particular as well. It's funny, you know, 2020 the whole world had to make a pivot. We did as well. And all through that process, we were in dialogue with our clients to ask them, how can we help you with this process?
[00:05:31] Anu: Right. And how do we continue this really important work and representation without interruption. Even though there's all of these chaotic things happening in the world. So, I think that's something that Esperanza has is really a staple in the community. And our roots go really deep in this community.
[00:05:49] Mary: Homing in on one thing that you said, I know that Esperanza and EILS is very client focused on its legal services. Tell us why that's so important. Everyone can imagine why that's important in general, but why is that so important for your community and why is that model so profound for Esperanza.
[00:06:10] Anu: So, in our sort of field, we call it client-centered lawyering. I think each field has their own version of this. Right. But it's really understanding that folks are the authors of their own stories. Right. And they are able to drive both their experiences and the expression of their needs. Right. And additionally, how much they contribute. Right. So, I think if you look at that holistically, what you see is, are sort of individuals that in Esperanza, we say creating opportunity community, right.
[00:06:43] Anu: Which is really, we are all part of this process of creating a community where folks want to live, right. Where folks want to be and where folks can thrive. And I think that particular model is so important in every single sector, because it takes a perspective that is holistic. And this is so essential to ensuring that the work that you do has the profound impact that it needs to do.
[00:07:11] Nolan: So, can you talk a little bit, I'm curious about what are the kind of like legal challenges that folks in the community might be facing? Like obviously immigrants have such a burden sometimes in terms of adapting to a new life, but also adapting to the legal requirements that might seem... Confusing, completely foreign in, in any number of ways. How do you all jump in to help serve that role and help people feel more at ease, I guess, in participating in community and living their best lives?
[00:07:47] Anu: Sure. So, in terms of the sort of legal services that we offer, right, it's sort of bread and butter, if you will, is citizenship facing work, right? So, helping individuals who have been here for extended periods of time and enabling them to sort of pathways of status that provide more benefits. Right. What I would love your audience to focus in on is really what the immigrant community brings to us. Right. So, what we do is we, we kind of shepherd the process, right.
[00:08:16] Anu: But looking at sort of, and this is certainly something that's in the public eye, I think currently, right. That in thinking about pathways to citizenship, for folks that are eligible, right? So, we have folks who are in DACA status, folks who are in temporary protected status, and a slew of sort of undocumented folks who are essential workers. And thinking about pathways to citizenship for these individuals, it's really, really important to understand why that is so valuable to this country. As this is being sort of debated in the Senate, there was a letter that came out... 50 economists wrote, talking about this and the numbers are actually startling.
[00:08:54] Anu: I actually encourage everybody to read it. It's a couple of page letters with some attachments, but it's definitely worth the read because what it really does is it puts it in black and white. It puts the data in black and white. And that is that by creating pathways to citizenship for these folks, what you're doing is you would grow the U.S. GDP by 1.5 trillion. That's trillion with a T.
[00:09:16] Anu: Right. Well, yeah, I mean, it's astonishing, right? And also, that you would be raising annual wages of all workers by $600. Right. And the thought of, I really want to underscore this sort of economic prowess of the community to do this, to bring up the country and contribute to that economically. Now - and that's not even mentioning of course, right - this sort of increase in federal state, local taxes, right. And both the contributions that go, that goes into social security that goes into Medicare, that goes into the security nets that's available for all, right. And I think it has to be underscored how valuable economically the community is to the country as a whole.
[00:10:00] Mary: As you're talking about this, I think it's so important because whether we want to admit it or not, there's a mindset in the United States and there's a, there are presumptions about the role that immigrants play. So first, thank you for highlighting every piece of that. And I hope everybody picked up on it... and thinking about the economic impact of the immigrant community, I also want to think about the economic impact that immigration has on a family or on a person. So, as you're working with these families and these individuals, economically, the path to citizenship is stressful and it's tough. But it's also usually kind of expensive and the access isn't always available.
[00:10:45] Mary: So, can you speak a little bit to just the, the legal and economic impact on the individual and the family unit and what they have to live through and experience in order to be this economic contribution that we sometimes don't give them the credit that they deserve, that they are?
