February 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.
 
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Client Story:  Justice For Our Neighbor - Nebraska
Written by Charles Shane Ellison
Legal Director/Regional Attorney, JFON-Nebraska
 
Pablo Vargas* was born into an impoverished community in Guatemala in 1996.  His father abandoned the family when Pablo was very young, and his mother cared for him and his siblings in a small hut with a plastic roof and dirt floors.  He had to drop out of school at sixth grade so that he could work and help feed the family.  He worked for a banana plantation. After several years, the gangs began to approach him for membership.  They threatened to kill him if he refused.  Knowing that he could not join the gang and that the gangs would make good on such threats, Pablo fled his country. He planned to enter the U.S. so that he could live with one of his uncles.
 
Although he was afraid to leave his country and embark on this dangerous journey, he felt that it was the only reasonable choice.  In January 2012, Pablo attempted to cross the U.S. border.  However, he was unable to do so undetected and was arrested and detained at the border.  He was then placed in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and charged with having entered the country without inspection.  He was then placed in removal proceedings.  When his uncle Juan, who lived in Nebraska, learned of his nephew’s detention, he made arrangements for Pablo to be released into his custody. 
 
Pablo then came to one of JFON’s clinics in Omaha.  There, Pablo met with a JFON attorney, who agreed to take on his case.  JFON staff immediately began working on securing a guardianship order in favor of Juan so that Pablo could be eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status.  After the guardianship order was obtained, JFON successfully represented Pablo in his petition for SIJ, which was granted this month. This didn't take care of Pablo's outstanding removal order, so JFON is now working on terminating that, which will clear the way for him to become a lawful permanent resident. 
 
Pablo is now back in school.  He is a hardworking young man who has endured many difficulties. However, we know that he is a motivated person and will go on to make a great life for himself.   
*Names have been changed to protect confidentiality
Southeast Michigan JFON
Volunteer Kirstin Karoub
 
Kirstin Karoub’s home church, the First United Methodist Church of Dearborn, Michigan, is located in an immigrant-rich neighborhood. Additionally, the church is always looking for ways to serve the community – including the large Muslim/Arabic community. In 2010, the Detroit conference identified the church as a good JFON site and immediately Kirstin’s interest was piqued. Her commitment to JFON was solidified when she witnessed the fragility of one’s guest status in the United States.

Kirstin and her husband became friendly with Yousef*, a local shop owner who shared with them the unfortunate situation that had just occurred with his cousin Hassan* who had recently come to stay.  Hassan had an appointment with the immigration office which required him to bring his passport. Trying to be helpful, Hassan's aunt washed his pants, unknowingly washing his passport in the pocket. Hassan brought the damaged passport to his appointment, but the immigration officer didn’t believe that Hassan was in the U.S.  legally and placed him in detention until adequate documentation could be produced.  Without his passport, he was in a Catch-22 situation, he couldn't produce the paperwork to be released, nor could he go back to Lebanon where his wife was awaiting the birth of their child.  Of this incident, Kirstin comments, "This was when I began to realize how challenging our immigration system is."  
 
Kirstin Karoub

Kirstin serves as the clinic coordinator for the Dearborn clinic as well as a board member for the Southeast Michigan JFON site. Although the Dearborn clinic was established on the presumption that most of its clients would come from its Arabic neighbors, in reality, the client profile has been very diverse. As of November 2013, they saw clients from more than 20 countries, including China, India, Eastern Europe and Africa. Additionally, the clinic's reach has gone far beyond its own community of Dearborn and extends into Detroit and surrounding metro areas, as well. Kirstin is gratified that her work helps many other immigrants as they navigate our complicated, confusing and, as Kirstin says, "challenging" immigration system.
  *Names have been changed to protect confidentiality
Justice For Our Neighbors-Florida
Honoring Marilyn Beecher
(shown below with NJFON
Director Rob Rutland-Brown)
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This past month, JFON Florida bade farewell to its dedicated and well-respected director, Marilyn Beecher.  Marilyn has resigned from JFON in order to care for her mother.  Marilyn served as the face of JFON Florida during her time as director, advancing the organization by helping it to serve more clients, engaging in advocacy, recruiting more volunteers, establishing additional clinics, and connecting with more funders. 

She was formally thanked by the JFON Florida board, the National JFON director Rob Rutland-Brown, and the Florida Annual Conference's Bishop Ken Carter at an event on January 29th. Thank you Marilyn!

New York - Justice For Our Neighbors
Site Attorney Goes to Middle East
Written by Steven Lee, Executive Director, NYAC-JFON
 
 TJ Mills in Egypt
 
Recently,  TJ Mills, site attorney for NYAC-JFON, spent two months working for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Cairo, Egypt. It has been quite the experience for TJ to be working in such a dynamic and exciting country. Egypt is at the crossroads between Africa and the Middle East and currently is a magnet for refugees from these two regions. The individuals who come to the Cairo office are mostly Sudanese, Ethiopian, and Eritrean, but some hail from South Sudan (the world’s youngest country), Somalia, Iraq, Mali, Chad, Nigeria, and Madagascar. 
 
At the Cairo office, TJ’s job was to review cases and endorse those that have been recommended for resettlement. Everyone seeks resettlement to third party countries, but very few get it. For example, Finland took 14 cases this year and will not take any more for the remainder of the year. The United States may take a few dozen, but the process takes more than two years. In addition, the U.S. will re-interview and decide the merits of each claim even after UNHCR makes its decision.  
 
Specialized legal trainings often took place at the office. TJ and a colleague gave a presentation on credibility assessments, legal analysis, and country conditions research. They shared their observations over the course of reviewing hundreds of decisions and offered recommendations.
 
TJ’s colleagues in Egpyt were as diverse as the applicants they helped and were an incredibly brave and energetic group of individuals.  Emad, with whom TJ shared an office, is a native Egyptian who just returned from refugee work in war-torn Somalia. Another colleague visited her parents in Syria every two months, while a third took a deployment in Iraq to interview Iranian refugees there, despite the daily car and suicide bombings around her. 
 
Of his work and time in Egypt TJ said, "To travel to Africa and the Middle East for the first time, to work with a constantly revolving team of people from all over, and to know refugees from places like Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea, reinforced my commitment to this work and to the joy of working among folks who love what they do."
 
 
*Note from National Justice For Our Neighbors *
 
National JFON is proud to announce that the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) is honoring TJ as an "outstanding staff" within the JFON network and will be profiling him within their organization.  Congratulations, TJ.

 
 

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