BY BROOKSI HUDSON
MOUNT PLEASANT— Immigrants in the Lowcountry area have a new advocate to help them with the naturalization process.
The diocesan office of Catholic Charities welcomed Emily Guerrero, an immigration attorney, in February.
Guerrero’s office is in the East Cooper Community Outreach building on Six Mile Road. Her job is to aid immigrants in the naturalization process, filling out green card applications, obtaining employment status, and filing for temporary protected status. She will also provide women in violent relationships with the tools they need to find protection.
“It is fulfilling to work with these clients,” said Guerrero. “They are the most grateful people I have ever met. They are just so thankful to have someone who is willing to help them.”
Guerrero, who received her bachelor’s degree from Wake Forest University and her law degree from the University of South Carolina, joined the Catholic Charities team when the need for an immigration attorney in the Lowcountry grew. Previously, attorney Glenda Bunce had traveled back and forth from Columbia to Charleston to fill the role in both locations, but the demand became too great.
“We had been looking for someone and were delighted to get Emily,” said Dorothy Grillo, director of social ministry and Catholic Charities for the diocese. It was Guerrero’s long-standing commitment to advocacy work that made her a perfect fit for the position.
“My first job out of law school was an immigration fellowship,” said Guerrero. “Prior to coming here I was working in children’s advocacy law but I missed immigration work a lot. I love that I can now serve an under-served population. We are targeting a group that no one extends a hand to.”
To overcome the language barrier, Guerrero took a two-month Berlitz Spanish course and studied at an immersion program in Mexico.
“I moved to Oaxaca, Mexico, for six weeks and lived with a local family and took classes,” she said. “As of now I am proficient in Spanish but definitely still learning.”
Guerrero said that a key part of the immigration process is finding a family connection here in the States — a U.S. citizen or green card holder. Sometimes that connection doesn’t exist.
“This is a very long process for most people, sometimes taking as long as five to seven years,” she said. “And for some people there is nothing that can be done. That is really the hard part.”
“We are so fortunate to have such an experienced attorney working for us,” said Grillo. “She is truly a tremendous asset.”
Guerrero and her husband of one year, Jamie, live in Mount Pleasant.