Roanoke public meeting teaches nearly 100 people about immigration law

By Brie Jackson - Weekend Anchor / Reporter

ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - On Wednesday, a meeting took place for people looking for answers and resources about immigration.

Nearly 100 people attended the event at the Jefferson Center to take part in a conversation about the immigration system and its impact on families and communities.

Sylvia Busch attended the event. She said she became a legal immigrant decades ago and now works with Roanoke Social Services as an interpreter.

"I want to inform them what they can do and not to be afraid," said Busch.

Busch was among church groups, lawyers, law enforcement agents and others who gathered at the Jefferson Center to learn more about legal and illegal immigration.

"With all of the recent reasons immigration has been in the news, I just think it is really important that we stay informed and understand objectively what's going on in our country," said Kristine Gilbert, who also attended the meeting.

Lawyer Christine Poarch specializes in immigration laws. She said she's seen the legal process change from one administration to another. Poarch said getting a green card can be a lengthy and complicated process.

"Frankly it is a little problematic depending on who you are and who your relative is or who you are and who your job is," she said.

Poarch said the average wait time is seven years but can be even longer depending on factors such as the country someone is from. She says it's important to educate people on immigration's impact on local communities.

"It is critical to remember there are approximately 7 percent of school children in the U.S. who have at least one undocumented parent. More than that, there is 40 percent of business creation comes from immigrant business."

By having open discussions, people hope to gain a better understanding of immigration and ways to help those from other countries gain the resources they need.

Roanoke City Police Chief Tim Jones also spoke at the event. He said his department is not involved in operations to actively seek out illegal immigrants.

"Roanoke Police Department is not engaged in any remote, systematic door-to-door seeking out project on immigration or whether someone is here illegally. That is not what we are about," said Jones.

Jones says less than 3 percent of arrests made in the past couple of years involved ethnic groups, excluding Caucasians and African-Americans.

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