All of our programs are available to low and moderate income Latinos living in any part of the Washington Metropolitan Area. The majority of our clients reside in Washington, D.C. and are concentrated primarily in Wards 1 and 4, with lesser concentration in Wards 2, 5 and 8. One-third of the people we serve are from nearby Maryland, particularly Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties, and one-fifth are from Virginia.
We serve a population representative of all Latin American nations and all stages of the long and complex migration process. The vast majority of our clients come from countries in Central America, notably El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. We work to assist immigrants with the legal and policy issues they face at each step of that journey. Click here for a more comprehensive profile of the Latino community in the Washington region.
To read the stories of some of our clients, scroll down or click on the images below.
Citizenship: Jose becomes a citizen at 74
Jose came to the United States in 1991. He worked several jobs to support his family back in his native El Salvador and postponed applying for citizenship until his retirement. At the age of 74, Jose enrolled in the citizenship course offered at CARECEN. Because he met certain age and residency requirements, Jose was eligible for the exam’s language exception and participated in CARECEN’s Spanish-language citizenship course.
Learning U.S history and government is not the easiest task if you have never formally attended school. Jose attended every single class, even though at the beginning he could not make complete sense of the information presented to him. After attending two consecutive citizenship courses, Jose was able to pass the mock interview CARECEN conducted in the last week of the class. CARECEN worked with Jose throughout his entire naturalization process, from completing his naturalization application to preparing for his interview. CARECEN also provided Jose with interpretation during his naturalization interview.
On June 14, 2011, Jose became a U.S. Citizen. He is now registered to vote and a proud holder of a U.S. passport. Jose continues to work part-time cleaning offices in the evening and also encourages his fellow community members to follow his steps to citizenship as a CARECEN Citizenship Ambassador.
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Housing Services: Yolanda and Juan fight foreclosure
Yolanda and Juan purchased their first home in April 2007 in Ward 4 of Washington, D.C. By September of 2009 their monthly mortgage payments had become overwhelming. Facing a reduction in their income and bearing excessive credit card debt, they came to CARECEN for help. Immediately, CARECEN’s housing counselor was able to identify that Yolanda and Juan had been victims of predatory lending.
During the long 18 months that followed, Yolanda and Juan fought to save their home. CARECEN’s housing counselor, Anabell Martinez, assisted them every step of the way. When the couple was initially denied a loan modification, mainly due to their excessive debt, they participated in several of CARECEN’s group financial workshops and Ms. Martinez provided them with credit counseling. They put this increased knowledge to use and entered a debt consolidation program.
In March 2010, Yolanda and Juan began the loan modification process again. On several occasions, Ms. Martinez submitted complaints to the D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking on the couple’s behalf to contest the loan servicer’s noncompliance with the process. These efforts began to pay off when the couple received the good news that their second loan of $99,000 had been cancelled. In January 2011 they were granted a permanent loan modification, reducing their monthly payments significantly from $2,255 to $1,405.
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Housing Services: Jose Antonio improves his living conditions and gains elderly status with the city
Jose Antonio is a father and grandfather of seven who has lived for six years on Kennedy Street in Ward 4 of Washington, D.C. During this time, the Dominican native had repeatedly requested repairs in his apartment to no avail and had even been intimidated on several occasions by his landlord. The housing violations Jose Antonio faced were unending and unfortunately all too familiar to many tenants in D.C.: lack of heat, peeling paint, rodents and cockroaches. Jose Antonio was thrilled when CARECEN helped him resolve these issues by writing letters and communicating with his landlord. CARECEN not only helped improve Jose Antonio’s living conditions but also helped him to obtain elderly status with the city, entitling him to a lower rent increase every year.
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Immigration Legal Services: Francis Castillo obtains a U Visa and works to reunite his family
In 2009, Francis Castillo* spent another lonely Christmas without his wife and three children. He was working in the U.S., hoping to make a better life for his family. Castillo last saw his children before he immigrated to the US in 1998. His son was one year old, and his twin daughters were newborns. Now they are all teenagers. Castillo only gets to talk with his family on the phone once or twice a month, and he works hard to support them by sending remittances to his native El Salvador.
Castillo cleans both days and nights, working about 60 hours per week. At 7 A.M. on Christmas Eve, Castillo was waiting for a bus to work. Suddenly, an unknown assailant brutally robbed and assaulted him. An ambulance rushed Castillo to Howard Hospital, where he had several maxillofacial surgeries. Doctors had to insert a plate into his face to maintain its shape.
Castillo cooperated with the police throughout the investigation. “They treated me well,” Castillo said. “I still have the phone number of the head officer.” A judge advised Castillo that because he cooperated with the police, he could qualify for a U Visa. U Visas allow immigrants who are victims of violent crimes and cooperate with police to stay in the U.S. for up to four years. Immigrants with U Visas can sponsor family members to come to the U.S. After holding a U Visa for three years, immigrants may apply for a green card that will allow them permanent residency.
Castillo had his first consultation at CARECEN in the spring of 2010. He decided to work with CARECEN’s attorneys, who helped him apply for a U visa. Castillo’s U visa was approved in the fall of 2010. After waiting the required three years, Castillo plans to apply for permanent residency.
He is also in the process of bringing his family to the U.S. With the help of CARECEN’s legal staff, Castillo’s wife and two of his children had their U.S. visa applications approved this June. Now Castillo is waiting for his second daughter to have her visa approved. Once her visa is approved, Castillo will be reunited with his family after 13 years.
*The client’s name was changed to protect his privacy.