Providing hospitality to low-income immigrants with legal services, advocacy, & education December 2019
Report from Lawrence and Lowell Clinics
Status of Clinics and Clients: Our partnership with the Northeast Justice Center over this past year made it possible for Justice For Our Neighbors (JFON) to provide legal advice and counsel at the Lawrence and Lowell clinics for around 100 low income immigrants over this past year. The Justice Center is currently handling cases for 19-20 JFON clients, most of whom are unaccompanied minors, children under 18 who came into this country without their parents. Usually they come because of violence and gangs in their home countries and may have been sent to relatives already living in the Lawrence/Lowell area.
Know Your Rights Workshop: During November and December we offered two Know Your Rights Workshops in place of the clinics. Three attorneys from Northeast Justice Center spoke first about the range of legal services provided for low income residents of northeastern Massachusetts. Next, we learned about the many different ways immigrants enter the country (walking across the border, through a checkpoint, by water, by air, or by refugee resettlement, and others) and why our Intake Volunteers ask so many questions about how immigrants arrived. Then we learned that immigration law is not fair nor does it make sense. Politics and racism have affected immigration law over its history.
We also learned about different government groups that handle immigrant issues. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) are at every airport and on the north and south border and have check points up to 100 miles from the border. There is one in Woodstock, NH. Lawyers say the law is unclear whether or not one can refuse to answer their questions.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are the immigration police inside the country. The closest office for us is Burlington, MA but there is no court there. If the immigrant’s appointment is in Burlington, then its with ICE. Courts are in Boston. It’s important to not confuse the two.
Finally, we learned that one does not have to open your home nor speak to ICE agents who do not have a search warrant. It’s important to be confident and secure in one’s rights and not run away, but calmly walk away if encountered outside your home. The workshop was informative for immigrants and helpful for volunteers who are accompanying JFON clients in their encounter with the U.S. Immigration System.
Looking Forward to the New Year: The Northeast Justice Center has recently hired a new immigration attorney who will staff our clinics in 2020. In January we will move to a new day for the Lowell Clinic (the second Monday of each month) and return to the same day for the Lawrence Clinic (the fourth Monday of each month). If you’d like to observe a clinic or an Intake process, please get in touch with David Troughton at email@example.com. We usually have one or two observers at each clinic. David Troughton represented the Lawrence/Lowell clinics as part of the team that negotiated a new contract with the Northeast Justice Center. They staff the clinics in Lawrence,
Lowell, and Woburn. We look forward to another successful year working with the Northeast Justice Center.
Celebrating Our First Birthday
At our first annual fundraising dinner on November 9th at North Boston Korean UMC in Andover, JFON celebrated its first birthday. Yes, it’s been a year since the beginning of the clinics in Lawrence and Lowell. We have provided advice and counsel to about 60 immigrants and the Justice Center has accepted about 20 cases for full representation. More cases will be accepted in the coming year, even as they continue to represent those that have already been taken on.
We celebrated this birthday with an International Festival, which included dancing, music, and presentations, as well as dinner and a silent auction. We raised over $6,000 at this event.
The contract with the Northeast Justice Center is our major expense and accounts for $50,000 in our budget. Funds come from multiple sources, but our goal is to raise 50% of this amount locally. Many of our partner churches are raising funds to help us continue into the future. Here are some different approaches to raising funds to help our immigrant neighbors:
Aldersgate in Chelmsford is having a Cookie Walk for JFON.
West Chelmsford UMC is talking about penny jars to save our coins for JFON. It’s surprising how fast pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters add up!
St. Matthew’s in Acton will include JFON in their annual Festival of Giving. Their Sunday School Children created this artwork for our recent Auction and will be selling cards created from it.
Please consider having your group or congregation raise funds to help our neighbors and friends through Justice for Our Neighbors. Contact Sharon Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org to publicise your event.
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.