[00:11:05] Anu: Yeah. Sure. So, applications for citizenship run in the six hundreds. Right. Even, even just looking at the sticker price, right. Can be, as you're saying, very difficult to meet. We certainly see clients who make this concentrated effort and they're thinking years out right before they're able to make the decision to, 'okay, we're ready. We have the means to then go for citizenship,' right?
[00:11:29] Anu: In speaking to the sort of prejudices around the immigrant community, I think there's a lot to be said, right. About the sort of perceptions that exist. And then the realities, right. And we touched on that. We're talking about economics, but you know, there's this sort of prejudice that folks are taking a seat at the table, right?
[00:11:46] Anu: Like, let's address that one head on, right. That this is a zero-sum game. There's X amount of opportunities. And, and afterwards, you know, we don't want folks at the table, but I think if you take a look at what we're talking about, right. Basically, if we're able to create, for example, pathways to citizenship, but even just looking at the population, we bring all of these people to the table. What are we doing? We're not taking a seat at the table. What we're doing is we're really contributing to a rising tide that lifts all boats right. And how does that work? Right? Because the immigrant population is highly represented in industries that are - key focus is on sort of improving working conditions.
[00:12:28] Anu: What you're doing is bringing more voices and more power to that narrative, right? When you're talking about the fight for fair wages, the fight for fair work week, uh, working conditions fair and safe working conditions. Right. What I think folks should kind of think about is, 'oh, wait a minute. I now have an abundant amount of allies in this process. Right.' So, I think that sort of that reframing is so much more productive. Right. And because I think what it happens to do is it helps you to refocus the conversation on the sort of real injustices. So, the inequitable distribution of wealth in this country, right.
[00:13:03] Anu: That's where we need to focus because what you are doing is you're creating a population that is enabling all to enforce their sort of rights that are guaranteed under, under labor law. And that's sort of improving conditions for all workers, right? There's the perception. And then there's the reality and the possibility of what could be if, if folks were able to take a step back and take a look at the realities right of the situation.
[00:13:27] Nolan: I think that's very powerful. And I have to say, I mean, the economic statistics are just mind blowing, as you said earlier, just the sheer benefit immigrants bring to our lives in so many ways. But I have to say that sometimes it seems like the economic... just putting it just economic numbers on it, seems almost a little dehumanizing, right?
[00:13:46] Nolan: Like people, aren't just a GDP figure. They're bringing so much to the table in terms of cultural diversity and new perspectives. And I love this framing that immigrant workers are integral tools for us to push for better society, better working conditions for everyone. And that it's not a zero-sum game.
[00:14:08] Nolan: I'm curious. What your take is on how to communicate the holistic picture? And do you think it's valuable sometimes to just lean into the economic numbers, the increase to GDP, or are there ways we can capture that holistic picture to really hit home? That the benefits immigrants bring to our communities are untold, incalculable and we need to embrace all of that.
[00:14:34] Anu: So absolutely right. I couldn't agree more with that. I think from my perspective, there's two sort of key highlights, right? One is the contributions. And then one is the empathy, creating the empathy around this concept. You know, it's funny. I always think about, you know, they say, I mean, this is, this is a little morbid, but they say if you're ever in a, in a situation where somebody has you captive, right.
[00:14:58] Anu: What you're supposed to do is tell them information about your life. Why? It's because it builds empathy. Right. And I think in a lot of ways, what we want to focus on, right, is that yes, there is a human being, right. That is part of this narrative. You guys can see this, your listeners can't. But right behind me on the wall here, this is the universal declaration of human rights, right?
[00:15:21] Anu: This is the code. This is my code. And it always has astonished me because on there, there's basically 30 sentences, 30 sentences that sum up the sort of the basic fundamental rights of each individual human being. And what I can tell you, without hesitance, is that every one of the clients that I've ever helped... for them, they're fighting for one of those rights.
[00:15:42] Anu: Right. And I think we, in this country, we continue to fight for some of those rights, including fair and equitable economic rights. Right. And I think when you are able to kind of understand that, right, it is an individual who is looking for a situation in which they could improve, right. They can thrive. I do think it builds - it helps to helps with that lens switching that I was talking about. Right. There's a word in Spanish that I like. I'm not a native speaker, but I certainly use Spanish. A lot of our clients, as we talked about from the Latinx community, 'Sobre Vivir.' And this word in Spanish means survival. Okay. And from my sort of non-native lens, I've always loved this word because it's a bit contradictory.
