Legal Activity During March
New England JFON partners with regional legal aid non-profits to provide legal advice and counsel to low-income immigrants to our area. The Lawrence and Lowell clinics work with the Northeast Justice Center. We have funded one full-time attorney, Camila R. Valenzuela, who has assistance from other attorneys at the Justice Center.
At the April Lawrence Clinic, our attorney saw three young adults advising one on seeking SIJ (immigrant juvenile status), another with a potential (VAWA) domestic violence case, and a third on replacing a lost green card. At April Lowell clinic the attorney provided counsel to three clients; all were adults. One client was advised that they did not have a case for immigration benefit; another had representation by competent, private counsel. The third has a complex claim and may have resources to hire private counsel. Referrals were made where appropriate.
In addition, attorneys from the Justice Center worked on 8 cases over the course of the month of April. Please continue reading about a successful case.
No-No Boy Performs Benefit for Justice For Our Neighbors
No-No Boy is an immersive multimedia work combining original folk songs, storytelling, and projected archival images, bridging a divide between art and scholarship. Taking inspiration from his own family’s history living through the Vietnam War, as well as interviews with World War II Japanese Incarceration camp survivors and other stories of Asian American experience, Nashville born songwriter Julian Saporiti has transformed years of doctoral research at Brown University into an innovative concert / dissertation, all in an effort to bring this work to a broader audience.”
The benefit concert for JFON is May 31, 2019 at 7pm, Harvard-Epworth UMC, 1555 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge. A suggested donation of $20.00 is recommended. The New York Music daily said “Saporiti’s tunesmithing ranks with any of the real visionaries of this era… Best Albums of 2018.”
Our JFON Partnership with the Northeast Justice Center
In a recent newsletter, we shared with you about the lawyer, Attorney Camila Valenzuela, from the Justice Center who is the face at the JFON clinics. However, we recently learned that Attorney Ana Otero is also working with her. Camila staffs the clinics in Lawrence and Lowell as well as the clinic the one in Woburn. She provides advice and counsel on a variety of immigration situations. She and other attorneys from the Justice Center make decisions on what cases they can take on for full representation. This decision depends on the type of case as well as the demonstrated financial need of the client. Ana is handling representation with most of the SIJ (unaccompanied minors) cases. She is originally from Puerto Rico and did her BA at Georgetown University in political science and her law degree at the University of Puerto Rico law school. She is fluent in Spanish and practiced as an attorney in the private sector in Puerto Rico for about 20 years. She came to the Justice Center seeking a change of career and looking for something more meaningful to do with her law education. Watch for next month’s newsletter to learn more about Camila Valenzuela.
Both attorneys have been warmly received by the pastors we work with, Rev. Gabriela Garcia at Christ UMC in Lawrence and Pastor Joseph Wilson at Centralville UMC in Lowell. Gabriela recently shared with us that these two attorneys understand the situation that immigrants from Central America are fleeing which makes it easier for the young people to explain their experiences.
Changing Lives, One Step at a Time!
Margaret visited our JFON clinic in Lowell, Massachusetts in December 2018 and also in February 2019. She first met with an attorney who was volunteering with JFON. When Camila started with the clinic, all she knew was that Margaret had a pending Naturalization application that had been pending since 2016 and she had an upcoming interview scheduled. The attorneys had to figure out not only why Margaret’s application had been pending for so long, but also the basis of her green card to determine if they could face any obstacles with the Naturalization.
As the attorneys started working with Margaret, they learned that she was originally from Nigeria. She entered the U.S. in 2001 on a tourist visa. Years later, she found love and married a U.S. Citizen. Her then U.S. Citizen husband filed a marriage-based petition, however, it was during this process that she discovered that he had some very serious convictions, including one that prevented him from ever petitioning for her or anyone. Soon, her relationship took a negative turn and she was a victim of physical and verbal abuse. As a result, she was able to get a green card based on a VAWA petition.
Margaret needed significant guidance with her Naturalization process and the attorneys gave her assistance regarding what she needed to present to show that she was eligible to naturalize. They prepared her for the interview and represented her at the interview in March. No one know really what to expect, and so the attorneys prepared her on questions that could come up regarding her VAWA petition as it has been USCIS’s recent practice to virtually re-adjudicate the green card application during the Naturalization interview. The interview was also scheduled at the USCIS office in Lawrence which has a reputation as an unfriendly field office. Luckily the interviewing officer was very kind and didn’t ask very many questions of our client. The officer also noted that the reason why it took so long for USCIS to schedule an interview was because the lawyer who first filed the application – back in 2016 – had mistakenly mixed up the first page of Margaret’s application with another applicant which created huge confusion for USCIS. It’s funny how a seemingly innocent mistake can have such long-lasting effects on a case that it took over three years to figure out!
Nevertheless the interview went very well and our client’s application was approved and on April 17, Margaret took her oath and became a US Citizen. After arriving to the United States almost 20 years ago, Margaret can now finally call herself a citizen of the United States – a country she has know for most of her adult life.
Chocolate Lover’s Night!
Excitement is growing for the West Chelmsford’s Chocolate
Lover’s Night! You don’t want to miss this! Although someone suggested that they hold a chocolate event every month, the plan for now is only for May 18 at 6:30 pm at West Chelmsford UMC, 242 Main Street, North Chelmsford.
We will have 12 stations for you to sample our best chocolate delicacies. Participants will vote on their favorite and an award will be given to the highest vote getter. We hope to feature the Living Stones Band, a Brazilian partner at West Chelmsford UMC.
Adults and youth, 10 and up are $8 each, children 5-9 are $5 and children under 4 are free. All proceeds go to Justice For Our Neighbors, Lawrence/Lowell Clinic.
Bedford’s First Church, Congregational: “Pasta for a Purpose”
Despite the cold and rain, approximately 100 hungry people gathered to enjoy a warm, cozy evening hosted by Bedford’s First Church of Christ, Congregational. It was a joyful evening of delicious food and welcoming atmosphere made even better knowing that all proceeds from the “Pasta for a Purpose” spaghetti dinner are being donated to the JFON Lawrence and Lowell clinics.
The event featured unlimited pasta and homemade meatballs, salad, bread, dessert and drinks in a festive environment with thematic background music to boot. JFON’s own Gary Richards and NE Justice Center’s Ethan Horowitz addressed the crowd at different moments to speak about current immigration issues and why JFON exists to support immigrants with their cases. They were both well received and were happy to continue the conversation at their dining table where several of her guests engaged with them. Guests were also invited to guess how many marbles were in a jar for a chance to win a $25 gift card to Not Your Average Joe’s restaurant.
Church volunteers report that they received many compliments on the evening’s event and were satisfied with the turnout and support. Event totals will be reported in next month’s newsletter as proceeds are not finalized as of this newsletter’s deadline.
Successful Fundraisers for Lawrence/Lowell JFON in Acton
An impromptu event at St Matthews UMC in Acton raised $350 for the Lawrence/Lowell Justice for Our Neighbors. Custom Blend, an a capella group, donated half the proceeds of their concert to JFON. They were awesome and they have offered to do another concert later.