Providing hospitality to low-income immigrants with legal services, advocacy, & education April 2020
Report from Lawrence and Lowell Clinics
Status of Clinics and Clients
We are happy to share that our JFON clinics were opened and have been operating prior to shutting down the clinics due to the Covid 19 virus. During this time of crisis, we continue to receive client names and contact info, as well as assess cases. Clients will be represented by the Justice Center attorneys who work with us and we will open the clinics once we are given the okay by public officials.
We saw clients on January 13, February 10, and March 9 in Lowell. You might notice that these are Mondays which is a better day for our host church, Centralville UMC. We also saw clients on January 27 and February 24 at Christ Church in Lawrence. Legal advice was provided by Ana Otero and Yoana Kuzmova, JFON attorneys for the Northeast Justice Center. They saw 16 clients, from Uganda, Kenya, Liberia, Honduras, Santo Domingo, Brasil, Guatemala, Mexico, and El Salvador. There were 10 women, 6 men, and 6 immigrant juvenile cases.
Hospitality was graciously provided by North Andover UMC, Aldersgate UMC, Centralville UMC, West Chelmsford UMC and St. Matthew’s UMC in Acton. These churches have been faithful to welcoming immigrants to our clinics and providing meals for clients and volunteers. We have many volunteers doing Intake and Interpretation and thank them for their commitment to this work.
Scott Richards and Emily Ferarra are now sharing management of the Lowell Clinic and others have stepped up to complete the Intake Roles. David Troughton is sharing management of the Lawrence clinic with Sharon Jones, as well as continuing to be our Volunteer Coordinator and did the phone intake for a brief period while Oscar Guana was in Columbia for the Christmas. We continue to transition in some of the necessary roles and we are open to new volunteers.
We have, however, closed the Lawrence and Lowell Clinics for the remainder of March and April. Attorneys will work directly with the clients passed on to them. We currently have 11 clients that are in the pipeline and will be "seen" (either onsite at the Justice Center or via phone) by Ana and Yoana. This should take us through the end of April. The goal is to continue to see clients at the rate we would normally see them at the clinics, e.g. 4 clients per clinic.
Interview with Emily Ferrara, Co-Coordinator Lowell Clinic
Recently, Sharon Jones, editor of this newsletter asked Emily a few questions. Here is the interview:
Sharon: What is it like to be a JFON volunteer?
Emily: To be a JFON volunteer is to be part of a community committed to providing radical hospitality to individuals at risk for deportation – unaccompanied minors, people in fear for their safety, even their lives due to circumstances beyond their control in their home country. As volunteers, we join with clients and their kin on the path of possibility and hope.
Sharon: What do you take away from your experience at a clinic?
Emily: At a recent clinic, the mother of one of our clients waited patiently while her daughter went through the intake process, followed by her consultation with the JFON immigration attorney. While waiting, the client’s mother and I found ways to communicate, despite the fact that she neither spoke nor understood English, and vice a versa. We connected as mothers of daughters: since I’d met her daughter, I brought out my iPhone and showed her a picture of my 33-year- old “baby girl.” Then she googled scenes of stunning waterfalls in her beloved country of origin. We gestured, nodded, smiled and furrowed our foreheads as we tried to decipher meaning. We passed the time in camaraderie born of sharing an experience. When it was time to part, she held out her arms and we hugged.
Sharon: Why do you volunteer for JFON?
Emily: I believe in our clients’ capacity for resilience even in the face of dire circumstances. And I want to bring my energy to support their agency in finding a pathway to safety and security here in the U.S.
Although we are not operating clinics right now, our attorneys continue to serve clients previously seen and we continue to do intakes and they assess the cases. We have great hope that we will return to offering hospitality and legal advice at JFON clinics in the near future. We can learn from our history during this time and take a lesson from the Woburn JFON clinic. When they were shut down a few years ago, the volunteers worked raising funds for the time when they would reopen. We can take similar action and continue to raise funds for a future free of this virus.
In November, we held our first district-wide celebration and birthday party for the Lawrence and Lowell clinic of the Justice For Our Neighbors in the New England Annual Conference. As a result of the auction and dinner, we raised $6,929. Many thanks to North Boston Korean UMC for hosting and donating the Korean food, as well as Centralville UMC in Lowell for donating that Ghanain dinner and Christ UMC in Lawrence for donating the Central American food. We also want to thank those who donated items for the auction.
Prior to November, churches contributed $4,565.78 by holding chili cookoffs, a chocolate lovers night, spaghetti dinners, and special offerings. Thank you to all who worked on these events!
During this first quarter, we have received donations from Aldersgate UMC in Chelmsford, Christ United, UCC in Lowell, and the UCC in Bedford totalling $4,836. We hope that other churches and groups are planning small fundraisers. Let us know if we can publicise your event.