[00:16:25] Anu: Right. So Vivir, is 'to live' in Spanish. Right. And 'Sobre' is como - is like 'more than,' right. So, it's funny, it's the word for survival, but to me I've always thought it meant to more than live right. To thrive and that sort of, you know, that sort of captures it, right. It - folks come here to 'Sobre Vivir', but more than live.
[00:16:47] Anu: Right. And that's, that's always something that kind of, I like to kind of place that in my, for my own perspective. Because, yes, everybody is seeking the opportunity and are doing incredible things to enhance the country as a whole. And each has a story that I think is definitely sort of relatable. Um, one additional thing I kind of bring to the table here is I think COVID really brought this to light, right?
[00:17:11] Anu: So, I think the numbers are basically, 5 million or so workers in this country are considered undocumented essential workers, right? So, these were the folks that were making sure that the food from the fields got into our grocery stores. These were the folks that were making sure that, that the patients were being treated in the hospitals, taking care of our kids, taking care of our grandparents. Right. And basically, making sure that this sort of infrastructure stayed intact. We could not have done it without them. And I think that really puts it into light, both the, the importance, right. But the fact that they are the everyday people, right? The everyday people who are essential part of the narrative of this country, as an aside to what I will add to that is sort of, you know, just, just looking at essential workers.
[00:17:56] Anu: If you look at their sort of spending power, this is also puts it into light, right. Sort of, they hold sort of, I saw this number. It was $1.5 billion of annual spending, right? This is what goes into the local economy, right? With every trip to the grocery store, this is every purchase that a restaurant and the retail, you know, wherever and, and these folks are folks also own $1.2 million in homes. I thought these numbers are astonishing, right? The mortgage payments, right? The rental payments. These are, this is all money that's flowing back into the economy. And I think these are everyday folks. These are everyday folks, and they are so essential to the narrative.
[00:18:36] Mary: You've shared so much about the contributions that immigrants have to the economy and how we can switch that lens. And going back to what you said about empathy, how has the COVID experience been for the immigrant population? Most people listening, I imagine are the consumers. So, on the other side of it, yes, they are the essential workers, the delivery people, the people doing grocery. So, most people listening, I imagine on that consumption side. Well, thinking about all of those economics, what has the relationship and experience for COVID been for the immigrant population? That let's be honest. A lot of people probably have no concept of, so how can we switch that lens? How can we create some empathy there?
[00:19:17] Anu: Sure. I mean, I think with COVID, I think it brought sort of morality - I was gonna say morality, probably morality, but also mortality to the table. Right. And I think, in doing so and, and I-I've heard sort of like constant reports and interviews by healthcare workers who are kind of talking about, I mean, we've been in this field for so long, and yet when we're confronted with this sort of almost daily suffering in death, it does change the perspective. And I think, when you think about the numbers of the immigrant population that's represented there.
[00:19:49] Anu: Right? I mean, they're there on both sides of the table, right? They're the caretakers. And they're also the folks who are, who are suffering right alongside us. Right. So, I think in terms of how COVID has affected, I think, you know, certainly the same, same, the same. It's funny because I know the sort of the question is leading. Is there a distinct impact, but I think it's even more powerful and thinking about it's the same, right? Because we are all folks who are going through this unforeseen pandemic that's affecting the entire world and we're shoulder to shoulder in it. Right. And I think that's what we hear from our clients.
[00:20:21] Anu: Our clients have become adaptable as we all have. And I think that that's also something that, that is sort of a never going back. We call it the new normal right. In certain circles. And I think that they're part and parcel. Right. We're all kind of working through it together. And I think that was what was most significant to me.
[00:20:38] Anu: Right. If there were economic hits, it was taken by the immigrant community as well. If there were death and loss and suffering, it was taken by the immigrant community as well. And so, the empathy, it bounces right from both our side and as immigrants and also from the larger community. Right. I, I think it was, I think in some ways, a leveling and necessary one in some ways, and hopefully it doesn't take global pandemic to build empathy, but silver linings, right.
