New England Justice for Our Neighbors could not exist without the dedicated work of many volunteers. In fact, until the recent hiring of our Executive Director, NEJFON was run entirely by volunteers. Our Board is made up of volunteers, of course, but in addition, our clinic coordinators, our webmaster, and our graphic designer are all volunteers. Volunteers help us plan our fundraising and run online auctions. Volunteers answer our phones and screen new clients. And volunteers staff every part of our in-person legal clinics other than the actual meeting with the attorney. This model maximizes the amount of funds spent directly on legal aid for our clients.
Serving Clients During COVID
While most of our clinics are still operating remotely (see the next article), our Worcester clinic has been operating in-person since mid-2021. Volunteers, such as A.H. pictured above, set up the clinic space - from signage to refreshments -, orient each client, make sure anyone interested receives food, and clean up the space when the clinic is concluded. Worcester clinic coordinator Margaret Bradshaw elaborates on their role: "I am so grateful for our volunteers! Our current volunteer crew is very small, but they are very dedicated and do not hesitate to jump in on clinic day for anything we need done. Whether bringing food for the meals, washing dishes, or greeting our clients at the door (and so many other things), each of our volunteers is amazing, and we couldn’t run our clinic without them!" The former volunteers at our other three clinics are eagerly awaiting their opportunity to welcome our immigrant neighbors in person again as well, hopefully very soon!
As we return to normal operations and make plans for the future growth of our organization, we're seeking partners to help position us for our next phase. We hope to find assistants with many kinds of skills, from lawyers and clinic volunteers to social media junkies and fundraising fiends.
If you are already one of our volunteers, we are deeply grateful for your work, which directly contributes to providing immigrants with a safe and fulfilling life here in their adoptive home. If you would like to get involved, please click here to indicate your interest. Thank you!!!
How does an organization based on face-to-face clinics serve clients during a pandemic? Our work is too vital and our clients' situations too pressing to cease providing humanitarian legal aid. We had to come up with a better solution.
Advocacy Update: One Year of the Biden Administration
Once it became clear that our in-person clinics would be closed for quite a while, we worked with our legal partners to create alternate remote options, such as phone and videoconference appointments. Pausing our in-person clinics required adjusting many of our processes, but it was worth it for the almost 100 new clients we saw last year alone.
Creating a remote option has also had some silver linings. For example, we have seen an increase in clients living further away from our physical clinics' locations. In response to this change, we are planning to offer a permanent remote option even after the pandemic is over. In addition, this experience has given us more flexibility. Two of our sites had planned to have in-person clinics in January, but as Omicron persisted, that felt unsafe. We were easily able to fall back on the remote model that we perfected over the last two years.
We hope that we will soon be able to return to seeing clients regularly at our in-person clinics, under our new hybrid model. If we don't, however, our clients can be assured that we will always find ways to serve them.
As we pass the one-year mark of the Biden administration, several immigrant rights organizations are using the occasion to underscore the administration's harmful immigration policies.
The site for ordering free at-home COVID tests from the federal government has launched. Visit https://www.covidtests.gov/ to order 4 tests per residential address. These tests are available to anyone regardless of immigration or insurance status. Please note that, unfortunately, multiple families living at one address cannot receive separate batches of tests, as the system works by street address. Spread the word and stay safe!
Human Rights First recently released a new report on the administration’s continued use of the Title 42 and Remain in Mexico policies, which block access to asylum and send migrants and refugees into danger. Human Rights First also published an updated set of urgent recommendations to the Biden administration to uphold U.S. refugee law and restore access to asylum.
Meanwhile, 900 faith leaders, faith-based groups, and immigrant rights groups recently delivered a letter to President Biden demanding an end to the expansion of immigration detention and to Title 42. The initiative was organized by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition. Noting the one-year anniversary of President Biden's inauguration , the signatories - including Church World Service, Detention Watch Network, Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, UCC National Collaborative on Immigration, and members of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition - expressed deep disappointment in the president for failing to keep his early promises to phase out private detention contracts. The expansion of detention centers takes place as COVID-19 continues to surge across the country, underscoring the urgent need to free people from the harms of detention immediately. The letter signatories urged the Biden administration to reverse course, invest in community-based alternatives to detention, and restore access to asylum.
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