N.H. Brazilian Council celebrates one year, announces new plans to serve immigrant communities
Bruno D’Britto has spent more than a decade working in law and advocacy in New Hampshire. During that time, he saw a need for an organization that could provide free legal consultation, information about state programs and referrals to other services to Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking immigrants.
People needed a safe space where they could share information they might not be comfortable disclosing to government agencies, he said, especially if they were undocumented.
”There wasn’t an organization in New Hampshire that did that; that trust doesn’t come easily,” he said.
That’s what led D’Britto to launch the New Hampshire Brazilian Council one year ago. Since then, the council has supported about 600 people with immigration-related issues, as well as with information about housing and health.
All of the council members come from an immigrant home or are immigrants themselves. Those involved in this work said they know how important it is to help the community understand the system.
Those involved on the council said most of the people they have helped so far are trying to obtain asylum. Council members try to guide them through the process so they don’t get scammed elsewhere.
The council also helps people to complete complicated citizenship application paperwork and fight immigration petitions with court. It has helped some people line up medical appointments, like arranging a dentist visit or finding out where to vaccinate their kids.
Those involved in the council also look for opportunities to celebrate Brazilian culture, too. In recent years, they were the lead organizer for Nashua's popular BrazilFest.
Those involved with the Brazilian Council said there’s more work to be done to ensure people who need language assistance are getting access to basic services. They said it has been challenging to help people as they interact with other agencies that don't provide language translation or interpretation services, which can discourage people from trying to access crucial supports.
The council members try to stay engaged with the communities they’re aiming to serve through social media and outreach to local churches. They said they’ve connected with most of their clients through word of mouth.
D’Britto said the council doesn’t just help individuals with their problems, it also advocates for the community.
This year, the council testified at the New Hampshire State House in favor of a bill that would have allowed undocumented people to obtain a driver's license. That measure did not pass, but the experience left a lesson for the council’s members.
“It is a learning curve,” D’Britto said.
As for the next year, the council hopes to build on its educational work.
They plan to continue doing workshops like the ones they have already offered on domestic violence and finance literacy. But they want to add many more topics, like how to respond if you are stopped by police without a driver’s license or how to open a business.
Leudson Veloz, who is on the board of the council, said they also want to fight misinformation about state laws, especially about labor rights.
“Even though they don’t have documents, they have rights and obligations, like getting documentation to pay their taxes,” he said.
Karen Roberts, another board member, is proud of how the council has been “opening people's eyes” to show them they can fight for themselves. She’s also looking forward to organizing more events to empower women.