[00:21:05] Nolan: I think that's important, an important reminder of, we need to find those opportunities to find that empathy. And we really do face much of the same challenges. And I think there's always a source of empathy in identifying that. But you brought up a little bit earlier about the particular challenges of the undocumented community, and I'd love to maybe go in a little bit on that. Can you talk more about just the challenges that undocumented immigrants may face on a day-to-day basis in a country pandemic or not? And maybe from a high-level view, what the current situation is in terms of creating new pathways to citizenship. And do you think there will be opportunities down the road and what we can do, I guess, to support that space for those discussions?
[00:21:51] Anu: In terms of the challenges faced by the undocumented communities, right. It's multifold. There's a mural that I pass by on my way to work every day. It starts off as, we have no way of knowing what fate may bring our way. And then it's kind of, you know, deteriorate over time, but I'm sure it's a sort of Carpe Diem sort of saying. Right. But it's funny because when I read that, what I extrapolate from that is I think about our clients. And for them, that uncertainty in which they live in is astonishing. The sort of innate fear that must occur, where you don't know if the next moment anything you do right. Could lead to life-changing circumstances for you, which for somebody who's a citizen, doesn't have.
[00:22:38] Anu: Right. So, it's funny because when I see it, I'm, I mean, I'm inspired, but at the same time, I think about, based on the audience of who is reading, that it means something very, very different. There's also another sort of underbelly to the undocumented population and the contribution piece of it. Yeah. And being able to contribute fully, right?
[00:22:59] Anu: Because what you see is that undocumented folks go into industries under their skillset. In other words, they're not optimizing what they can do because they have to go into industries that will accept undocumented workers. Right. And that basically is a, I mean, que lastima as we would say 'what a shame.'
[00:23:17] Anu: Right. Because I read another very interesting statistic about how, you know, you increase just a small percentage of the immigrant population and the sort of correlating increase in percentage of patents. Right. We see this innovative community that - and I'll pause to say here, you know, it's funny your previous guest Jannese with her 'Yo Quiero Dinero' podcast. After I've heard her, I was, you know, I think she, she focuses a lot on the immigrant community. So, I love this concept about finance and, and talking about the community. But she actually had a guest recently on her podcast, the, here we go, this is the ripple effect you guys are going for it. Right? So also, a woman who is an immigrant, uh, and doctor... She goes by - her handle's @doctorfinances and she's a Bangladeshi woman who came and thrive in this country. And then it's sort of sharing the knowledge about this. But from my perspective, it's - you have a community. And I raised her to say, because, you know, she talks about the immigrant hustle. Right? I get, I can totally vibe with that because it's something that there is so much energy and so much motivation that, that we're not able to fully embrace because of the statuses.
[00:24:32] Anu: Right. That are in some ways arbitrary, right. And to speak to what do we think the future is holding or what the heck is happening, right. Essentially, um, you know, it's funny, I was just reading today how similar to the economist letter, essentially a number of legal scholars basically wrote and said that the Senate parliament... so basically there was a bill that essentially included pathways to citizenship and in some, basically a technical procedural way, it was blocked by what they call the Senate parliamentarian. So, these legal scholars are kind of coming back and saying, 'Hey, you guys don't have to listen to the Senate parliamentarian and here all the reasons why.'
[00:25:09] Anu: Right. So, this is not a fight that is going away, and all the reasons why are so prevalent. But I do think the sort of untapped potential is so true. Right. I had a, um, a professor of mine who told me something that I thought made a lot of sense, which was. He used to work for the UNHCR. And he said there was a painting, a photo, basically in his office.
[00:25:35] Anu: Right. Which was basically it's all black and had sort of like a white outline and crazy hair. And on the bottom, it said Albert Einstein was a refugee. So, the contributions, if there were, if there were these pathways, right. That we could definitely expound on and really, breaking the cycle of uncertainty for folks would be on both a humanistic level, but also on a, you know, a holistic level. Once again, we get back to holistic level, right. Would be an incredible boon for this country.
