January 2014 Update

 


National Justice For Our Neighbors

 
Our  goal is to provide hospitality and compassion to low-income immigrants through immigration legal services, advocacy, and education. National Justice For Our Neighbors provides crucial technical and programmatic support to 16 local offices and 41 legal clinics and fosters long-term program success and stability.
 
 
Year in Review
 
2013 was a year of phenomenal work throughout the JFON network.  As most of you know, the key to our work is our volunteer-driven model.  In our clinics, United Methodists and other volunteers conduct client interviews, provide hospitality, interpret and assist immigrants in myriad ways under the supervision of staff attorneys.  This volunteer involvement not only allows JFON to serve more clients, it also provides meaningful interaction between immigrants and long-term residents where God’s love can be shared and witnessed.  This allowed us the privilege of serving more than 4,000 clients this past year.  Additionally, JFON welcomed a new site in Austin, Texas.
 
With the goal of assisting sites to be more sustainable, the National Justice For Our Neighbors office has provided additional attorney support, strategic funding, and new resources. NFJON held two two-day gatherings for clinic volunteers in which they not only participated in trainings, they were able to connect with other clinic coordinators from around the country.
 
NJFON recently compiled case information from throughout the network. This provides a snapshot of the wide variety of cases that attorneys in the network are working on as well as the geographic origins of our clients. The charts below are based on the more than 2,500 cases being handled by our sites as of November 2013.
 
 
 
 Case and Client Information from 13 sites

More details on the work of the JFON network and the National JFON office are available on our website NJFON.org under Annual Report. 

New Clinic Opens
Grand Island, Nebraska
From "UM Connect," Newsletter of the Nebraska Conference
 
For several months, the Rev. Theresa Mason, the Rev. Chad Boling and the Rev. Matt Fowler of the United Methodist Churches in Grand Island and their church members have been praying and discerning whether to invite Justice For Our Neighbors-Nebraska into their community. Keenly aware that scriptures repeatedly state that immigrants have a special place in God’s heart, the congregation decided to submit an application. “Trinity United Methodist Church has a history of connecting to the neighborhood. When the church was considering moving or remodeling, the church voted to remain in the heart of Grand Island, in a multicultural part of town rather than moving to the suburbs,” said the Rev. Theresa.
 
Upon receiving the application, Emiliano Lerda, executive director of JFON-NE, commented, “I am very impressed with the high level of inclusivity and collaboration you were able to reach by working with other communities from the surrounding areas, other congregations and other organizations. Collaboration with other community members is key for a successful service delivery model. I am also happy to see that we have a strong and diverse group of core volunteers who are committed to making sure the clinics are welcoming to all clients as well as other volunteers."  Plans will be made for the start-up of the clinic in the spring of 2014 with a volunteer training and a blessing service.
 
Site Wins CLINIC Grant
Justice For Our Neighbors-Tennessee
 
Congratulations are in order to Justice For Our Neighbors-Tennessee.  They have been awarded a $10,000 grant to help prepare them for upcoming comprehensive immigration reform.  This award comes from Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC).

In 2013, National Justice For Our Neighbors arranged for all JFON sites to become affiliates of CLINIC. This allows all JFON sites to take advantage of the services and resources that CLINIC offers. These include legal training and mentoring as well as organizational capacity building. Only CLINIC affiliates were eligible to apply for this grant.
 
Good job, JFON-Tennessee!
 
Freedom From Abuse
Justice For Our Neighbors-Maryland/DC
 
Article Image
Recently, Daniel* came to Justice For Our Neighbors – Maryland/DC for help.  Before coming to the U.S., Daniel was an HIV educator and activist in his home country.  While there, he also founded a non-profit as well as a community theater group for youth in his community.  During this time, he began a relationship with a United States citizen while she was serving as an international volunteer.  She extended her service until his fiancé visa was approved and they got married after arriving in the U.S. 

