June 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.
 From Asylum Seeker to Citizen
Justice For Our Neighbors - Iowa
By Brynne Howard, Staff Attorney
Article Image On Friday, April 18, 2014, one of JFON’s own stood before a federal judge and took the oath of U.S. citizenship.  Grisell Herrera, born in Havana, Cuba, has been the office manager with JFON-Iowa since December 2009.  In that role, Grisell spends much of her time interacting with clients.  JFON Attorney Brynne Howard describes Grisell as “exceptionally conscientious and detailed, welcoming, gracious and the kind of person who, on a daily basis, goes out of her way to assist people.”  In celebration of Grisell’s accomplishment, we’re sharing a little about her immigration story. 

Q: Why did you decide to come to the United States?
A: I came to the U.S. in September 2008.  Having had the opportunity to live outside my home country, I could see that Cuba’s current economic system has impoverished our country.  Our “free” education and health system has a high cost to the people of Cuba because Cuban people lack basic human rights, such as freedom of speech and freedom of expression.  I felt very disappointed because my points of view and principles were far from what I was required to think, say and do. Also, I had most of my family living abroad, including my partner who had come to the U.S. years before.  That’s why I made the decision to cross the Canadian/U.S. border as a refugee and eventually obtained my legal permanent residency under the Cuban Adjustment Act.

Q: What do you enjoy about your work with JFON?
A: I love to learn, and working with immigration law in this position has allowed me to learn many things.  I have learned about the law, but I have also learned about human suffering. The most important thing has been the opportunity to meet those people who come to JFON looking for help because they face a daily danger of being deported and seeing their families split apart. It's heartbreaking to see.

Q: Why was it important to you to become a U.S. citizen?
A: I believe it should be the main goal of all people who come to work and live in the U.S. to become fully integrated participants in this society.  It is a way for me to show respect for a country which has welcomed me as one of its own.  I feel very proud to become a U.S. citizen and to have the right to vote in democratic elections. 

JFON thanks Grisell for her work on behalf of immigrants, and we welcome her with arms wide open as a new U.S. citizen!    
A Passion for Helping Immigrant Youth
Justice For Our Neighbors-Florida 
  Article Image
 Nancy (in blue) with area high school graduates: Mayra Hildago Salazar, Jessica Sanchez, Enrique Martinez,
Yessica Leal, Daniel Barajas. Photo was taken at JFON and CIR NOW presentation for League of Women Voters.

Nancy Futch has been a champion for immigrant students for many years.  Prior to her involvement with JFON-Florida in 2011, Nancy Futch worked with immigrant high school students as a recruiter for her area’s vocational high school.  Her love and commitment to supporting immigrant youth was recognized in 2010 when she received the Migrant Education Harvest of Hope Award in appreciation for hard work, dedication, and commitment to the Polk County Migrant Education Program.  It was that year she retired from her school district position.

Keenly aware of the plight of immigrant students, she attended a series of seminars on immigration at Westminster Presbyterian Church the fall after her retirement. She came to know Westminster’s Pastor Jean Cooley during the seminars.  When the seminar series was completed Nancy and Pastor Jean looked at each other and said, “We must do something for immigrants in our community.” These two began to meet, and, in the following spring Pastor Jean invited people from the ecumenical community, and Nancy invited contacts from the school system and community to a large visioning meeting.  They did not know exactly what a ministry to immigrants would look like, but Pastor Jean’s strong faith that their actions would take wings and fly was infectious. 
Within 24 hours of this meeting, JFON-Florida’s regional director contacted Pastor Jean to tell her of JFON’s interest in opening an immigration clinic in the area that the church is located.  An answer to prayer!  Legal clinics have been held monthly at Westminster Presbyterian Church since 2011. Having the clinics in place to facilitate DACA applicants has been a special delight to Nancy, who serves as the clinic’s volunteer coordinator.  DACA is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which is a temporary status for young people who came without documentation to this country as children. JFON-Florida has served over 100 area youth in this capacity.  These youth are now able to get work permits, driver’s licenses and move forward in their lives without the fear of deportation.  JFON continues to assist immigrants because of volunteers like Nancy. 
Living Stories
Justice For Our Neighbors-West Michigan
By Lisa Ermak, Holland Sentinel
Every path to U.S. citizenship is personal. Yet, many of those paths and the stories behind them must be shared to give the public a greater understanding of the immigration process in America. That was the idea at a recent event as three Holland-area women shared experiences regarding emigrating from Mexico.  Liz Balck, attorney for JFON-West Michigan, was on the panel and explained the immigration process from a legal perspective.

Two of the three panelists had been served by JFON-West Michigan.  For more on this event please see the story in the Holland Sentinel.

Article Image
           From Left: Liz Balck, Elsi Tiburcio, Teresa Orozco and Claudia Sanchez Benitez. Photo by Dennis R.J. Geppert/Sentinal Staff.
California Advocates Show Their Strength
Justice For Our Neighbors-Bay Area Immigration Task Force
Justice for Our Neighbors-BAIT joined hundreds of immigrants and advocates from across California for a day of advocacy, education and unity. Immigrant Day 2014 raised a unified voice in Sacramento in support of state legislative proposals that advance immigrant integration and prosperity for all Californians.

These proposals included measures to improve access to health care for undocumented immigrants and to enable immigrant detainees to more easily contact their attorney and families. In its 18th year, Immigrant Day grows stronger every year and JFON is proud to be part of its advocacy efforts. 
Equipping Local Attorneys to Volunteer with Immigrants
Tennessee-Justice For Our Neighbors

Article Image Adrienne Kittos
Recently, Tennessee-JFON trained 19 pro bono attorneys to take on U visa cases. U visa cases involve representing victims of crime and domestic violence.  Additionally, four Belmont Law School students and 15 paralegals and legal assistants went through the training. Tennessee-JFON legal director Adrienne Kittos led this training with Bruce Buchanan, immigration attorney with the Nashville office of Siskind Susser. Bruce also volunteers as a pro bono attorney at JFON legal clinics.  As a result of their work, our immigrant neighbors will:
  • Be free of the fear of deportation
  • Obtain work authorization, social security numbers and drivers licenses
  • Pay taxes
  • Take the first step on the path to U.S. citizenship
Tennessee-JFON will provide continuing technical assistance throughout the life of these cases, which may be pending with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for as long as a year awaiting adjudication.

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