[00:26:08] Mary: Well, one of the things you're talking about here that I'm picking up on is just the sheer skillset that we're not tapping into. And on the other side of not tapping into is we're not giving the space for those people to create and thrive, like you're saying, and live that that best life that they can. Is there something that you've seen that you've experienced that companies could do. So aside from like getting into, you know, what we can change at the political level, because that's a, that's a storm we can get into on another day. But speaking more, can companies do something? Can individuals do something?
[00:26:46] Mary: Are there other communities that can come together and create space or more pathways or more accessibility for those pathways? There has to be, just like we keep talking about this holistic approach, there has to be a holistic way to change it.
[00:27:01] Anu: And to answer that one, I will definitely echo Tori Cooper again, when she says hire people. Right. But it's actually hire people and pay equitable wages. I think that's what, that's exactly the quote from her podcast. But it's so true in this space now, I think, I mean, there are avenues to do that. The sort of administrative red tape around that it goes right back to legislation and sort of advocacy on that level. You can't get away from that. But I think that if there are companies that are willing to engage in the process, there, there are definitely avenues. I think we benefit a lot where we want to. But I think if we think more holistically about it, then we're able to hire more people, in more varied industries, in more areas that we can bring maybe innovation or, or talent or art into this country.
[00:27:50] Anu: I think companies have to be willing to kind of step out of their comfort zone to do that and to wrangle with it, right. To be able to have the stamina to work through these processes. But that's, I think dualistic and maybe multilayered, right. Because it has to, it has to make sense. Right. And I think that it requires a revamping of, of a lot of different things to make that happen, but certainly - think about it. Research, and see what we can do in that space, for sure. You know, companies exist under this regulatory framework under federal law, under state law. There are sort of E-Verify programs that require them to check the status of individuals. But I do think that there is possibility to be creative in this space, right.
[00:28:36] Anu: Because these are the same companies that are interested in diversity, equity and inclusion, and really thinking thoughtfully about these issues. And what if country of origin was one of those metrics that companies measure and celebrate and study, right? And it becomes part of a national conversation. You know, I think initially this data around the diversity was siloed, right? It was one or two things. Right. But then it's expanded now to include disability, to include sexual orientation, to include various other aspects that we consider part of this vibrant and diverse workforce. Country of origin could be one of those things, which would show that companies are embracing individuals that bring this different perspective to the table, and then it feeds directly into the conversations and thought processes around innovation. So that's something maybe just to put out there that maybe I challenge folks to think about and see is there, is there space to kind of push, expand what we're doing currently. Particularly with folks that are interested, companies that are interested in diversity, equity and inclusion.
[00:29:52] Mary: Absolutely. And companies, any, anybody that's running a company out there gives the space for innovation to look like anything. So, innovation can look like anyone. I think that when you're mentioning Albert Einstein, the very first thing I thought of was, well, he doesn't really look like the immigrant community that we have today. So, I don't want anybody to forget that innovation can look or sound like anything. I think that that's something, status quo wise, we can definitely start changing.
[00:30:19] Nolan: Anu, I wanted to ask and make space for us to be able to talk about the, some of the campaigns that EILS and Esperanza are running, including the Stories of Hope campaign, which I think is just this beautiful effort to tell some of the incredible stories of members of the immigrant community in your neighborhood in North Philly and elsewhere are bringing. Can you tell a little bit about that? The inspiration for it and some of the lessons you've seen so far?
[00:30:47] Anu: Sure. Yeah. In terms of the inspiration for 'Los Cuentos De Esperanza.' So, your listeners are most likely familiar with Brandon Stanton's series, Humans of New York. I remember when I first started following him years back, I thought how profound, right, how raw and authentic, and really, it's having a conversation. Right. But it enabled, I, I felt like I was part of that conversation and we wanted to kind of emulate that style and we thought, my goodness, we have an incredible population of folks in which to ask and ask questions and to seek that narrative. And so, we started this initiative, kind of going out in the field. That's the one thing that I always loved to, I, I know sort of, I think Brandon, you know, he, he kind of, I think initially kind of walked around the streets of New York to do it. And what I always want to do is kind of capture the client in the space of comfort. Right. And in space that resonates with them.
