JFON Network Update
As JFON enters its second decade, we reflect on accomplishments, challenges and triumphs. The dedication and vision of one woman – Lilia Fernandez, then Executive Secretary for Refugee Ministries for UMCOR – founded JFON in 1999. In ten years JFON has grown to a network of 27 clinic serving 12 Annual Conferences. More than half of the original 11 clinics are still in operation today: Sioux City and Des Moines, Iowa; Brooklyn and Chinatown, New York and; Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas.
The JFON network has much to be proud of. In 2009 alone, JFON has served approximately 2,400 clients at over 200 clinics held in 25 churches (plus those held at resettlement centers in Dallas and Fort Worth) across the nation. More than numbers can express, JFON has changed lives – reuniting families after years of separation, enabling clients to access social services, helping immigrant communities better understand their rights, responding quickly to emerging threats such as workplace raids, educating others about the immigration system and advocating on behalf of immigrant neighbors before local, state, and national bodies.
Last year, UMCOR welcomed Bay Area JFON to the family. With the opening of this project in the California-Nevada Annual Conference, JFON is now working in every Jurisdiction!
UMCOR receives inquiries from churches and conferences interested in starting a JFON ministry and is exploring how to sustainably expand the program.
JFON National Relocates Offices
This past month JFON’s national offices in both New York and Silver Spring, MD found new homes. In New York, Alice, Cheryl and TJ will continue to be housed at the UMCOR office at the InterChurch Center and can be reached at 475 Riverside Dr., Rm. 1500, New York, NY 10015.
Panravee and Felicia moved to Marvin Memorial Methodist Church in Silver Spring, MD located at 35 University Blvd E, Rm. 101; Silver Spring, MD 20901. Their phone and fax numbers are unchanged. JFON National is thankful to Woodside UMC in Silver Spring for housing and supporting the ministry for the past 6 years.
UMCOR Celebrates 70 Years
UMCOR is celebrating 70 years of service to the world’s most vulnerable people. Through the generosity of United Methodists and friends everywhere, UMCOR continues to provide relief and assistance to millions of people around the world.
A celebratory timeline offers a glimpse into the agency’s 70 years of hope-filled relief work, from its formation in 1940 at the General Conference of The Methodist Church through Bishop Herbert Welch to the 2009 establishment of UMCOR’s new office in the Philippines. The timeline demonstrates the principles of Micah 6:8: justice, mercy, and humility, and honors the work of Jesus Christ in serving the most vulnerable. Read More.
In addition to serving their first 10 clients through the JFON clinic, more than 100 immigrants came to Pharr UMC as part of the Open Arms Project. Organized by Wesley Nurse, Martha Williams, Open Arms creates synergy among different groups working to meet the diverse needs of their indigent immigrant neighbors. Partnership organizations include the Mexican Embassy, Pharr Literacy Project, The Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley, and several healthcare providers.
Attendees were offered free flu vaccines, screenings for peripheral arterial disease, and opportunities to sign up for ESL or citizenship classes, apply for identification from the Mexican Embassy, put their names on the JFON waiting list and learn more about community services and resources. Probably most importantly, for those who live near the border, the Open Arms project provided a warm welcome to newcomers to the US.
Reminder: Upcoming Faith-Based Activities
February is the month for the 2nd Annual Prayer Vigils for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
March 22 (noon on the West Lawn of the Capitol) is the day for Faith Rally in Washington, DC, following the Ecumenical Advocacy Days.
Contact Bill Mefford (GBCS) at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
New Study Shows Legalization Will Boost Economy
A study recently released by the Immigration Policy Institute and the Center for American Progress shows that legalization, along with a program that allows for future immigration based on the labor market, would create jobs, increase wages and generate more tax revenue. Comprehensive immigration reform would add an estimated $1.5 trillion to the U.S. gross domestic product over 10 years. The report also estimates that a program of mass deportation of current undocumented immigrants would reduce GDP by $2.6 trillion over 10 years. Read More.
How ICE Detains Immigrants
“If you don't have enough evidence to charge someone criminally but you think he's illegal, we can make him disappear.” Those chilling words were spoken by James Pendergraph, then Executive Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Office of State and Local Coordination, at a conference of police and sheriffs in August 2008. A news report reveals that ICE is imprisoning immigrants in 186 unlisted and unmarked subfield offices scattered throughout the country in suburban office buildings and commercial spaces. Read a report by Amnesty International.
New Approach to Errant Refugees: JAIL THEM!
Human Rights Watch recently released a 40-page report that examines the detention of refugees for failure to file for lawful permanent resident status, even though US immigration officials already put them through a thorough vetting process at the time they were recognized as refugees. Although only a small number of refugees are jailed for this purpose, and the number appears to have decreased under the Obama administration, the detentions continue to be selective and arbitrary, and therefore a violation of international human rights law. The report recommends changing US law to close the legal loophole that allows for detaining these refugees and to give them lawful permanent residence when the US grants them asylum or admits them to the country under its overseas refugee resettlement program. Read More.
- Emergency Response
- Immigration and Refugees
- Sager Brown Depot
- UMCOR Field Offices
Setting a Captive Free in Grand Rapids, MI
Nfansu was a highly respected political figure in Gambia; he often represented Gambia abroad and before the United Nations. Considered a political threat, several of Nfansu’s kin were assassinated before he fled Gambia. Nfansu, along with his wife, mother and younger sister were all granted refuge in the United States.
Under current immigration law, Nfasu’s son, Madi is considered an adult and not considered a derivative beneficiary under his father’s asylum petition – Madi would have had to apply for asylum separately. Left behind but still fearful of his life, Madi came alone to the U.S. and applied for asylum based on his relationship to his father.
Madi went to the asylum office for an interview without representation and his case was referred to immigration court. JFON took on his case and after 2 years, his request for refugee status was granted. Tears poured down his face and his mother, Aime was also sobbing. It was a day filled with inexpressible joy!
Bangladeshi Couple Receives Permanent Residency
Khallid* and Taheera Sarkhel*came to the United States from Bangladesh four years ago. When they first arrived here, Khallid was employed as a computer programmer with the US Government, but lost his job when his visa expired. As a result, Taheera was forced to seek employment to support them and their three young children. She was only able to find menial jobs with very low wages and no security.
Although they have struggled to make ends meet, their dreams of becoming legal permanent residents remained strong. Three years ago, the Sarkhel family came to JFON for help. Monique Bona, Regional JFON Attorney, assisted them with filing petitions and applications, gathering affidavits, and in a multitude of other ways. It took them three long years but they were finally able to identify a qualified sponsor willing to provide them with an affidavit of support. During that time, they also struggled to save the $1,365 to pay application fees.
Khallid and Taheera’s immigration interview was long and strenuous. While decisions generally take a longer time, the couple was relieved when they were approved for legal permanent residency the same day. It was an emotional day for them both, but in the end a heavy burden was lifted.
*not their real names.