May 2014 Update

 


National Justice For Our Neighbors
 
This Mother's Day you have an opportunity to give mom the gift of helping unite mothers with their children. 

 
 We thank you for helping people like Ruth (story below).
 
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Mother and Children Together Again
By Laura Rampersad, Site Director
 
The 1st Ruth we all know from the Book of Ruth.  She and her sister Orpah were Moabites living with their Israelite husbands and their family.  When disaster takes their husbands and father-in-law, Ruth’s distraught mother-in-law tells them, “Go back, my daughters!”  Naomi tells them that she can no longer provide for them and they should go back to their own people.  Orpah protests then concedes, but Ruth loves Naomi as family, and that transforming love to her becomes more important than nationality or tribe, and she stays. 
 
I doubt that any of you know the 2nd Ruth.  Ruth was born in Veracruz, Mexico, and after losing her mother at a young age, she decided to come north to the U.S.  In Texas, she met up with a farm labor recruiter bringing people to Michigan to pick fruit.  There she met a man, a U.S. Citizen, and fell in love.  They got married and had three beautiful children together, but they also had problems.  He abused her physically and emotionally and was convicted twice for that crime.  Unfortunately, domestic violence happens in all kinds of families, but for abused immigrants it is harder to escape.  Ruth’s husband never filed papers to adjust her status and promised her that if she ever tried to leave him, he would arrange for her to be deported and she would never see her children again.   Ruth finally had enough and sought a divorce.  But when she went to her child custody hearing, agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement were there to arrest her.  She went to jail and her husband and his family went home with children (the youngest only six months old).  To our government, she is just another “illegal.”
 
Luckily, there is a 3rd Ruth, Ruth Chisnall, a JFON-West Michigan volunteer.  Because of the 3rd Ruth, we have been able to serve and comfort the 2nd Ruth, with many visits in jail, and by preparing a petition under a special federal law called the “Violence Against Women Act.”  With God’s grace, we were able to secure Ruth’s release, prevent her deportation, and reunite her with her children.
 
God gave us the story of the 1st Ruth to show us something about love and the 3rd Ruth to hear the story and act on her faith through service to the 2nd Ruth.

   *Not her real name. Picture by Jonas Kakaroto Honorato
Meet One Of Our Attorneys
Justice For Our Neighbors-Dallas/Ft. Worth
 
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Maria Macias is the site attorney for JFON-Dallas/Ft. Worth.  She previously worked with Catholic Charities in Dallas, where she had served as a staff attorney since 2011. She earned a degree in Business Administration at Baylor University and a JD at DePaul University in Chicago. She studied abroad in Argentina and Spain and is fluent in Spanish.  When asked what drew her to immigration law, her passion for serving the immigrant community clearly shows.

“I chose immigration law because I come from an immigrant background. My father is a first-generation Mexican-American and my mother is an immigrant from Guanajuato, Mexico.  I admire them for working as hard as possible to have a better life. When I was young my mom worked the night shift, and my father worked the day shift and attended community college during the evening. We lived in a one bedroom apartment until I was in the fourth grade!  I am proud of my background and I can relate first-hand to the struggles immigrants face.

I also chose immigration law because I felt that there was a need for honest and effective representation in the immigration law field. I have seen the devastating results of  "notarios" and money-hungry attorneys who take advantage of clients who seek to obtain legal status and charge them a lot of money to file paperwork for immigration benefits that they do not quality for. I saw this take place over and over again to my own family! I felt like I could make a difference because I have a passion for immigrants, and I would be honest with them.
 
I particularly enjoy working for JFON.  JFON is unique and different in that it lets the attorney advocate for the client as he/she sees fit. I've worked at other places where I couldn't help certain clients because of grant restrictions or internal policies. If a person walks into my office and needs help, I can help! It's a great feeling, and I feel like I can advocate effectively to the best of my ability.” 
Austin Regional Justice For Our Neighbors
 
The smiling face below is brought to you courtesy of Austin Regional JFON. As the newest site in the JFON network, we are glad their first legal clinic was a success. Great job Austin!
 

Daughter of a client enjoying her meal during the
JFON legal clinic, Servant Church, Austin, TX.

Creative Partnership Launches New Clinic
Justice For Our Neighbors-New England
 
Sometimes working in partnership with another not-for-profit organization is the best way to start a Justice For Our Neighbors clinic.  Gary Richards, JFON-New England board member, spearheaded a creative partnership with Community Legal Aid, Inc. (CLA) in Springfield, MA.  

As the pastor of an immigrant-based church, Gary is well acquainted with the need for affordable legal representation for immigrant newcomers. To gain the support of the local church and community, he helped organize  a year’s worth of community discussions in the Springfield area.  These discussions included CLA.  As support for a JFON clinic grew, a funding commitment came from the New Hope United Methodist Regional Ministry, which is an urban ministry that engages United Methodist leaders and members in vital community partnerships. 

Monthly JFON clinics are held at Trinity United Methodist Church while follow up appointments are held at the CLA office. Additionally,  CLA offers a variety of free, non-immigration legal services should the JFON client have need for them. This partnership has other financial benefits because CLA has special funds available for domestic violence immigration cases, so once JFON identifies such a case, CLA covers the cost for the legal work associated with it.
 
Currently, JFON supports attorney Mercedes Rodrigues, who has taken on more than 30 new cases in the past few months for clients from across the globe, including Moldova, Mexico, Bhutan, Brazil, Guinea, El Salvador, Tonga, Jamaica, and Liberia. Thank you Gary and to all of the committed volunteers who make the Springfield clinic happen!
 
Need Inspiration? Meet James!
 
 
 
The welcoming atmosphere that JFON provides, in addition to its legal services,  help immigrants become engaged, productive members of society.

In this eight minute video you will meet James, hear his story and learn about how Justice For Our Neighbors helped James and immigrants like him.
Attorneys Advocate on Capitol Hill
 
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JFON-Southeastern Michigan attorney Melanie Goldberg joined with hundreds of American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) members to fight for immigration solutions.  Last month AILA held their National Day of Action in Washington, D.C.  Armed with lobbying training from AILA National staff, AILA attorneys brought client stories and their experience to educate Members of Congress about the problems plaguing our immigration system.

The Michigan team of AILA immigration attorneys had nine members.  Together they managed to meet with the offices of 12 out of 14 U.S. Representatives and one Senator.  Altogether, AILA had more than 300 members who attended more than 350 meetings!

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