The Idaho Dairymen’s Association has awarded $60,000 to the Community Council of Idaho to assist with the council’s recently formed immigration legal services program, Familias Unidas.
The program, launched in September of 2017, offers legal services to Idaho’s immigrant workforce community and expands on the many services the council has offered to immigrant families since the early 1970s.
“We strongly believe in supporting these services, which are important to the workforce on dairies throughout Idaho,” Rick Naerebout, CEO of Idaho Dairymen’s Association, said.
The program offers assistance with anything from DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) to gaining legal status, and IDA wants to show its support for the immigrant community, he said.
“Organizations and businesses like ourselves recognize the value they bring to our communities. These families are important contributors to Idaho’s economy and vital to our dairy industry,” he said.
There is plenty of opportunity for them to feel unwelcome given all the bad press, he said.
“But we do welcome them with open arms for the value they bring to our communities,” he said.
Ninety percent of the workforce on Idaho’s dairy operations is foreign-born, he said.
“You can’t get much more dependent than we are on a foreign workforce,” he said.
The donation provides an opportunity to partner with Idaho Community Council to offer dairy employees free or low-cost services, and employers can receive vouchers for those services for their employees through IDA, he said.
If an employee is trying to gain legal status, for example, the program allows him to have that conversation in a safe environment, he said.
Because immigrant families have had a relationship with the council through its other programs — such as housing, medical clinics, Head Start and workforce preparation — they feel they can rely on the council’s advice and not be subject to fraudsters or incompetence, Brandy Perez, Familias Unidas program director, said.
But funding to run the program has been tight. The program mostly relies on service fees and an annual gala. Without the IDA award, the council didn’t know how long it could keep offering the legal services, she said.
“We’re immensely grateful for their support. The dairymen’s association pretty much doubled the available funds we had,” she said.
And the council is hoping it will spur more grant opportunities and funding for events in the coming year, she said.
Familias Unidas offers services on a sliding scale to low-income families, from pro-bono to full fees, which are still 25 percent below average Idaho attorney fees, she said.
It provides legal consultations and assistance for family-based petitions and applications, citizenship, DACA and TPS (Temporary Protection Status). It also assists victims of certain violent crimes, who by law are offered protection from immigration action to help law enforcement investigate and prosecute cases such as murder and trafficking.