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March 16, 2017 Blog

We need you

My team at Human Rights and I spent the morning at Deaf Capitol Day on Tuesday, March 14.  This isn’t usually big news.  We spend a fair amount of our time with groups facilitating their connection with government.  But today was different.  On March 6, the Department of Human Rights had notified two employees at the Department that they were subject to a layoff.  One of these employees was a Disabilities Consultant for the Office of Deaf Services; the other was a Disabilities Consultant for the Office of Person with Disabilities who had strong American Sign Language skills.    

Being a part of a small team, we feel this change both personally and professionally.  

Personally, we want the best for our co-workers who are also our friends, and we want to support them as they look to future opportunities.  We will miss having them as a part of our every-day lives. 

Professionally, we knew that the Deaf community would have hard questions for us about our plans going forward.  We knew that many people value the service provided by this employee, and would be concerned about how those services would be delivered in the future.  We knew that people would want to know how we would provide communication access, support programming to improve educational achievement and employment outcomes, and how we would connect government services with community members now that we didn’t have a native American Sign Language user on staff.

As specialists in Human Rights, we have been asking ourselves these questions and more because we see the challenges experienced by Deaf and Hard of Hearing Iowans every day. 

We have learned from Deaf and Hard of Hearing Iowans what it takes to navigate everyday life, and we understand the need for tailored services for this population.  Recent studies show that hearing attributes to at least 40% of our knowledge of what is happening around us, perhaps more.  Take a second to imagine completing basic tasks like buying groceries, having a quick conversation with co-workers, or listening to the news while you get ready for work if you couldn’t hear or use a spoken language.  Take it a step further and imagine getting a job, managing legal concerns, explaining medical conditions, being a member of your neighborhood association or providing input on legislation.  It is daunting to say the least. 

Yes, if you are Deaf or Hard of Hearing you may be able to secure the services of an interpreter or employ captioning services, use technology like a video phone, or access on-line/on-demand translation services; some people choose medical interventions such as hearing aids, cochlear implants or other assistive technology.  None of these is a foolproof solution to the serious communication access barrier faced by Deaf and Hard of Hearing Iowans.

So what is the answer? 

For us at the Department of Human Rights, it means a laser-focus on our commitment to Iowans.  Our agency is in place to resolve barriers for underserved and underrepresented Iowans at the system level.  We will turn our full attention to improving access to all available state and local resources, while also identify and resolving specific gaps in service that act as barriers to success.

It means that we help those experts in state government, and in local communities, who provide direct services in the form of education, employment assistance, healthcare, and legal assistance to learn how to better serve the needs of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Iowans.

It means that we continue to rely on our Commissioners for their expertise and assistance.  The Department houses several Commissions, including the Commission of Deaf Services.  This Commission is made up of private citizens who are appointed by the Governor to:

  • Study opportunities for, and changing needs of Deaf and Hard of Hearing;
  • Serve as a liaison between the Department and the public;
  • Recommend legislative and executive action; and
  • Establish advisory groups necessary to achieve goals. 

And, it means we reach out to you as Iowans who care about Human Rights.  Our work is at its best when we create strong public-private partnerships with caring and talented Iowans.  If you want to be a part of making life better for more than 250,000 Iowans who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, we need you.  Are you in?  Connect with us at https://humanrights.iowa.gov/contact-us-0

Written by: Monica Stone, Deputy Director &  Administrator - Community Advocacy and Services Division

The Immigrant Visa Process 

Immigration has been front and center in the news these days, but unless you've been personally or professionally involved with the complex process of immigration, you may not be aware of the responsibilities. 
I wanted to offer our readers some facts about the steps required for immigrating to the United States from the U.S. Department of State. 

Foreign citizens who want to live permanently in the United States must first obtain an immigrant visa. This is the first step to becoming a lawful permanent resident.  

Immigrating to the United States is an important and complex decision. In this section, you will learn about who may immigrate to the United States, the different types of immigrant visas, the required forms, and the steps in the immigrant visa process. Because most immigrants receive visas in the family or employment based visa categories, they are a key focus of this section. To be eligible to apply for an immigrant visa, a foreign citizen must be sponsored by a U.S. citizen relative, U.S. lawful permanent resident, or a prospective employer, with a few exceptions, explained below. The sponsor begins the immigration process by filing a petition on the foreign citizen’s behalf with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

Immigrating Based on Family

A U.S. citizen can file an immigrant visa petition for:

  • Spouse
  • Son or daughter
  • Parent
  • Brother or sister

A U.S. lawful permanent resident (that is, a green-card holder) can file an immigrant visa petition for:

  • Spouse
  • Unmarried son or daughter

As you get started:

  • Learn more about Family Categories.
  • To begin the immigration process, your sponsoring family member must file an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Employment-Based Immigration

A U.S. employer can sponsor certain skilled workers who will be hired into permanent jobs. In some specialized fields, U.S. law allows prospective immigrants to sponsor themselves. In addition, U.S. law provides a number of special immigrant categories, as well as an immigrant investor program.

As you get started:

  • Learn more about Employment Categories
  • To begin the immigration process, your sponsoring employer must file an I-140 Petition for Alien Worker with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In some categories, you can file the I-140 petition yourself.

Number of Visas Each Year is Limited in Some Categories

Regarding some of the immigrant visa categories, United States law limits the number of visas available each year, with certain limits by country. In these limited categories, whenever the number of qualified applicants exceeds the available immigrant visas, there will be a waiting list. In this situation, the available immigrant visas will be issued in the chronological order in which the petitions were filed. The date your petition was filed is called your priority date.  You can learn more about priority dates.

Other Immigrant Visa Categories

Many immigrants receive visas in the family or employment based visa categories; however there are other immigrant visa categories. A U.S. citizen can also petition for the immigration of a foreign fiancé(e) to be married in the United States, or an orphan adopted abroad/to be adopted in the United States. Several immigrant visa categories that cover special types of workers or special circumstances are established by U.S. laws. (Learn more about special immigrant categories.) The United States also conducts an annual program for Diversity Visas. For these other visa categories, the immigrant process flow chart above does not apply; therefore, select from the category webpages under More Information above to learn how to apply in these visa categories.

Visit the following website for interactive information:  https://travel.state.gov/content/travel.html

Provided by: Sonia Reyes-Snyder, Office of Latino Affairs

Women's History Month

Throughout the month of March, we celebrate Women’s History Month. To recognize the contributions of Iowa women today and throughout history, the Iowa Department of Human Rights’ Office on the Status of Women is hosting our second Women’s History Month video contest. Students in grades 5 through 12 were encouraged to be creative and produce a one to three minute video about one or more women in Iowa history who have had an impact. 

Voting is open until 11:59 p.m. on Friday, March 24th. To view and vote on the videos submitted for this year, visit our website. Enjoy!

Written by: Kristen Corey, Office on the Status of Women