[00:31:44] Anu: So, we kind of go out into the field, and it really is having a conversation about them, right? I mean, when we're doing the work that we do is certainly it is focused and providing this high caliber legal services to these individuals. And I think we do a great job, but in doing so, we, I don't know that we often pause to take the time to appreciate, appreciate the individual and see the wholeness of the individual.
[00:32:10] Anu: And so, you know, we, we kind of go into the community. We kind of talk with these individuals and I mean, I'll share a couple of examples of the folks that we've spoken with because I think it actually feeds nicely into, I mean, certainly focusing on the Latinx community here in terms of the questions about economics, entrepreneurship, building wealth and, and all of those things. Our clients are, are - tend to be low income. And yet the sort of what a spirit of entrepreneurship that we see. And one of our clients. He's actually Venezuelan, and we did a series on him, and he was kind of talking about being the - he's a barber, right. Being the only Venezuelan barber among the Colombians and Puerto Ricans that were in the neighborhood.
[00:32:52] Anu: Um, and I remember he was sharing kind of, yeah, there's this sort of honor code among barbers where, you know, no one touches the other person's clients. And so just like building the community right around this and, and, and, you know, striving to have his own barber shop. And I, and I just, I mean, I love this.
[00:33:08] Anu: We were, I remember it was raining and we actually went to the sort of first barber shop that he worked in and we kind of standing under the awning. The owner kind of brought us some chairs and we're sitting, and his wife was also there. Um, and we were kind of sitting and it was just, it was just so. It was a connection.
[00:33:26] Anu: Right. And that's what I want to relay to the audience is connect. Right. In, in whatever way we can, because I think that is absolutely the initial starting point. We also, you know, I talked with a client of mine very recently, and she's talking about - and she is a Dominican woman. She's talking about. She wanted to create this like partnership with the bodega so that she can run sort of a kitchen in the back and provide, like, native Dominican food.
[00:33:53] Anu: Just talking about it I'm getting hungry. I'm telling you, I will, I won't do that to you guys. And I thought it was a great sort of look at what folks are trying to do in this community. Right. Our hope and goal for this is really, I mean, it goes back to the T to the, to right, to show what a vibrant community we have and to connect right, to have the folks be able to connect with our community.
[00:34:15] Mary and Nolan: That's incredible. I love it. Thank you. This is a great place for us to talk about advocacy. So, we have this foundation of empathy. We have this foundation of building connection and that's, that's where we can start as individuals. And how can we keep going? So how can people, communities become advocates? How can they make a change? Whether it's on the legal pathway side or it's on the side of creating space for this, this economic force to actually become the economic force that this country might not admit, it needs it to be?
[00:34:50] Anu: Sure. Yeah. I think there's the sort of low-hanging fruit. And then there's there's items that I think require a bit more effort, but something that I would absolutely encourage our audiences to kind of partake in. Right. So initially what you can do, I think is ask questions and listen. Right? So, if you are able to connect, create, think, eat a meal se que, right. Just be a part of somebody else's life. Right? That is absolutely the starting point. I can't emphasize that enough. I think, in addition to that, you know, it's funny because I think folks sometimes have difficulty navigating that space.
[00:35:31] Anu: Right? How do I get there? Right. I mean, I have the advantage of being a sort of multi-lingual brown woman, right. And access to that space. But I think what you will find, and as soon as you start that process, right, people are naturally social creatures. Right. We want to share; we want to share who we are. Right. And if you come to the table with genuine curiosity, I think you would definitely find, find what you're looking for. So that's the first thing, right? And that I think we can do every day. Right. We can do that in every moment in every capacity that we can.
[00:36:08] Anu: The second thing that I would tell, encourage the audience really, is you know, speak out. Right. And there's tons of ways to do that. I don't know if your audience is familiar, that, you know, each time a regulatory framework is being reconsidered, right. There is a public notice period and essentially that's 'we're taking comments and thoughts from the public,' right. And there are organizations that will kind of shepherd your comments in, but like currently right now the process is open for DACA, right?
[00:36:35] Anu: If you have a thought, if you support it, if you, if you are convinced from what I just told you today, right? There is an avenue for you to include and have your voice heard with very little research. I think you could absolutely find ways to connect with others who are of the same mindset and amplify. And that's definitely really, really important work that if you can kind of carve out a tiny bit of your social media time to doing, or a tiny bit of before you go to bed, scanning your phone time to do... absolutely. I would encourage that.
