Immigration Services Available at JFON Clinics
*By Kim Lehmann
In the wake of last month’s earthquake in Haiti, the US government extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haitian immigrants living in the United States. While TPS protects eligible Haitian nationals’ right to stay and work in the US for 18 months, it contains strict guidelines that should be made clear to potential applicants.
“The TPS program has specific limitations, so it is important that people receive accurate information on whether to apply and on the process of applying,” says Panravee Vongjaroenrat, attorney and director of Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON).
Those limitations include eligibility requirements. The US government considers eligible for TPS those Haitian immigrants who have resided continuously in the United States since the date of the earthquake, January 12, 2010, and who have been physically present here since January 21, 2010, the date of the government notice.
JFON, a ministry of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), connects a national network of church-based, volunteer-led immigration clinics to immigrants and asylum-seekers who need help navigating the cumbersome US immigration system.
Founded more than a decade ago, JFON offers free, professional legal services to immigrants in monthly clinics at 20 sites in nine annual conferences of the United Methodist Church.
“JFON will be holding a number of immigration clinics specifically for Haitian TPS,” says Vongjaroenrat. The clinics will help clarify eligibility, deadlines and procedures for application, as well as train volunteers to assist in the process.
The first of the Haitian TPS clinics will take place on Saturday, February 27 in Orlando, Florida, at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, 4851 South Apopka Vineland Road, beginning at 1:00 pm.
Three clinics are scheduled in New York City: February 17, at JFON’s national offices at 475 Riverside Drive in Manhattan; February 26, at St. Jerome’s Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn; and March 4, at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church also in Brooklyn
As details become available and confirmed regarding these and other clinics they will be posted on the JFON website.
Justice for Our Neighbors has clinic sites in Arkansas, California, Iowa, Florida, District of Columbia, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, Tennessee and Texas. To find the nearest site, visit JFON Clinic Sites. All persons are welcome to access the immigration services of Justice for Our Neighbors.
Longtime partner Church World Service (CWS) also offers immigration clinics at two sites, in Miami, Florida, and Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which are prepared to provide legal assistance to people applying for TPS. Information on Church World Service’s immigration ministry can be found at churchworldservice.org.
For information regarding immigration services in areas not served by either JFON or CWS contact the American Immigration Lawyers Association or your local bar association to find reputable services.
Your congregation can get involved by directing TPS applicants to reputable legal clinics such as those hosted by JFON or CWS.
In addition, Justice for Our Neighbors is seeking volunteers. In particular, JFON is looking for licensed immigration attorneys to provide pro bono work to JFON clinics.
For those who are not attorneys, there are many other opportunities for volunteering at the clinics, such as coordinating monthly intake, providing hospitality and child care, performing or scheduling intake interviews, or interpreting. Some training may be required.
To get involved, contact the clinic near you or the JFON national office at 1-212-870-3806.
Your financial support for JFON is appreciated. Based in the Methodist tradition of the Five Points Mission that served immigrants in New York City in the 1850's, JFON partners with annual conferences and local congregations to welcome the stranger. Your gift to UMCOR Advance #901285 will help immigrants reunite with their families.