In addition, individuals donated $645 to our work and we want to thank those people as well. If you want to make a donation, please send them in care of Sylvia Missal at Belmont Watertown UMC, 421 Common St., Belmont, MA 02478. Please indicate on any donation that it is for the clinics in Lawrence and Lowell.
During our first year of operation, as a result of church fundraising and individual donations and the November dinner, we raised $12,139.78 toward the cost of the Lowell and Lawrence JFON clinic. Congratulations to all who helped to raise these funds!
The total cost for the Lawrence and Lowell clinics and the legal services that are provided to the clients accepted for full representation by the Northeast Justice Center is $50,000. Our goal for 2020 is to raise $14,000 toward our share of the JFON New England budget. If we can surpass this goal locally, then more services can be offered throughout New England.
From National JFON: Nebraska Homecoming(Posted on December 16, 201 by Immigrant Legal Center, our JFON site in Nebraska.)
On the day the police knocked on her employers’ door, Emelina, as usual, was told to go into her room and be quiet. She was not to make a sound and not to come out for any reason.Emelina pressed her ear against the bedroom door and listened.“How many people live in this house?” she heard the officer ask.
“Just myself, my husband and my children,” answered the wife smoothly. The employers—a man and wife—spoke with confidence. They clearly expected the visit to end and for the policeman to now go away. But the officer continued to question them. Emelina couldn’t understand all the words, but the tone of his voice indicated he was suspicious.
The neighbor next door must have told the police that the couple employed a servant, Emelina realized. A servant who worked endless hours cooking, cleaning, and caring for five young children, who never had a holiday or a day off, who never even went outside except to collect aluminum cans in the early morning hours. Cans she would give to her employers who turned them in for money. They weren’t her employers. They were more like her owners.
Emelina’s heart was pounding so hard in her chest she thought for sure the policemen would hear it. The wife had warned her repeatedly that she would be in big trouble with the police if they ever found out about her. She still owed the couple money for bringing her from Guatemala, they told her. They would tell immigration to deport her. And maybe even worse things would happen to her.
Emelina had left her young son with her mother in Guatemala a year ago, planning to send her promised wages back home to help provide for him. But Emelina had been duped. She hadn’t yet been paid a single penny.
“They didn’t give me the food they ate themselves, they didn’t allow me to bathe every day, they wouldn’t let me see the doctor when I was sick with flu, they wouldn’t even allow me to talk to my son on the telephone unless they were listening,” says Emelina.
“I was afraid of the police,” she admits, “but I decided it was better to let the police catch me than to spend another day in that prison.” Emelina took a deep breath, opened the door and walked out.
Nancy Cardoza, supervising attorney for Immigrant Legal Center, our JFON site in Nebraska, met Emelina several months later. Her new client was living in a women’s shelter, Nancy remembers, and was very quiet and withdrawn. It was difficult to get her to speak at first.
Emelina remembers that meeting a different way. “I was glad because she wanted to help me, and I thought she would understand me because she is also a woman,” she says. “And Nancy was very nice and always very calm.”
Because Emelina had cooperated with law enforcement, Nancy was able to get certification that identified her client as a victim of labor trafficking and thus eligible for a T Visa. The certification from law enforcement is crucial in T Visa cases, says Nancy; without it, a T Visa is much less likely to be granted to a trafficking victim.
When Nancy filed Emelina’s T Visa claim, she also filed a derivative claim for David, Emelina’s son. Within a year, Emelina had her T Visa; David wouldn’t be able to enter the U.S. on his visa for another year.
By this time, Senior Managing Attorney Anna Deal had taken over Emelina’s case and the long and unwieldy consular process necessary to reunite mother and son.
“One weekend, she traveled two hours each way to a Guatemalan consul mobile unit in Schuyler, Nebraska,” remembers Anna. “And she had to go back the next day. Emelina also had to fly to Denver at one point in the process. There were just a lot of logistics involved.”
“It wasn’t too difficult because Anna helped me so much,” says Emelina. “I had fears and worries, but I just kept thinking about my son. And I was very thankful to have Anna and everyone on my side.”
If you’re interested in learning more about the NEJFON clinic in Lawrence and Lowell or how you can help, please be in touch with Sharon Jones, firstname.lastname@example.org or David Troughton, email@example.com.
We rely on the financial commitments of congregations, organizations, and individuals. We appreciate and welcome your support of this ministry. To make a financial contribution, go to the Donation page on our website. You may also send contributions to: New England Justice for Our Neighbors, Belmont-Watertown UMC c/o Jocelyn Milton, 421 Common St, Belmont, MA 02478. Thank you for your ongoing support.