[00:37:06] Anu: And finally, I mean, I think if you guys don't mind, I'm going to take sort of a guest prerogative. One of my favorite authors, her name is Arundhati Roy. I think she gave one of the best descriptions of advocacy that I've ever heard. So, I'm going to quote her. She, I mean, she said to love. To be loved, to never forget your own insignificance, to never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its layer, to never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch to try to understand. To never look away and never, never to forget. How profound, right? That sort of title of our podcast here is the cost of immigration. I think we've talked about that a lot. What I wanted to kind of leave the audience with is another title, if you will, the worth of immigration, right? And, and how you can be an ally and a part of that. And for folks who want to do even more, there are definitely opportunities out there in the immigration space, coming from a recognition that there are a lot of folks that need representation and not enough supply to meet that demand.
[00:38:29] Anu: Um, there is an accreditation process that folks can go through to become a DOJ accredited representative. There are various ways to do that, and it is, you know, it's funny, it's actually kind of stalled right now and there's a lot of advocacy around getting that program really, really flourishing because it does create a ton of opportunity. And if you, you know, I have to do a shout out to, um, Michelle Stone out of Villanova University, who's created I think the first of its kind, totally virtual program, it's called Vista for individuals that are interested in learning getting the training and getting up to speed in order to serve as representatives and as folks who are savvy in serving clients with immigration needs.
[00:39:18] Anu: So that's something I will put out there. I want folks to be thinking about. And I think, you know, programs such as Michelle's are really necessary. And I think start to fill the need that exists out there.
[00:39:32] Mary and Nolan: That's incredibly beautiful and I think probably a good place to end. What do you wish we had brought to this conversation that we didn't? What did we not think of? Whether it's, because we couldn't think of it or we just didn't bring it. What did we miss?
[00:39:49] Anu: It's a good question. What I hope to do eventually, I'll kind of put this out there to you guys, and then if there's like space or, because I think, you know, we're talking about our clients, right. And their stories. I want folks to chime in. Right. I think that's part of like the participatory, like the challenges and all of this stuff that like really gets a lot of traction. I think this is something like share your immigrant story, right? Like, I don't know if you guys remember when Ed Sheeran he did like a, a trend where he had a song 'beautiful'. Right. Beautiful people. They were, and he had like, he posted it, he started this trend. I think 2.2 million people saying like posts, beautiful people in your life. I mean, it was incredibly uplifting and incredible. Right. So, my like long-term goal would be to really get people behind this, because it's sort of like embracing who you are and lifting, right?
[00:40:40] Anu: Like that, that's the, that's the whole goal of long-term. All of which to say, I think we accomplished what we could in the time that we had. Um, but all. Yeah, there's a lot. I think that we can grow with this. I think you guys do amazing work, generally building knowledge, but building empathy. Think that's why I kind of gravitate to toward this.
[00:41:00] Mary and Nolan: Oh, thank you so much. Oh, and thank you. That's such an incredibly valuable perspective and we are truly so happy to have been given the chance to have you on and talk through it all.
[00:41:11] Mary: Thank you so much for listening in on an important and beautiful conversation with Anu Thomas. Talking the immigrant population, and the genuine true worth of immigration and immigrants in this country. We challenge our listeners to become or continue being an ally and supporting the community with us and take the opportunity to continue educating ourselves.
[00:41:34] Nolan: Next week, we have a brand-new mini-series coming up on cryptocurrency that we are all super excited about. In a one-on-one session, we'll talk about the background of crypto, the major trends today, from both a historical and technical perspective. We're super excited about it and think you should be too. We'll see you next weekend. Happy moneymaking.
[00:41:58] Mary, Nolan, Laquita Ann: You've been listening in with 'Your world, Your Money.' You can find us at ywympodcast.com and stay updated on Instagram at Global Thinking Foundation USA. Be sure to rate and review us and you can reach us with questions or thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our thanks again to Hangar Studios and Global Thinking Foundation. Thanks friends. Happy moneymaking. We'll see you next time.