Immigration Services Available at Justice For Our Neighbors Immigration Clinics
by Kim Lehmann
On January 21, 2010, the US government extended "Temporary Protective Status" (TPS) to Haitians. This status permits eligible Haitian nationals to stay and work in the US for 18 months. Eligible Haitians are those who have resided continuously in the US since January 12, 2010, and have been physically present since January 21, 2010.
The Justice For Our Neighbors (JFON) ministry of UMCOR continues to offer immigration services to community members at specific locations across the country. Through this ministry, JFON provides free, professional legal services to immigrants in monthly clinics.
"The TPS program has specific limitations, so it is important that people receive accurate information on whether to apply and on the process of applying," says Panravee Vongjaroenrat, attorney and director of the JFON network.
The Justice For Our Neighbors clinic sites in Florida and New York are working to set up information sessions with legal representatives specifically in the "TPS" program.
The first TPS clinic will take place on Saturday, February 27, 2010, at the TPS clinic in Orlando. The clinic will start at 1:00 pm and will be held at St. Luke's United Methodist Church at 4851 South Apopka Vineland Rd. in Orlando.
The details of other clinics are being finalized at this time and will be available on the JFON website once they are confirmed.
Justice For Our Neighbors has clinic sites in Arkansas, California, Iowa, Florida, District of Columbia, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, Tennessee, and Texas. To find the nearest site, visit JFON Clinic Sites. All persons are welcome to access the immigration services of Justice For Our Neighbors.
Long-time partner Church World Service also has two sites in Miami, Florida, and Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which are prepared to provide legal assistance to persons applying for TPS. Information on Church World Service's Immigration ministry can be found at churchworldservice.org.
If people are looking for immigration services and are located in places where there are no JFON or CWS clinics, Ms. Vongjaroenrat recommends that people contact the American Immigration Lawyers Association or their local Bar Associations to find reputable immigration services.
Congregations can assist by providing information on available reputable legal clinics to persons eligible for TPS. They can also support the work of Justice For Our Neighbors Immigration Ministry, Advance #901285.
In addition, Justice For Our Neighbors is seeking volunteers. In particular, it is looking for licensed immigration attorneys to provide pro bono work with the JFON clinics. For persons who are not attorneys, there are many other opportunities for volunteering at the legal clinics, such as coordinating the monthly intake clinic, providing hospitality and child care, performing or scheduling intake interviews, or using bilingual skills. (Some training may be required.) To get involved, contact the clinic near you or contact the JFON national office at 212-870-3806.
Over the past weeks, our hearts have gone out to family members, friends, and strangers who were impacted by the earthquake in Haiti. At this time, we deeply feel and reconnect with our call to love our neighbor, whether that neighbor lives next door, or across town, or across the world. This immediate measure by the US government to provide such temporary assistance to Haitians is a positive step. Yet we recognize the need to provide long-term legal rights to Haitians in the US and all persons who migrate.
As United Methodists, we must commit to advocating for immigration systems which "affirm the worth, dignity and inherent value and rights of migrants" and "uphold the civil and political rights of all migrants."1 In addition, we must seek to build communities of love, justice, and peace by reaching out to build relationships with our neighbors, breaking down divisions among us, standing up against racism and xenophobia, fear and exploitation, and supporting one another in order that we may "love one another, not in word or tongue, but in truth and action" (1 John 3:18).
1 "Welcoming the Migrant to the United States," The United Methodist Church 2008 Book of Resolutions. Adopted by The United Methodist Church's General Conference on May 1, 2008.
Date posted: Feb 08, 2010