March 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.
 
Client Story: Annie

By Steven Lee, Executive Director
New York- Justice For Our Neighbors

Article ImageAnnie* was born in Peru where she graduated from university and worked in massage therapy.  She got married and had a daughter in Peru before leaving for the United States where she and her daughter overstayed their visitors’ visas.
 
Annie and her daughter moved to New York. While looking for a second job to support her and her daughter (she was now divorced), her friend introduced her to Bobby*, who owned a cleaning business. Bobby hired her right away and seemed to be a perfect gentleman. Because Annie doesn’t own a car, he picked her up to go to work and drove her home. He taught her how to drive and sent her gifts. Annie thought that she had met the man of her dreams.
 
After a while, however, Bobby became controlling.  He insisted on going everywhere with Annie, even to pick up her daughter at school.  When Annie’s ex-husband came to visit them in New York, Bobby followed them to dinner and spied on them.  He forbade Annie to talk to other men at work or to take a ride from anyone. 
 
Soon, Bobby’s behavior escalated into violence.  When Annie refused to do as he asked, he would grab her arm and squeeze. One evening, he was so upset that she didn’t pick up his phone call right away that he assaulted her in his car and did not stop until she started to cry. After these violent outbursts, Bobby would always apologize or take her out to dinner.  He told Annie that he loved her and cared for her deeply. But Bobby continued to follow Annie around everywhere, to the laundromat, to her friend’s house, and to her daughter’s school. 
 
One evening, he followed Annie to her friend’s house, and her friend became upset and worried. Annie's friend called the police, but Bobby left before the police could get there. Annie went to the police station and filed a report. She told the police that Bobby had followed her all week and that he owned a gun. The police arrested him that day, but Bobby posted bond and was released. The police provided surveillance at her home for her protection, and Annie was issued a temporary order of protection against Bobby.  She cooperated with the District Attorney’s office in the prosecution of Bobby.
 
Annie was referred to NYAC-JFON by the Nassau County Coalition Against Domestic Violence. She met with S. Yan Sin, one of the volunteer site attorneys for NYAC-JFON, to work on her U-visa petition. A U-visa, if approved, can provide temporary immigration benefits to aliens who are victims of a qualifying criminal activity, as well as to their qualifying family members. This is one of the many legal services that NYAC-JFON provides for clients.
 
Annie's U-visa was approved in October 2013, and Annie now feels as if her whole life has opened up. She is ready for a fresh start. Her daughter is about to graduate from high school and is currently looking at colleges, and Annie herself looks forward to getting her driver’s license and her equivalency degree in massage therapy. 
                *Names have been changed.
                  Photo courtesy of www.sxc.hu
JFON- Bay Area Immigration Task Force Volunteer
Paula O'Connell
 
  Article Image
Daily encounters with families torn apart by our current immigration system are normal for alternative high school teacher Paula O’Connell.  Paula teaches at an extremely diverse school near San Francisco.  Through her students' stories, she understands the daily weight of living in fear.   The especially sad part is that many immigrants don’t know their legal options and miss out on opportunities to better their situation.  For example,  many of Paula’s students are afraid of even applying to college, wrongly believing this will lead immigration officials to their door.

Paula felt a desire to actively care for these students and their families beyond her daytime job. She was able to do this five years ago when her church, Temple United Methodist, started an outreach to the Hispanic community in San Francisco.  Along with the church pastor at the time, Paula stood on street corners in Latino neighborhoods and conducted prayer services as well as passed out “Know Your Rights” cards.  These cards help immigrants know what to do if they are questioned or detained by the police or immigration officials.

What she saw during these experiences was a huge need among the immigrant community for information and legal services.  Paula had the privilege of working with others at Temple UMC to turn this outreach into a Justice For Our Neighbors ministry called the Bay Area Immigration Task Force.  Currently, Paula serves on the BAIT board of directors as treasurer.  She also regularly works with immigrants at Temple’s legal clinic. During her tenure on the board, BAIT has grown from the single legal clinic to three monthly clinics. These additional clinics reach out to immigrants in the San Mateo and Sacramento area. Reknowned theologian Frederick Buechner once wrote, "Vocation is where our great passion meets the world's great need." It certainly seems that Paula has found her true vocation.
Justice For Our Neighbors-West Michigan
10 Year Anniversary Celebration
 
By Melissa Bowe, NJFON Program Manager

Staff Attorney Liz Balck with Clients
 
Last month I had the extreme pleasure of attending JFON West Michigan's 10th anniversary. I have to admit the snowy, cold weather was a bit off-putting at first (I had recently returned from Austin, Texas, where I conducted  a volunteer training), but the warmth of JFON West Michigan’s community overshadowed the frigid temperatures immediately.
 
The dinner, which included a silent auction, raised more than $8,000 for this ministry. It was hosted by First United Methodist Church–Grand Rapids and highlighted volunteer service and the positive impact their ministry has had for immigrants in the community and throughout the West Michigan Annual Conference. The evening also included live music by Villa Lobos, a local band.  Because JFON-West Michigan serves clients from so many ethnic backgrounds, they reflected this diversity in a fabulous meal featuring equally diverse ethnic fare.

The excellent program included presentations by UMC Bishop Deborah Kiesey, Grand Rapids District Superintendent Bill Haggard, myself and a heart wrenching, yet inspiring, testimonial from a client named Isaac who navigated great obstacles in obtaining legal status for his wife and child with the help of JFON. JFON West Michigan also honored its director, Laura Rampersad, for her leadership and tireless work during its entire 10 years.

Congratulations to JFON-West Michigan for a meaningful and successful event and for 10 years of important service!
 
Melissa addressing the crowd
 
Calling President Obama to Stop all Deportations
By Melissa Bowe, NJFON Program Manager
 
Bishop Carcaño was arrested with others at the White House on President's Day. Photo by UMC News Jay Malin
 
It was an honor to take part in an act of civil disobedience alongside leaders from the United Methodist community and immigration activists on President’s Day. The peaceful action involved holding signs, participating in prayer and singing in front of the White House. It included Pilar Molina, whose husband is on hunger strike at a detention center in Norristown, Pennsylvania, (who was just rushed to the hospital on his 13th day without food) and Hermina Gallegos from Phoenix, Arizona, where families and detainees are refusing to eat until their loved ones are released from extended detention. I believe these individual cases, alongside many of our JFON cases across the country, highlight the urgent need for the President to take immediate action and stop deportations.
 
We chose to get arrested in an effort to put pressure on the president to halt deportations for all undocumented persons, as the administration approaches an unprecedented 2 million deportations since taking office in 2008. Obama has also expanded Secure Communities, a program through which the fingerprints of everyone arrested by local police in cooperating jurisdictions are run through the Department of Homeland Security database to check for immigration violations.  He has recently expanded the program even further through increased funding.
 
As Bishop Carcaño gracefully points out, “We are willing to be arrested in front of the White House to tell the President that compassion on immigration starts with the stroke of his pen. We know that the consequences will be minor for us compared to the grave reality undocumented people live with on a constant basis.” She continues, “Far too many broken families are being ripped apart by the injustice of our broken immigration system; a system that President Obama can begin to repair by turning his own policies around before he reaches the milestone of two million deportations. We’ll be praying that he does so.” I encourage you to read her February 17 Huffington Post piece.
 
 

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