National Justice for Our Neighbors
July 2017 
 
 
Asylum  
 
 Emily Kvalheim of South Florida Justice for our Neighbors helps abused and neglected children find safety in the United States  
 
 
A couple of months ago, a 12-year-old client and I sat down at the large, wooden desk in the middle of our small office. We were coloring pictures from a Dora the Explorer coloring book.
 
Even as an adult, I find that coloring can relieve stress, and I hoped it would do the same for the young girl who sat next to me.
 
We began talking about school. She told me about her classes and that she was studying hard to learn English because she wanted to be a doctor one day. We bonded over our love of animals.
 
She told me about her life in El Salvador. I did my best to let her direct our conversation.
 
Soon I learned that her grandpa often got drunk and said he wanted to rape her.
 
Soon I was getting up to grab a box of tissues and a bottle of water as she explained that her uncle groped her cousin in front of other relatives, but nobody did anything.
 
Soon she told me about the nights when her uncle snuck into her bed and raped her.
 
She cried as she told me her family didn’t love her and wouldn’t protect her. We were the first to hear about what had happened to her in El Salvador. She couldn’t even tell her family.
 
 
 
 Continue reading HERE.
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A Fond Farewell 
 
Emily Kvalheim and Caitlin Kastner, both Global Mission Fellows of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, have spent the last two years working for South Florida JFON. They have both been invaluable assets to that mission, but now their time is at an end. We wish them all the best in their future endeavors, knowing they will always leave their little piece of the world better than when they found it.
 
Godspeed, Emily and Caitlin! 
 
 
 "It's a Miami thing," says Caitlin about her first experience with a Florida gator. 
 
*We wrote about Emily and Caitlin when they first started their work for South Florida JFON. Please read it here. 
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The Fugees Family United! 
 
 
Refugee kids find a home with their team, their coach, and each other 
Their school finds a home with a United Methodist Church
 
 
“There was this one time," remembers  Asad, a lanky 15-year old from Sudan,  “we were winning and that made the other team mad. ‘Go back to where you came from!’ they yelled at us."
 
"One of my teammates was wearing a hijab and they called her a terrorist. That really affected me, you know, because I am a Muslim. And I am a refugee.”
 
“We could have reacted badly,” he adds, “but we knew we couldn’t let them get into our heads or we would lose the game. So we just walked away and let it go.”
 
Asad is as quick with his smile as he is with his feet. But he, like so many of his teammates, is a child survivor of war. He has lost much of his childhood to that war.
 
“I have had a hard life,” he acknowledges matter-of-factly. "But now I try to use my experiences as lessons to help me stay off the bad lane in life, and as a way to move on." 
 
He looks to his teammates, many of whom have witnessed horrors equal to his.
 
"I think," he says thoughtfully, "that soccer has taught us peace." 
 
 
 
Read the full story HERE. 
 
 
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Thank you for choosing us 
 
Record number of immigrants become U.S. citizens on America's 241st  birthday  
 
 
On this past Fourth of July, nearly 15,000 immigrants—double the number from 2016 and triple the number from 2015—stood, raised their right hands and solemnly took the oath of U.S. citizenship:
 
"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God." 
 
While naturalization ceremonies are always stirring events, those held on our nation's birthday are particularly so, evoking strong emotions of patriotism for both new and native-born Americans. 
 
A special day deserves a special location, and many of the 65+ ceremonies were held in national parks, historic buildings, battleships, and the homes of founding fathers—including Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and George Washington's Mount Vernon.  
 
Candidates for naturalization must pass the test for U.S. citizenshipand 97 percent of would-be citizens do, in fact, pass. Sadly, only 2/3 of voting-age Americans pass this same test.
 
Naturalization ceremonies often include a congratulatory speech from an elected official. At Mount Vernon, this task happily fell to founding father General George Washington (played by his official reenactor), who eloquently welcomed his fellow Americans to both his home and our country. 
 
Over the years, we have helped hundreds of immigrants realize their dream of becoming U.S. citizens. To them and all the others who take this momentous step, we say congratulations, welcome and thank you.
 
Thank you for choosing us!
 
 Fourth of July Naturalization Ceremony at George Washington's Mount Vernon. 
 
 
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Advocacy Alert  
from Melissa Bowe,
NJFON Program & Advocacy Manager
 
We want to encourage you to check out the Interfaith Immigration Coalition (IIC) Summer Action Grassroots Toolkit to find ways to get involved in immigration advocacy. This is a vital time to lift our collective voice in support of our immigrant and refugee families, friends and neighbors!
 
The toolkit: “RESPECTING THE DIGNITY OF ALL: DEFUND THE DETENTION AND DEPORTATION MACHINE” provides an in-depth July-August calendar to tell Congress: no funds for exclusionary, enforcement-only policies!
 
July 10-14: Call and Tweet Your Members of Congress & Request Visits from their Local Offices
July 17-21: Write Opinion Editorials & Letters to the Editor for Local Media Outlets
July 24-28: Build Your Advocacy Team
July 31 - August 11: Host Interfaith Vigils 
 
 
 
 
 
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