Founder and executive director Jennyfer Mesa is the creative force behind the brand new powerful documentary, “The Immigration Resident” which aims to break stereotypes and barriers to communication in the world of immigration. Jennyfer, a past immigrant herself, is originally from Columbia and migrated to Miami Florida when she was just 6 years old. She spent her younger years in Miami and then in Mexico City, and eventually came back to the US and found herself in Spokane, Washington.
Jennyfer is a mom, neighbor, urban planner, and a cross-cultural community developer here in Spokane. Her passion for developing this project comes from the work that Latinos En Spokane have done and continue to do in the community, and the emotional and personal stories being told by immigrants of all cultures and diversities. Jennyfer says, “there’s an invisible presence of community members throughout our country that are behind the scenes doing all the work, whether that’s labor work, service work, essential work, these are mostly made up of immigrants. Immigrants are the leading importance of labor that is everywhere and keeps our communities going. In many cases, convenience plays a pivotal factor in major corporations and larger cities to have this invisible presence. “We’re here, undocumented people are here, immigrants are here, and we are more than just essential, we are your neighbors,” Jennyfer says. Immigration is so complex, and is a matter that needs to be broken down so it’s not. While there are a variety of factors that influence the status of immigration, the focus needs to shift more towards the influence and power people can hold by coming together to try and understand, and do better by doing so.
The initial plan for this documentary was to tell the story of Latinos En Spokane, who they are, and how they came to be. However, Jennyfer felt deeply that there was a larger story behind this. It’s not just Latinos En Spokane that puts in time and energy into these families, but by partnering with other Hispanic organizations around our region, places like Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network, they are able to lead a collective effort to support immigrants all across Washington state. They look to our community leaders, professors, and local members of society to share the groundwork that is the leading support and activism for our immigrants, primarily Latinos, through experts in this field of work. Latinos En Spokane invites people from all over, and all walks of life to come sit down and have a conversation about educational equities, systemic barriers that they may face, and how to tell their stories.
The Immigration Resident intertwines the issues that were faced in 2016 and 2017 during the infamous Trump era, up to present-day issues that have been the result of the political whirlwind that came with it. This documentary gives you an up close and personal look into the stories of locals and organizations of experiences from those also dealing with the downfall. The mission behind the film is to break down barriers by celebrating diversity not only within our community, but wherever we go. Most people assume that immigrants are from Mexico, But realistically our community is made up of a multitude of different nationalities, cultures, and languages, from Honduras, to Venezuela, to Columbia. Immigrants come from all different regions, with different stories of how they made it to Washington state, what their families endured or how they got separated, and what they are doing in and for our communities now. These are raw, genuine experiences that need to be shared in order to break barriers and make a difference, in not only Spokane, but all around.
When issues arise, such as discrimination, it’s almost impossible for immigrants to speak up. Oftentimes in these communities, people are threatened with ICE. If businesses don’t want to pay them for their hard work and services, they can threaten ICE reporting as a way to hold over their head in order to gain a sense of control. “It’s a risk,” Jennyfer says. “That’s a whole lot to ask a person in that position. A large majority of families are of mixed status, meaning one family member can have their immigration status, while another, like a grandparent, goes undocumented. A family can’t always speak up because they fear they may put them at risk later.” The systems in this country that are put in place are not there to help immigrants who actually need help.
Latinos En Spokane’s center opened in 2020 and once a month they host an event called “Tacos and Justice” where they provide yummy snacks and a free legal clinic, where people can spend time with attorneys that can talk them through issues with the courts regarding parenting plans, divorce, and many other legal issues. Latinos En Spokane works hard to provide a space for those to come in, ask questions, get connected, and provide wrap-around services to immigrants arriving and those who have been here. They provide anything from housing support, legal processes for status, and help with families having to navigate around the American systems. “If you arrive at the border, if you’re lucky enough to pass through, you immediately have to report yourself to immigration, and an attorney can charge you up to twelve thousand dollars. 80% of those cases have a successful outcome, but why does a price tag come with it? Let’s break barriers of that. Support families and create access to families who cannot afford attorney fees or legal fees by giving them access for free,” says Jennyfer. This documentary is a way to bring the community together, and raise awareness and money to hire an immigration attorney specifically for this organization.
As many of us know and have come to know over the years, the American system is not the most welcoming and there is a big struggle with the language difficulty. Latinos En Spokane strives to create language access and break that wall down for proper communication. There are a total of four social workers that provide services each step of the way, while advocating for immigrants, and also teaching immigrants how to advocate for themselves. These members of our society have rights, and need to know what they are. When immigrants come to a new place it can be difficult to adjust or feel that sense of belonging. Latinos En Spokane strives to bring Latinos together regardless of nationalities or languages, to celebrate their cultures and who they are as a collective. The goal is to continue celebrating cultural pride from all over the world and acknowledge important dates, such as Mexican Independence Day, Central American Independence Day, and Welcome to Venezuela Days. Rich cultured diversities create a sense of belonging, and belonging itself creates safety.
The work they do in the community is both a learning and an unlearning process of what it is meant to be an immigrant. They come to work, provide, contribute, and give back. Everyone is connected, and keeping in mind the advocacy is to show our next generation that immigrants too can live freely, and have a long, happy, successful life. Let’s come together to make changes in Spokane, and to overall make a better Spokane.
“To be a Latina, and an immigrant, is to be ambitious and resilient.”
– Jennyfer Mesa, Latinos En Spokane
Shaye Hubbard is the Content Strategist for Trending Northwest, and is a 2022 Spokane Falls graduate with a degree in Digital Marketing and Social Media Design. She dedicates her efforts to creating compelling content and producing written narratives that can extend beyond mere entertainment, diving into stories that truly matter. Shaye is a major foodie, is passionate about stepping out of her comfort zone, and loves to get crafty. When she is not busy being a mom to her three children, she likes to spend her free time exploring everything our region has to offer, and has an exciting taste for any new adventure.