By Francisco Jr. Ovalle and Wafai Dias

Al Día: Philadelphia Nonprofit Helps the Latino Immigrant Community

Al Día: Philadelphia Nonprofit Helps the Latino Immigrant Community
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A large crowd recently gathered for a rally at Love Park in support of immigration reform. Several organizations including Juntos were involved with the event. One of the key speakers was Miguel Andrade. He is the youth organizer for Juntos.

“I myself am an immigrant,” said Andrade. ” I know firsthand what it’s like to come here as a young kid, grow up and be undocumented. I know the struggles that you have to go through. Specially during high school and you find out you’re undocumented and you won’t be able to go to college.”

Andrade came to the United States when he was 5. Now at the age of 21, he has spent the majority of his life as an undocumented immigrant here.

A little over a year ago, he received his green card and working permit.

Andrade is only one of the members who passionately works for the Latino-based nonprofit community organization.

Juntos is a nonprofit organization based out of Philadelphia that works with the Latino-immigrant community around immigration and education issues. The organization also focuses on human rights, human rights abuses and how to stop them.

Andrade’s role is to empower the people in the community and create other future leaders in it. He said, “A lot of people came to the U.S. when they were very young, have grown up here and feel that this is their home.”

The main goal as an organization is the leadership development of the Latino community, “We instruct people. We teach people to know their rights so they know what to do when their rights are being attacked and also tell them how to speak up for themselves,” Andrade said.

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Adriana Arvizo has been working at Juntos for about  three years.

The organization sheds light on documentation and immigration issues in the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania.

Juntos’ goal is to bring hope and give power to workers, parents, youth and immigrants who want to make a difference in Philadelphia and the rest of the United States by organizing the Latino community and focusing on collaborations with other community-based and advocacy organizations.

Its mission statement is that “every human being has the right to a quality education and the freedom to live with dignity regardless of their immigration status.”

The nonprofit started in 2002 as a volunteer project by a group of women who were part of Women Organized Against Rape.  The group wanted to start a diverse organization that more suited its needs as members of the Latino community.

In January 2004 Juntos was able to open the first Latino community center in South Philadelphia called La Casa de los Soles. It went on to partner with the United Communities of SE Philadelphia in 2007 and moved into the Houston Community Center. It is one of the many nonprofits that help different communities in Philadelphia.

Juntos has been active for about 10 years. With a fairly new staff in place, it has strong visibility and an impact on all of the members of the Latino-immigrant community in South Philadelphia, which has one of the largest growing populations of immigrants in the city.

The main impact that Juntos has had on mainstream media and Philadelphia is that it has been able to bring to the surface a different side of immigration.

Miguel Andrade was undocumented for most of his time in the U.S.

Miguel Andrade was undocumented for most of his time in the United States.

“Usually what you hear on the media is that immigrants are taking Americans’ jobs or doing crimes, but we’ve been able to bring out the fact that on the contrary, the majority of immigrant people are hard-working people that just come here to better themselves and their families,” said Andrade.

Ana Ramos, a member of a Philadelphia community who is familiar with the work that Juntos does, said she thinks the nonprofit is immensely helping Latinos in the city. “Juntos is a great organization because they really work hard to educate and advocate for the Latino-immigrant community.”

One of Juntos’ main goals is to provide education and safety for undocumented immigrants.

The nonprofit group emphasizes the importance for everyone, citizens and immigrants, to have the correct information and to know a lot of the issues that are happening in both local and national levels.

Juntos claims that “knowledge is power and the reality is that the majority of people are misinformed on immigration.”

Andrade said he believes that people should be aware of basic facts like that undocumented students can’t go to college because of the high costs of tuition that they’re being asked for and what it really means to be undocumented.

Adriana Arvizo and Miguel Andrade explained Juntos' goals and mission.

Adriana Arvizo and Miguel Andrade explained Juntos’ goals and mission.

Juntos’ goal is to bring basic information about immigration and documentation to the Latino community and mainstream media in order to bring up these issues to light so that other communities can join in the conversation and talk about it, rather than hearing the myths that are perpetrated.

To know more about Juntos or to join the conversation in  community events, please visit vamosjuntos.org

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