Tyson Foods has awarded Immigrant Connection a $65,000 grant for immigrant legal services for local residents. The grant, a substantial gift for Immigrant Connection, will provide partnership opportunities with one of the world’s largest food companies.

The funds will allow Immigrant Connection (housed at The Bridge Community Church) to continue providing services such as legal counseling and naturalization assistance to Tyson Foods employees and their families in the Logansport, Indiana, area.

Immigrant Connection (IC) aims to prevent immigration-related disruptions in employment at Tyson Foods through an increased presence on its Logansport campus. According to Rev. Zach Szmara, national director for Immigrant Connection and pastor of The Bridge, IC has a noted presence at the food plant.

“Our IC staff is present twice per shift per month at the plant,” said Szmara. “We answer questions and meet with lots of team members and then set up appointments where they come to our IC office which is inside our church.

“We serve an average of 15–20 Tyson team members a month, but being on site furthers this relationship and gives us access to over 2,000 team members. It gives us ways we can partner with each person and their family as they navigate next steps in the immigration journey.

“The Immigrant Connection Team at The Bridge is overjoyed to continue partnering with Tyson Foods to serve the immigrant communities in Logansport,” said Szmara. “This bolstered support will give us new opportunities to connect with Tyson team members and their families, allowing us to offer more services at lower cost. Together with Tyson, we look forward to continuing to cultivate a welcoming environment throughout Logansport for our immigrant and refugee families.”

Additionally, the funds from Tyson Foods will allow for 50 Tyson Foods team members to complete the naturalization process by the end of 2020 at no cost. These individuals will be identified through on-site consultations and awareness seminars hosted by IC staff. Grant funds will cover legal fees for a variety of other immigration-related applications requested by Tyson Foods team members and their families.

“Being a first-generation natural born citizen, I’ve seen firsthand the struggles a family faces when dealing with immigration issues,” said Michelle Balderas, assistant director of human resources at Tyson Foods. “This is one of the main reasons I advocate for great partnerships such as The Bridge and Tyson Foods. Both organizations’ main businesses may be in fundamentally different avenues but continue to foster programs that uplift our team members and our surrounding communities.”

Immigrant Connection is an affiliate of The Wesleyan Church Corporation that aims to help every church and every community learn ways to welcome and connect with immigrants and refugees. The first Immigrant Connection site launched at The Bridge, Logansport in February 2014. Since that time, Immigrant Connection has launched 19 Department of Justice-recognized immigration legal services offices, all hosted in local churches. Immigrant Connection is made up of staff and volunteers with a wide range of experience in immigration legal services.

Maddi Paulsen is database/donor communications manager for The Wesleyan Church.