UMCOR / Our Work / Immigration and Refugees / Justice for Our Neighbors

Churches Open Their Doors for Free Legal Clinics

A woman disusses her concerns with a JFON worker at a clinic in Omaha, Neb.
Credit: Jeffrey Austin

Each Justice for Our Neighbors legal clinic is an opportunity for local congregations to "open their doors" with a warm and hospitable welcome for newcomers in their midst. JFON provides a place for community gathering and table fellowship where parishioners and newcomers may come together to seek peace and transformation in a troubled world.

Church Based, Volunteer Led

JFON provides free, professional legal services to immigrants in monthly clinics. This UMCOR program connects a national network of church-based, volunteer-led immigration clinics to asylum seekers and immigrants who need a helping hand to navigate the maze of rules and laws that affect their lives in the United States.

JFON represents the response of the United Methodist Church and its local congregations to the needs of immigrants seeking to reunify their families, secure immigration status, and enjoy the right to work.

The JFON model embraces the mandate of biblical hospitality. The program relies on United Methodist connectional relationships to bring together resources and commitment from local churches, districts, conferences, and UMCOR.

Trained and resourced by UMCOR's national office, JFON volunteers advocate for just and compassionate immigration laws and public policy, networking with other advocacy groups where possible.

The JFON network is coordinated by a national staff in Silver Spring, MD. Some twenty clinic sites in nine annual conferences participate. JFON services are provided by qualified immigration attorneys.

Background

The plight of immigrants made vulnerable by passage of harsh immigration laws led to JFON's creation in 1999, to facilitate the immigration ministries of local United Methodist congregations. The program initially was a response to the immigration reform act of 1996. Later it also focused on the stricter laws passed in the aftermath of 9/11.

JFON continues the long legacy of UMCOR's implementation of the United Methodist Church's resettlement assistance to refugees. The free clinic network extends the support and welcome of the church to marginalized immigrants living in the shadows among us.

It's Part of Our United Methodist Faith

When we welcome sojourners, it is as if we are receiving Christ, and our doing so becomes a sign of our faithfulness.

 

In the words of the 1986 United Methodist Bishops' Statement on Refugees and Immigration, "God comes to us in the form of the vulnerable person who lacks the benefit of status and protection in an alien land. In the flesh of Jesus Christ of Nazareth God chose to sojourn in a particular way for the sake of all humankind…and restored the possibility of authentic community in which love and justice reign and peace prevails."