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

First Monday

June 2009

JFON Network Update

JFON North and Central TX Celebrates 10 years

JFON commemorated the N/C Tx clinics’ 10th Anniversary, with two celebrations, one in Ft. worth on April 26 and the other on May 3 in Dallas. More than 250 volunteers, former clients, conference staff, board members and other champions attended.

Dallas Celebration

The programs highlighted former clients sharing their stories including JFON’s impact in their lives; expressions of appreciation for all the dedicated volunteers; and reflections on the many accomplishments. Of course, no celebration is complete without good food, a mariachi band and piñata.

While celebrating the accomplishments of the past, JFON N/C Tx continues to look toward the future, with plans for continued sustainability and building capacity to serve clients.

Cake

“As people of faith we are called to welcome the sojourner in our midst, and we sort of hear that refrain of take care of the widow, the aliens, the poor,” said Amy Spaur, Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator, “I just feel so blessed to be able to work in this ministry and with the clients that come through our doors. They’re great people I love them.”

JFON applies of Government Grant

Under the leadership of Laura Rampersad, Regional Coordinator of JFON West Michigan, several JFON regions submitted a joint application for a grant from the US Citizenship and Immigration Service to support Legal Permanent Residents seeking to be naturalized. Participants in this proposal included JFON projects in Arkansas, Baltimore-Washington DC, Iowa, West Michigan, Nebraska, New York, and Tennessee.

Many thanks to Laura for writing the proposal and organizing our joint efforts.

Advocacy Update

Remembering Postville, Iowa

May marked the one-year anniversary of the immigration raid at the Agriprocessors meat processing plant in Postville, Iowa, in which nearly 400 undocumented workers were arrested. Agriprocessors managers face state and federal charges and the company has declared bankruptcy. Those who remain in the town of Postville are supported by the local faith groups including UMCOR.

According to the Los Angeles Times, "since the landmark raid, an economic squeeze has destroyed several businesses. Postville's population has shrunk by nearly half, to about 1,800 residents, and townsfolk say the resulting anxiety -- felt from the deli to the schoolyard -- has been relentless…The aftermath of the Postville raid has rippled across the country, rupturing the nation's kosher meat supply and setting back Midwest livestock farmers who supplied the plant.”

The raid had a devastating effect beyond Postville, affecting hundreds of individuals, their families and even their communities. Read a Chicago Tribune article discussing its impact on a village in Guatemala, which depended on remittances sent by migrant workers.

Continuing the Postville Battle

A recent Supreme Court ruling, determined that the crime of identity theft was limited to those who knew they were using another person's Social Security number. Based on the ruling, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has called on the Justice Department to dismiss the guilty pleas of nearly 300 undocumented workers arrested in last year’s raid.

According to the Supreme Court, people who use false documents can be jailed. But they cannot be convicted of the more serious crime of "aggravated identity theft" without proof that they knew the identification number belonged to someone else, the court ruled unanimously.

Support the Reuniting Families Act

On May 20, Senator Menendez (D-NJ), Senator Gillibrand (D-NY), Senator Kennedy (D-MA), and Senator Schumer (D-NY) re-introduced the Reuniting Families Act (S.1085) which contains practical solutions for reducing family immigration visa backlogs and promoting humane and timely reunification of immigrant families. Specifically, the bill includes provisions that would ensure that visas are allocated efficiently; alleviate lengthy wait times that keep legal immigrants and their overseas loved ones separated for years; and decrease measures that prevent family members from obtaining visas.

Three QUICK ACTIONS you can DO TODAY to support family unity:

  • *Thank Senators Menendez, Gillibrand and Kennedy for their support of immigrant families. They can be contacted through the Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121.
  • *Call NOW to let your Senators know that you support immigration reform and urge them to support the Reuniting Families Act! Contact the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to be directly connected to your senators.
  • *Forward this message to 10 friends immediately and urge them to participate.

Border Security: Precursor to Comprehensive Immigration Reform?

Although a recent poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News shows that support for a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants has reached a new high, it still might not have the widespread backing necessary to avoid a political battle. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs noted that the Obama administration hopes to achieve a “healthy bipartisan majority” before it pursues specific policy reforms.

President Obama’s recent efforts to secure the US-Mexico border may reduce opposition to a comprehensive reform bill or legalization strategy and act as a precursor to immigration reform. "If the American people don't feel like you can secure the borders," Obama told reporters, "then it's hard to strike a deal that would get people out of the shadows and on a pathway to citizenship".

Recently, Obama sent more investigative agents to the US-Mexico border, supported upgrading ports of entry and targeted traffickers who smuggle in people and drugs, and smuggle out guns and cash. Obama announced in early May the resumption of a "virtual fence" on the U.S.-Mexican border. By shifting the focus away from those who come to the U.S. in search of work, he planted it squarely on criminals who foment violence in Mexico and kidnap and kill inside the United States.

Watch a webcast of the May 20th "Securing the Borders and America's Points of Entry, What Remains to Be Done," Senate Immigration Subcommittee hearing.