JFON Network Update
JFON Hires New Regional Attorney
JFON-West Michigan is pleased to announce that Liz Balck will serve as their new Regional Attorney. A native of Grand Rapids, Liz will be returning to the west side of the state to pursue her passion for immigration law. Liz graduated from St. Mary’s College of Indiana and Thomas J Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan. Her immigration experience includes an externship at the Immigration & Refugee Appellate Center in Alexandria, VA and Pro-Bono work with Immigration Law Clinic in Detroit, MI.
Says Liz, “I decided that I wanted to become an immigration attorney while volunteering at a human rights organization in Minneapolis, Minnesota, while participating in a full-time volunteer program through Americorps/Catholic Charities where I co-directed a program geared toward assimilating immigrant children into the US. I felt called to work with immigrant and refugee populations after this experience in large part because of the warmth and courage I saw within the immigrants and attorneys. Since my time in Minnesota, I have continued to volunteer and work with immigrants and asylum seekers on a part-time basis. I was drawn to JFON because of its mission to advocate for impoverished immigrants as well JFON's commitment to educate the community about our immigrant neighbors.”
JFON NE Hosts Immigration Symposium
March 28th, JFON NE hosted an Immigration Symposium for 70 people at First United Methodist Church in Omaha, Nebr. Sessions helped dispel some immigration myths while providing education about immigration basics and current immigration legislation. Workshops focused on helping attendees better understand the immigrants in their midst. A group from the Nebraskans Advisory Group (NAG) gathered outside the church in protest of the Immigration Symposium and in response, JFON NE is exploring ways to engage NAG in constructive conversations in the future. Read more.
Arkansas JFON Partners with Community Leaders
Arkansas JFON, in partnership with various business and religious leaders, are forming the Arkansas Friendship Coalition to encourage a reasonable and respectful approach to the immigration debate in Arkansas and to oppose punitive state and municipal laws targeting immigrants in Arkansas. Their plans include lobbying elected officials, speaking to civic and community groups and other advocacy strategies.
Currently, the Coalition is fighting against House Bill 1093 that Rep. Bill Sample, R-Hot Springs, has filed, which would enact sweeping changes aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration, including making it a felony in Arkansas to provide transportation or shelter to anyone who is in the country illegally. The bill has implications for those who work for or volunteer with organizations that provide assistance to immigrants, such as JFON, in essence making parts of the organization’s work a felony.
Rev. Steve Copley, JFON Regional Attorney and Chair of the Coalition, urges people to “join our efforts to speak up for the growing immigrant community, to share in their hopes and dreams of a better life, which is the American dream.”
Dream Act Introduced In Congress!!!
The DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act) was introduced on March 26, 2009 in both the House and the Senate. The legislation aims at granting lawful permanent resident status to young people who are bound for college or join the military. According to the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), “for the first time since it was first introduced in 2001, the DREAM Act enjoys strong backing of House and Senate leadership, all of the relevant committee chairs and President Obama, who was an original sponsor of the legislation when he was in the Senate.” This legislation is seen by some as a sign that momentum is building in Congress toward the support of comprehensive immigration reform.
A View From The Border
With violent crime rates down but a spike in kidnappings for ransom (second only to Mexico City), Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris suggested a solution: Comprehensive immigration reform. “Harris says, ‘The answer is not in Phoenix. The answer is in Washington.’ We know how to close a border, says Harris ‘build a wall’ and deploy ‘machine gun nests.’ But, ‘I personally think that is stupid.’ For now, however, the United States ‘has turned immigration policy over to Mexican thugs.’ So we have reached a point at which barbed wire, car batteries and acid become the business tools of kidnapper-torturer-extortionists.”
Read more in a Washington Post op-ed piece by George F. Will, a conservative columnist.
Save Our Children: Report Shows Devastating Effects Of Immigration Raids On U.S. Citizen Children
“Miguel is a US citizen child who grew up in Minnesota like any other little American boy. But his parents are undocumented workers from El Salvador who worked at the Swift plant in Worthington, MN. On December 12, 2006, the plant was raided by ICE, and more than 200 workers were detained, including Miguel’s mother. Miguel returned home from second grade that day to discover that his mother and father were not there and that his two-year-old brother was left alone. For the next week, Miguel stayed home caring for his brother-with no information about what had happened to his parents. A week after the raid, Miguel’s grandmother arrived to care for her grandchildren. When Miguel returned to school, his teacher reported that this previously “happy little boy” had become “absolutely catatonic.” His performance slipped and his grades plummeted.” Dorsey & Whitney law firm, along with The Urban Institute, released a news report, “Severing a Lifeline: The Neglect of Citizen Children in America's Immigration Enforcement Policy,” detailing stories such as the one above. For a brief overview of this report, click here.
