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

First Monday

May 2009

JFON Network Update

JFON Board Training Retreat

April 16-18, representatives from the JFON Network gathered in Silver Spring, MD to learn more about leadership and the role of the Regional Board in creating a strong and vibrant JFON project. Participants included JFON Regional Attorneys, the National Advisory Committee, and a representative from each Regional Board. Discussion topics included volunteer management and engagement; leadership development; the role and responsibilities of the Regional Board; resource development; and interaction between local JFON sites and JFON-UMCOR national. It was great to gather, share our experiences, struggles, and best practices so that we can learn from each other.

JFON is thankful to everyone who invested two days at the training, strengthening their ability to serve. Thanks also to Dennis Dorgan who guided our discussions and shared valuable expertise.

NYAC-JFON Volunteer Training and Celebration

New York TrainingOn May 2nd, more than 40 volunteers and leaders from NY’s four JFON clinics gathered at Chinese UMC in Chinatown for volunteer training followed by a celebration of their 10-year anniversary. The gathering attracted long-time JFON volunteers as well as those who are new to the organization.

Designed as a region-wide event, Saturday’s community building gathering gave volunteers from each clinic a broader view of the scope of the ministry they are involved in. The group was encouraged to build on the sense of cohesion, strengthen their ministry and mobilize their constituency to be better advocates.

Advocacy Update

Comprehensive Immigration Reform – Possibilities for 2009

In response to a question following his “100-days” speech on April 29th, President Obama reaffirmed that he considered immigration reform a critical issue that he wants to move forward on. He pointed out that a broken immigration system isn’t good for anybody – American workers, workers trying to cross a dangerous border, strained border communities, or undocumented and exploited workers.

Although the President carefully avoided promising that Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) would be enacted this year, he did promise to take some specific steps to advance the cause.

“So, what I hope to happen is that we're able to convene a working group, working with key legislators like Luis Gutierrez and Nydia Velazquez and others to start looking at a framework of how this legislation might be shaped. In the meantime, what we're trying to do is take some core -- some key administrative steps to move the process along to lay the groundwork for legislation. Because the American people need some confidence that if we actually put a package together, we can execute.”

Before CIR hits his desk for approval, a bill must be ironed out and passed by the House and Senate. Immigration Daily reports that “The House appears to be getting its act together on immigration. Rep. Conyers and Rep. Lofgren have made significant progress in writing a massive CIR bill. A major immigration bill, backed by the full Democratic leadership of the House is likely to be ready for hearings and markup in a couple of months. This development is particularly heartening in that positive signs from the House were not visible earlier this year.”

There are currently no plans for any major Senate bills, hearings or markups in the Senate Judiciary Committee or the Senate Immigration Subcommittee. Senator Specter’s decision to change his allegiance to the Democratic Party combined with Al Franken’s potential Democratic seat has offered the possibility of a 60-vote "super-majority" in the Senate.

On the issue of immigration, Specter has been relatively pro-immigrant, sponsoring the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act in 2006. According to Forbes, given Specter's already fairly liberal views on immigration policy, his party change should have little impact in the debate. "On immigration he was always among the most flamboyant supporters of amnesty and open boarders anyway, so it doesn't really change things," says Mark Krikorian, executive director of Center for Immigration Studies.

According to the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association, although conventional wisdom holds that most Americans want to continue our current “get tough” approach to illegal immigration, a vast body of public opinion research indicates strong support for a more intelligent and realistic approach to controlling immigration. For more information read AILA’s summary of various polls conducted since 2005.

It is vital that immigrant advocates make their voices heard during this pivotal time. Now is the time to mobilize volunteers, former clients, friends and families to actively reach out to representatives in support of Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Consider starting a letter writing, email or phone campaign to representatives and to the staff person working on immigration issues. Also consider partnering with other local advocacy groups to organize a march, vigil or demonstration.

To contact your representative, call United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. A switchboard operator will connect you directly with the Senate office you request.