JFON Network Update
JFON Nebraska Welcomes Two New Staff Members
Emiliano Lerda is the new executive director of JFON Nebraska (JFON-NE). He emigrated from Argentina 11 years ago and is a graduate of Drake Law School in Iowa. Now a US citizen, he brings to JFON-NE broad experience as a volunteer, community leader, lobbyist, and fundraiser.
Charles “Shane” Ellison has come on board as JFON-NE’s regional attorney. Shane had worked as Asylum Officer for US Citizenship and Immigration Services in Rosedale, NY. He graduated from Trinity College and Hofstra University School of Law with honors, and is admitted to the New York State Bar. He has a passion for immigration rights advocacy, specializing in asylum law.
Slated To Open – JFON Northern Illinois
In April, JFON will open its 14th Regional Project: JFON Northern Illinois Conference (JFON-NIC). JFON-NIC, which enjoys significant financial support from the annual conference and local UM churches, received a grant from the General Commission on Religion and Race. Its first clinic, at Fourth Street UMC in Aurora, IL, will be supported by the Aurora cluster of eight churches. JFON-NIC expects to hire a full-time attorney in the fall.
JFON Southwest Texas Awarded Texas Bar Foundation Grant
The Texas Bar Foundation has chosen JFON-SWTX as a recipient for its grant in support of legal services to the underserved in Rio Grande Valley. The JFON program at Pharr UMC is raising funds to hire a regional attorney and add two locations: Brownsville and Raymondville.
JFON West Michigan Holds Ongoing Refugee Clinics
JFON West Michigan (JFON-WMI) and Michigan Immigrant Rights Center (MIRC) helped 15 refugees (4 families) apply for permanent residency. The clients hailed from Bhutan, Burma, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. Six volunteer attorneys, four law students and eight other s volunteered their time. These clinics will continue on a bi-monthly schedule throughout the year.
United Methodist Immigration Task Force to Meet In Washington, DC
The UMC Immigration Task Force, created by Resolution #118 (2004) and co-chaired by Bishop Minerva Carcaño, will meet in Washington, DC, March 3 – 4, 2011. The group will meet with immigration advocates and officials, as well as lawmakers. UMCOR and JFON will be represented by Panravee Vongjaroenrat.
Web course: Sacred scripture, the religious community, and immigration, April 25 – June 17, 2011
Jim Perdue, National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry missionary assigned to the Desert-Southwest Annual Conference, will present a free web course on the intersection of faith and immigration. It will explore various scriptures as well as the book, Christians at the Border.
The course will be offered three times in 2011 and is open to persons who agree to lead at least one related study in their congregation, region, or religious community. Enrollment is limited to 20 participants; register here. For more information, contact Jim at email@example.com
Northeastern Jurisdiction DREAM Big retreat, April 8-10
The Northeastern Jurisdiction will hold a retreat for youths and young adults, ages 16 to 25, on the US immigration system. It will address how the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act affects attendees’ communities and churches. There will be testimonies by DREAM Act students, discussions of the biblical call to justice, and instruction on how to create communities that welcome immigrant young people.
Registration is $25, and travel scholarships are available. To register, go to DREAM Big. For more information, contact Michelle Thorne at MThorne@umc-gbcs.org, (202) 488-5600, and to learn more about DREAM, read “DREAM vs. Reality,” a report by the Migration Policy Institute that offers the most recent and detailed estimates of potential beneficiaries.
Debate Over Border Security ContinuesAs the debate in Congress over federal spending legislation continues, Senate Democratic leaders refused to support a House bill that would shrink the Border Patrol by 870 agents and cut $272 million for surveillance systems to monitor the border with Mexico. Read More.
Meanwhile, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano called for public officials to stop exaggerating the violence on the US side of the border with Mexico. According to FBI statistics, violent crime rates in Southwest border counties are among the lowest in the nation. Read More.
An Immigration Policy Center study concludes that no specific policy decision to beef up border security in the last 20 to 30 years has significantly reduced the flow of illicit drugs and people into the United States. It suggests alternative ways to meet those goals. Read More.
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2010 | 2011
Naledi* Xinwana, her three children—Matsie*, Emmanuel*, and Jacob*—and their stepfather, Robert*, entered the US from South Africa with temporary Religious Worker (R1) visas.
Unbeknownst to the community they served Robert was a violent and manipulative man. He physically and psychologically abused Naledi and the children, and sexually abused Matsie. He controlled the family by confiscating their passports and keeping them ignorant of their immigration status and how to maintain it. They were financially dependent on him.
The family endured the abuse for years. Things came to a head one night when, in a drunken stupor, Robert threw a hunting knife at Emmanuel, just missing him. Matsie ran to a neighbor’s home to call the police. When they arrived, Robert threatened to kill Matsie.
In fear of their lives and uncertain of their immigration status, Naledi and the children sought advice at the JFON clinic in Omaha, NE. The JFON attorney advised them that if they assisted in Robert’s prosecution, they could file a U-Visa application, which would enable them to gain lawful permanent residency.
Matsie and her mom requested an order of protection and pressed charges against Robert. The entire family testified against him at his trial. Matsie’s testimony was especially heartrending as she detailed years of sexual abuse. Robert was found guilty and imprisoned.
JFON helped the Xinwanas apply for U-Visas. They were granted deferred U-Visa status while they tried to obtain the requisite long-form birth certificates from South Africa, without which their case could not move forward.
Despite their efforts, they were unable to obtain the documents in the time frame allotted by US Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS).
A JFON staff member who had established a strong relationship with a USCIS officer requested that the file remain open while affidavits were filed that detailed the efforts by both JFON and family members to obtain the required documents. It was this trust that kept the files open.
Naledi and her children finally received their U-Visas. They are now applying for residency.
*Not their real names