Once he was away from his family and community support system, the abuse began. His wife began abusing him psychologically, emotionally, and physically. Her family participated in this abuse by being openly discriminatory to him.  His wife asserted her control in many ways, including cutting him off from his family and community in his home country. This kind of abusive behavior went on for almost two years. It was then that he came to a JFON-Maryland/DC legal clinic.

Site attorney Mayuris Pimentel was able to file an I-751 application (removal of conditions on status as legal permanent resident) with a waiver due to domestic violence. Daniel got divorced while the application was pending.
 
Mayuris went with Daniel to the in-person immigration interview. The immigration officer only asked two questions and then said, “I've read the file, there's not much more to say or ask.”  He approved the case based on the abuse Daniel had suffered. Daniel can now file for his citizenship.

Currently, Daniel is employed in a pet-related business. Recently, his employer paid for Daniel to receive additional training so that he can take on more responsibility. Additionally, he does charity work with the embassy of his country of origin here in the U.S.
 
Case details provided by Mayuris Pimentel, Staff Attorney, JFON-MD
*Name has been changed to protect confidentiality. Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Sacramento Clinic Volunteer
Linda Kuruhara
 
Linda Kuruhara (far right) with clinic coordinators Helen Shum and Judy Ogden 

Linda’s compassion for immigrants impressed those around her because she was asked to be a representative on the Cal-Nevada Annual Conference's Immigration Task Force.  At the time she was living in the central valley of California and immediately accepted the position. Later, when she moved to the Sacramento area she looked for ways to continue this ministry, and it was there that she took the lead in launching a new JFON clinic as part of the Bay Area Immigration Task Force (JFON-BAIT)

She began attending St. Marks United Methodist Church. Linda gathered together people from St. Marks UMC and several other area churches interested in providing hospitality to immigrants.  Particularly aware that many newcomers to the United States do not understand the complicated legal immigration system, this group prioritized making available low cost legal services. Currently, three churches work together to host this JFON legal clinic. Linda is the clinic coordinator and has coordinated monthly clinics since October, each one filled to capacity.

JFON-BAIT site attorney Sharron Williams drives two hours each way from her main office in San Francisco to attend the clinic in Sacramento and meet with clients. The commitment of Linda and her team of clinic volunteers gives immigrants, who otherwise might not be able to afford to seek legal status, the opportunity to pursue a better life in the United States. 
 
Justice For Our Neighbors-
Southeastern Michigan
 
Justice For Our Neighbors-Southeastern Michigan was formed five years ago in response to the large and surprisingly diverse amount of immigrants in need of legal services. In 2010, Michigan had the seventh highest number of refugees (according to the DHS Office of Immigration Statistics) as compared to any other state. JFON-SEMI’s first clinic opened in Dearborn, where Arab-Americans comprise 40% of the population.  In fact, the city has the largest proportion of Arab-Americans in the United States. In order to continue to meet the need for legal services in the surrounding areas, they opened three more clinics.  The Pontiac Clinic, located in a small town best known throughout its history for it General Motors automobile manufacturing plant, has a 60% African–American population.  Additionally, JFON-SEMI conducts clinics at Ypsilanti First United Methodist Church and El Buen Pastor, a small church in Southwest Detroit that serves the Spanish-speaking community.

Melanie D. Goldberg is their staff attorney.  She has been practicing immigration law in the Detroit area for more than 15 years. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and is actively involved in AILA’s National Day of Action (lobbying for better immigration laws). She frequently educates on issues of immigration as a guest speaker to any group willing to listen.

Melanie (center) with clients

Directing the site is Tori Booker, MSW, MPH, who joined JFON-SEMI in July.   She has a background in community-based public health and worked with migrant and seasonal farmworkers for many years. Initially, Tori was an interpreter volunteer and was recently asked to step into the permanent position of site director.  A lifelong Methodist, Tori is a member of First United Methodist Church Ann Arbor. "I feel very fortunate to be able to be in a position where my passion for social justice, my faith and my spanish language ability can intersect to help others."

 

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