JFON Network Update
State of JFON
2011 was a time of transition for the JFON ministry. In October, the UMCOR Board of Directors approved a resolution to incorporate JFON as an independent non-profit organization with its own governing bylaws and board. The inaugural JFON Board of Directors meeting was held on November 14 when the by-laws were approved and readied for filing. It is expected that the incorporation process will be completed when the board meets again on January 25, 2012.
Even amid this profound structural change, the JFON ministry has continued to grow. It expanded to 14 projects operating 33 clinics in 12 states and 17 annual conferences: Arkansas, Baltimore-Washington, California-Pacific, Detroit, Florida, Northern Illinois, Iowa, West Michigan, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Western North Carolina, Rio Grande, Tennessee, Central Texas, North Texas, and Southwest Texas. Altogether, we held 253 legal clinics, generating over 12,000 volunteer hours and serving more than 3,300 new clients in 2011
JFON National Says Farewell to Cheryl Pierce
The JFON program staff bid a fond and appreciative farewell to Cheryl Pierce in December, 2011. Cheryl served as national program coordinator from 2008 with a great deal of grace and will be missed.
JFON Tennessee Partners with Ten Thousand Villages
On Sunday, November 27, JFON-TN was the beneficiary of a special sales event hosted by Ten Thousand Villages in the Nashville area. This fair trade retailer carries artisan-crafted items from more than 130 artisan groups in some 38 countries. JFON board members and volunteers were on-hand wearing "Ask Me About JFON" buttons, sharing cookies with patrons, and explaining the critical role JFON plays in the Tennessee immigrant and legal services communities. The event raised community awareness of the JFON ministry and mission, and Ten Thousand Villages donated $400 from the day's sales to support the ongoing work of JFON-TN.
North Alabama Bishop Repents on Immigration, Calls for Action
In late November, Bishop William Willimon, bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church, told almost 300 middle-Tennessee leaders of faith that he was wrong not to take Republican Gov. Robert Bentley's anti-immigration campaign promises seriously and was sorry for being inactive while an anti-immigration bill became law in Alabama.
"I'm up here in Tennessee ... to repent," said William Willimon, "It's a rare thing ... ever to see a Methodist bishop to admit to wrong. I'm sorry that those of us faith leaders in Alabama, with the exception of the Catholics, were slow to realize how nefarious this immigration legislation would be for us and for our state." Read more.
United Methodist Church Divests From Private Prisons
In response to petitions from thousands of United Methodists, the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits (GBPHB) has elected to divest from private prison corporations, CCA and GEO Group. Additionally, the GBPHB Board approved a private prison investment screen which would prohibit investment in companies that derive more than 10 percent of its revenue from the management and operation of federal, state, county, or municipal correctional facilities. Read more.
Report: Immigrants Facing a Crisis of Representation
A new study, Accessing Justice: The Availability and Adequacy of Representation in Immigration Proceedings, reported a crisis – of both quality and quantity – in the representation of immigrants in deportation processes. Because there is no right to appointed counsel in immigration court, many immigrants represent themselves and face greater possibility of deportation. For example, 74 percent of non-detained individuals with representation have successful outcomes, while only 13 percent without counsel are successful.
The report also found that, for immigrants who did have legal representation in immigration court between mid-2010 and mid-2011, 33 percent received “inadequate” legal assistance and 14 percent received “grossly inadequate” representation. Judge Katzmann told The New York Times that he blames predatory lawyers for much of the poor representation. Download the report.
Department of Justice Report Slams Sherriff Joe ArpaioAfter a three-year investigation into the abusive practices of Sherriff Joe Arpaio’s Maricopa County, Arizona, Sherriff’s Office (MCSO), the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it had found a pattern and practice of civil rights abuses, including extreme cases of racial profiling. The enormity of the violations, the majority of which were experienced by immigrants and Latinos, has led the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to suspend its cooperation agreement (under section 287(g)) with the sheriff’s office and restrict the MCSO’s access to immigration databases through the Secure Communities program. Read more or download the full report.
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James* and Todd* were born in Zimbabwe in the early 1990s. Their mother passed away when they were very young. In 2000, their father, John*, was becoming an influential figure in organizing a peaceful political resistance to the corrupt ruling regime. After a while, the ruling party took notice of John’s political activities and began to target him for reprisal. In March of 2000, John was arrested and severely beaten and tortured by government security forces for his political views. Fearful for his own life and the lives of his children, then just seven and nine years old, John made the difficult decision to leave his country and seek refuge in the US.
After John’s visa expired, he filed for asylum in 2004 and included James and Todd on his application. However, under current immigration policy, asylum seekers are required to apply for asylum within one year of arriving in the US and his claim was denied. Consequently, father and sons were placed in removal proceedings and faced deportation back to Zimbabwe where they feared they would be killed.
To make matters worse, John had been battling a serious illness for many years and it finally took his life in 2008. A family friend took custody of James, 15, and Todd, 17. At this time, James and Todd were referred to Justice for Our Neighbors-Nebraska as they continued to fight against being returned to a country they barely knew.
Although the passing of their father was very difficult for them emotionally, it enabled them to apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). Once they received SIJS, JFON was able to file a motion to terminate deportation proceedings and to permit USCIS to consider their applications for permanent resident status. In September of 2011, their applications were granted and they are now permanent residents. Although legal status cannot take away the pain these boys have endured, at least they can now face a life without fear of being exiled to a country where their lives would be in danger.