Recent ICE Raid Sparks Important Changes in Raid Policy
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano directed the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to delay proposed immigration raids. This decision came after 28 immigrants were arrested in the first ICE raid under the Obama administration on February 24 in Bellingham, WA. Secretary Napolitano expressed disappointment that the raid had not been communicated to her beforehand and said she wanted to investigate the agency’s communication practices. Most of those arrested during this raid have since been released and some have even been granted work authorization – although at least one has been deported.
A DHS official said Napolitano plans to release protocols to ensure more consistent work-site investigations and less ‘haphazard" decision-making’. Additionally, In spite of arguments that “it's far tougher to build a criminal case showing an employer knowingly hired illegal immigrants than to prove that an immigrant is working in the United States illegally” Napolitano will instruct ICE agents to focus on prosecuting businesses that violate U.S. employment laws, marking a shift away from the government’s previous emphasis of arresting undocumented workers.
"Secretary Napolitano wants to make sure workplace enforcement is operating the way it should," her spokesman Matt Chandler said. "She is focused on using our limited resources to the greatest effect — targeting criminal aliens and employers that flout our laws and deliberately cultivate an illegal work force."
Exploiting The Labor of Detained Immigrants
In contrast to Napolitano’s decision to focus on prosecuting employers who hire and exploit undocumented immigrants, a recent article in the Houston Chronicle reveals that thousands of immigrants in detention facilities across the country are participating in a voluntary work program that pays them $1 per day. Jobs include cleaning and washing dishes, laundry, and maintenance of the facility, according to ICE. Others jobs include working as a barber and helping in the medical clinic, law library or commissary.
The agency does not track participation in the work program on a national level, said ICE spokesman Gregory Palmore, though more than 11,000 detainees participated last fiscal year at one Houston detention center alone. ICE officials insist there is no double standard, saying the Voluntary Work Program offers detainees a break from the monotony of incarceration and a chance to earn money.
Rutgers University criminal justice professor Michael Welch called the program a paradox saying, “It’s ironic that these undocumented immigrants are barred from working legally in the community, but while behind bars, they are not only allowed but encouraged to work for a dollar a day.”
Immigrant advocates offered general support for the program, saying it at least gives detainees an opportunity to pass the time by doing something other than sitting in a cell. But the irony of the program is not lost on some. “Why can the U.S. government hire undocumented immigrants? And not only hire them, but get a day’s work for a dollar?” said Brittney Nystrom, senior legal advisor at the National Immigration Forum, an immigrant advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. “It really is an absurdity.”
Read ICE’s guidelines for the Voluntary Work Program.
- Emergency Response
- Immigration and Refugees
- Sager Brown Depot
- UMCOR Field Offices
From JFON Nebraska
Tom from Tajikistan
Tom fled Tajikistan in 2007 after being abducted and tortured by the government for writing and performing anti-government songs with his band. He entered the United States with a student visa and has been attending university in Omaha Nebraska where he struggled to make a life for himself without the support of his family.
When a friend in trouble asked Tom for a loan, Tom lent this friend some money and accepted his car as collateral. Unbeknownst to Tom, the car had been stolen and he soon found himself in police custody and was convicted for receipt of stolen property. Tom realized the severity of his situation when he was subsequently detained by ICE and placed in removal proceedings.
Feeling hopeless, afraid and in desperate need of help, Tom contacted JFON NE. Because of the severity of the crime, he was not eligible for bond or for asylum. The only form of relief he could apply for was withholding of removal. JFON NE helped Tom present his case to the immigration judge and Toms application for relief was granted by the immigration judge on January 29, 2009.
David from Guatamala
Sarita, a single mother, left her young son David in Guatemala so that she could find work in the US to support him. After years of separation and limited communication, David, age 12, crossed the border into the US planning to reunite with his mother. He was apprehended and proceedings began to have him deported.
Because it was learned that his mother had passed away from a long-term illness, David was released into the custody of his biological aunt, Naomi and her US Citizen husband, Felipe.
JFON put them in contact with another organization that helped file the necessary paperwork in civil court appointing Felipe as his guardian. JFON then filed an I-360 on Davids behalf which was approved on January 7, 2009. JFON NE is now preparing the paperwork for David, requesting that removal proceedings be terminated so that he can file an application to adjust his status and become a legal permanent resident.