Keep Calm and Carry On!
A federal district court in Texas temporarily blocked implementation of President Obama’s immigration actions last month, leaving millions of immigrants who had been counting on a chance at deportation relief and work authorization in limbo.
federal government did not comply with rulemaking procedures under federal law.
It’s hard not to feel disheartened and bewildered by the ongoing immigration tug-of-war between Congress and the Obama administration. Now, of course, we can look forward to the spectacle of the courts joining the ruckus, throwing their considerable weight to one side or the other. Certain media, meanwhile, are permanent fixtures on the sidelines, exhorting all players to greater incivility and generally making sure that no one escapes a thorough dunking in the mud.
National Justice For Our Neighbors wishes to state clearly and emphatically that we view Judge Hanen’s injunction as a mere temporary setback. The higher the case goes in the court system, the more likely judges are to side with the administration. We believe that it is a question of when, not if, these constitutionally sound programs will take effect. Therefore, our network will continue preparing for expanded DACA and DAPA to ensure that immigrant families are able to access this much-needed relief. We will also do all we can to ensure that our community members receive accurate information about the status of these programs.
So what can you do in the meantime as an advocate for our immigrant neighbors?
Stay involved: Volunteer your time, donate supplies, help in fundraising efforts, or find other meaningful ways to support the work of nonprofit immigration legal services providers, tax-preparing programs, and anti-fraud initiatives. The DAPA-eligible community will be seeking out trusted service providers for high-quality legal aid, to resolve their tax situations, to help them collect documents that demonstrate continuous residence in the United States, and to prove their maternity or paternity. It is essential that these organizations have the people and resources they need to better serve our immigrant neighbors.
Stay informed: We need to be clear on what administrative relief—DACA and DAPA—is and also what it isn’t. If we are to prevent this temporary injunction from having a demoralizing effect, public education is key. Members of the immigrant community are being bounced around in an endless political Ping-Pong match. They need to have reliable, straightforward information that will ease fear and confusion. For the latest updates, please visit U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Stay mindful: Lastly, funding local service providers will be crucial in the successful implementation of DAPA. Our JFON sites, for example, do not have the present capacity to meet the needs of all the DAPA-eligible in their communities. We need to hire more attorneys, hold more DAPA workshops and clinics, and continue hosting public education events on immigration issues. None of this will be possible without increased funding.
www.athensonline.com; artwork by Jolene Morris
National Justice For Our Neighbors invites your comments and suggestions of how we can all best weather this difficult time together. Finally, we call on all people who work for justice to consider the counsel of Romans 12:12:
Be joyful in hope, patient in tribulation, and steadfast in prayer.
Strengthening the Ties that Bind us
United Methodist Women and Justice For Our Neighbors
A beautiful and productive partnership
The grant money was divided among four of our JFON sites— Northern Illinois, Iowa, West Michigan, and Southeastern Michigan.
All of these locations have an urgent need for high-quality, affordable immigration services, yet each lacks the resources to adequately assist the many vulnerable immigrants who so desperately need their help. All of these locations have UMW volunteers who are eager to become more involved and to make a real and lasting difference in the lives of the low-income immigrants who live within their communities.
“As a member of my own UMW in Ann Arbor, I know the power and impact UMW volunteers can have to bring awareness and action around social justice issues,” says Tori Booker, site director for JFON Southeast Michigan. “We are excited to collaborate with such dynamic and caring women."
For JFON West Michigan, these much-needed funds will be put to good use developing their new site in Traverse City, a resort and farming community where immigrant workers play an integral role in the local economy.
For Iowa JFON, the windfall meant, first and foremost, that they were able to hire a new attorney, April Palma. April will dedicate her time exclusively to helping the unaccompanied minors who have fled the violence of their home countries of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Site attorney Ann Naffier estimates that they will be able to assist an additional 40-50 of these UAMs who have endured such hardship and peril to make their way to Iowa.
José and Alejandro* are two of IA JFON’s newest cases. Cousins from El Salvador, they were raised by their grandmother, and then, as so often happens when these boys enter their teen years, they became targets for criminal gangs. Gang members beat the boys and threatened to kill their grandmother if they didn’t join them. José and Alejandro fled to the United States, via Mexico, finding shelter with a loving family in Northern Iowa.
Central American teenagers often face a wrenching choice: Join a gang or die.
Notorious gang members imprisoned in El Salvador; www. cpj.org
With IA JFON's legal assistance, they have a fighting chance of being able to overcome deportation and to legalize their status in the United States.
“José and Alejandro, and many other children in Iowa, will be allowed to grow up in peace and safety because of the generosity of the United Methodist Women,” says Ann.
When asked how JFON Northern Illinois will be using their grant funds, site attorney Jenny Ansay happily begins reciting a list of new clients.
Among them is Luz Maria, a human rights lawyer/activist from Colombia who seeks asylum in the United States. Several of Luz Maria’s colleagues were murdered, and she herself was severely persecuted and threatened.
Yalda, an Iraqi victim of domestic abuse, is eligible for relief under the Violence Against Women Act. Aminata is a young woman from Senegal, a victim of a serious crime in Chicago, who is on her way to a U-Visa and, she hopes, eventual US citizenship.
Senegalese women; www.pbs.org
“These are just three of the hundreds of women and children whose lives we will be able to change,” Jenny says. “We want to thank the United Methodist Women for blessing us with this award. We will make you proud.”
That’s a promise from all of us.
*All client names have been changed to protect their privacy and security.
Trè Bon Gou: Lessons in Creole
The NJFON board of directors gathered in Miami, Fla., this past month for its quarterly meeting. While there, members were able to get out of the boardroom and spend an afternoon visiting and volunteering at the JFON clinic in Homestead. The clinic, operated by South Florida JFON, opened last fall at the Redland Community United Methodist Church.
This is not the South Florida known to most tourists. There are no beaches, nightclubs, or pricey hotels. Barely 40 miles south of Miami, yet a world apart, Homestead is an immigrant-rich community surrounded by fields and farms that rely heavily upon the labor of migrant workers.
Working the fields.
Board members worked alongside volunteers to conduct intake interviews of several new clients, including an unaccompanied migrant child, a victim of domestic violence, and a man seeking to bring his mother to the U.S. The clients came from Haiti, Honduras, and Guatemala, and all of them will be fully represented by JFON in the weeks ahead. JFON will work to ensure that they may remain in this country, obtain work permits, and be united with family members.
Board member Kim Clarke, an immigration attorney in Michigan, said of her intake experience, “It was a very unusual and difficult case, but the client received the expertise of three immigration attorneys to analyze various options and strategies. The strength of the JFON network was evidenced through the services provided to her and the other clients served that night.”
For the Rev. Daniel Flores, another board member, the experience highlighted the advantages of faith-based legal services. “There is a value-added dimension that comes from meeting in an office that is tandem to sacred space,” he reflected. “The loving atmosphere encourages clients to put their trust in God, who will surely never abandon them. I am grateful for the witness of JFON and their local host partners who faithfully demonstrate God's love."
The majority of clients served by the Homestead clinic come from Haiti, and a Haitian parishioner from a nearby Haitian UMC church prepared a feast of Haitian staples for all—rice and beans, ox-tail, spicy cabbage, chicken, salad, and Haitian mac and cheese.
It was trè bon gou (very delicious) and a perfect way for the clients, volunteers, staff, and board members to end their time together.
Kelvin Sauls, Raphael Dessieu, Lauren Sullivan and Armine Arustamayan.