UMCOR / Our Work / Immigration and Refugees / Justice for Our Neighbors / First Monday / Archives 2009

First Monday

JFON Network Update

JFON Fort Worth Joins First Street Methodist Mission

In January 2009, JFON Fort Worth began holding their monthly clinics at the First Street Methodist Mission.The new collaboration will strengthen the JFON program and involve more volunteers in the clinic. First Street Mission, an outreach of First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth, is devoted to serving people in need by providing emergency food, clothing and infant formula in an atmosphere of respect and compassion.

JFON Fort Worth has been located at Polytechnic UMC since its founding in 1999. Although the monthly clinic will no longer take place there, JFON will continue to have a presence at Polytechnic UMC, and is thankful for the dedication and support of this ministry.

JFON-West Michigan Hosts Film Event and Prayer Vigil

Sentenced HomeOn Wednesday, February 4, JFON-West Michigan co-sponsored a documentary film event as part of the Common Lens Documentary Film series – highlighting current social justice issues. Sentenced Home, a PBS Independent Lens documentary, followed four Cambodian young-adult refugees facing deportation for crimes committed years earlier as teenagers. The film was shown to a standing-room-only crowd at the new Koning Micro-Cinema at the Wealthy Street Theater in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Following the film, Danny Upton led a discussion of current immigration issues. A donation was collected to cover the cost of the event and to benefit the JFON program. View Sentenced Home on-line.

On February 16, JFON partnered with the Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice and the Micah Center to organize a multi-ethnic prayer vigil at New Hope United Methodist Church in Grand Rapids. The vigil was purposefully bilingual, with participants singing hymns and reading a litany in both English and Spanish. It drew people from the local congregation and community and justice-seekers from as far away as Kalamazoo. More than 100 people gathered to sing and pray around the issue of immigration reform.

Prayer Vigil"It is necessary to recognize immigration as God's concern," commented Jordan Bruxvoort, a community worker with Michigan Organizing Project (M.O.P.) out of Kalamazoo, MI, who helped execute the event. "God is attentive to the vulnerable in society. He upholds them; the people of God must also uphold them."

The vigil was part of a nationwide movement, Prayer, Renewal and Action on Immigration, in over 100 communities to highlight the growing movement of faith communities working to bring humanity and compassion into the public dialogue on immigration. More than 160 vigils were held between Feb. 13-22. Read More.

JFON bids farewell to two Regional Attorneys –
Don Edwards and Kristin Fearnow

Don and Kristin have been vital to building strong and thriving projects in New York and Nebraska, respectively. We are thankful to the both of them for their excellent service to our clients and for how they have helped to shape and strengthen our ministries. Don will be returning to his private practice and Kristin will be joining former-JFON Attorney, Allison Brown in her practice at Peck Law Firm. JFON wishes them all the best in their new endeavors.

Advocacy Update

The Sanctity of the Church

On a Sunday morning, in a church sanctuary near Conroe, TX, an off-duty immigration agent tapped Jose Juan Hernandez on the shoulder and asked him to step outside. Hernandez quietly followed the agent and promptly was detained on suspicion of illegal re-entry after deportation. He pled guilty to the charge and will face sentencing in April.

Although both the faith and immigrant advocacy communities are outraged, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) stands by this agent’s actions. Gregory Palmore, an ICE spokesman in Houston said the agency has guidelines related to arrests “in sensitive community locations.” Palmore said those guidelines are internal and cannot be made public, but they allow agents to make arrests at churches in specific circumstances.

Previously, ICE has demonstrated a long-standing reluctance to detain suspected undocumented immigrants at churches and schools. For example Elvira Arellano and Flor Crisostomo sought and were granted sanctuary at Adalberto UMC in Chicago. The sanctuary was respected by immigration officials. Last summer, USA Today ran an article entitled Officials hesitate to arrest immigrants living in churches which illustrated the traditional way that officials have approached people seeking sanctuary in churches. It is important for faith communities to follow the development of this case closely as it may create a new precedent where ICE officials no longer recognize the church as a place of safety and sanctuary. Read More.

Deporting Parents of US Citizen Children

In Jan 2009, the Department of Homeland Security reported that 108,434 parents of children who are U.S. citizens were deported between 1998 and 2007. The report, which was based on interviews with employees and officials and a review of applicable documents, admits that this number may actually be significantly higher because recording the data about the immigration status of an alien’s children is optional and does not include all those who depart without an order of removal.

In response to this report, New York Congressman José Serrano has re-introduced the Child Citizen Protection Act (H.R. 182) in the House of Representatives. The Act would allow immigration judges to take family situations into account in deportation hearings.

“The present immigration system does little to protect the best interests of the children and keep families together,” Serrano said. “That’s just wrong—and this bill would help to change it. Deporting the parents of American children is not the right course for our nation. We must do everything in our power to keep families together, and to use common sense in our immigration laws. Children deserve better than to lose a parent because of an inflexible law.”

A Rising Share: Hispanics and Federal Crime

"A new report from the Pew Hispanic Center entitled A Rising Share: Hispanics and Federal Crime analyzes the ethnic composition of those sentenced in federal courts. Beneath the startling headline, however, is a familiar story. Immigrants represent a disproportionate share of the federal prison population because immigration law is under the purview of the federal courts. The report illustrates the amount of money and human resources that is spent on the pursuit and punishment of undocumented immigrants, most of whom are non-violent and pose no threat to public safety or national security. Filling federal courts and prisons with non-violent undocumented immigrants is the primary reason that 'immigration offenders' accounted for 24% of all people sentenced in federal courts in 2007- up from 7% in 1991. 61% of non-U.S. citizen Latino immigrants who were sentenced in federal courts in 2007 were sentenced for immigration offenses.

The Pew report reinforces the conclusion of a study released earlier this month bythe Migration Policy Institute (MPI), which found that the federal fugitive operations budget ballooned from $9 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2003 to $218 million in FY 2008, yet 73% of the 96,000 persons arrested so far have no criminal convictions. They are undocumented immigrants who were "unlawfully present" in the United States.