Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON) began in 1999 as a program of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). In 2012, National Justice for Our Neighbors (NJFON) was incorporated as an independent nonprofit organization retaining its association with the United Methodist Church and UMCOR while building relationships in the wider community.
NJFON operates under the guidance of a diverse board of directors. A small full-time professional staff and Consulting Attorneys around the country provide mentoring and legal guidance to JFON network local attorneys and staff. NJFON implements the JFON mission seeking excellence in policy, standards, best practices, strategic planning, advocacy, collaborative initiatives, development expertise, monitoring, consulting and accountability throughout the JFON network.
As of November 2017, the JFON network consists of 17 independently operated sites, which maintain nearly 50 immigration legal clinics and various other forms of legal service delivery. Generally, these sites are either independent 501(c)(3) organizations or affiliated with a United Methodist entity. Each JFON site provides direct immigration legal services to low-income (defined as no more than 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines) immigrants, using staff attorneys and legal assistants. These sites also utilize members of the community who volunteer their time welcoming, translating, providing hospitality and connections to community resources. The JFON network has handled more than 10,000 cases in 2017 and provides many additional hours in providing care and support for immigrant brothers and sisters.
This three-year NJFON strategic plan will guide us from 2018-2020.
NJFON fosters a thriving, sustainable network of community-based sites that welcome and enable immigrants to participate more fully in society.
NJFON supports a hospitality ministry that welcomes immigrants by providing affordable, high-quality immigration legal services to low-income immigrants, engaging in advocacy for immigrant rights, and offering education to communities of faith and to the public.
Values and Stances
The JFON network will deliver high quality professional immigration legal services.
JFON sites are welcoming to clients. Immigrants will be treated with compassion in an environment that fosters confidentiality, safety and hospitality.
Diversity is a source of strength in the human community. Our network will serve clients regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, ideology, gender or sexual orientation. We will strive for diversity in our organization and network. We will demonstrate leadership diversity in age, gender, faith background, ethnicity and life experience.
We will be accountable to the people we serve, including JFON sites, clients and the broader public inviting healthy dialogue and critical input to our programming.
We will be open to new ideas and will encourage JFON sites to be innovative in programming to best meet diverse immigrant communities’ needs.
We will encourage JFON sites to learn from one another and to partner with community organizations. We support and participate in partnerships because we value the power of collaboration among individuals, organizations and communities of faith.
We will advocate for laws that ensure that all immigrants are treated with respect and human dignity, and that affirm immigrants’ valuable contributions to our society.
We recognize that immigrants in the United States are experiencing an unprecedented level of criminalization, fear and uncertainty as a result of the current administration’s rhetoric and policies. The need for the JFON network’s legal services, education and advocacy have all increased in scope and in urgency. While this environment does not change the focus of NJFON’s work, it means our ministry is more vital than ever. Consistent with our previous strategic plan from 2015-2017, NJFON will remain focused on:
- Ensuring JFON site sustainability and increasing the network’s capacity to offer high-quality legal services to more clients (both at existing sites and new sites);
- Advocating for just immigration policies; and,
- Educating the community about immigration issues and about JFON’s ongoing response to evolving immigration issues.
Infused within these strategic priorities will be two themes critical to the success of the plan: a) organization and leadership development; and b) strong partnerships.
1. Ensuring Sustainability and Increasing Capacity
NJFON seeks to ensure that sites are self-supporting. We also strive to facilitate JFON sites’ growth and network expansion so that more clients can be served in more communities. In general, NJFON’s local site support toward sustainability also helps expansion. We also know that NJFON itself must continue to develop, just as we encourage growth in our network. This strategic goal, therefore, addresses both sustainability and growth, and is broken down into four categories: strengthening NJFON, organization development for JFON network, leadership and partnerships
A.) Strengthening National JFON
In order for NJFON to effectively support the JFON network, it must first give attention to its own sustainability. NJFON will nurture its vital relationships within the United Methodist Church and also look beyond the church to develop a broader, more sustainable base of support. These connections will help NJFON to improve our name recognition, keep abreast of best practices, create broader reach, develop a more diverse funding stream, and leverage resources.
We will be intentional about strengthening ties with UMCOR and communicating the impact that UMCOR’s support has on the immigrant community. We will also strengthen relationships with other United Methodist agencies, caucuses and Annual Conferences, with the understanding that our work has grown out of the United Methodist Church and these groups are natural allies in this ministry.
NJFON recognizes the value in developing a board that will help us continue to grow. We will diversify and strengthen our board beyond members of the United Methodist Church to include individuals from other faith backgrounds and members with fundraising experience, connections to foundations, experience in nonprofit governance, backgrounds in government and advocacy, and ties with other immigrant-serving organizations.
We will pursue partnerships and collaborative grants in an effort to continue to increase support from private foundations, AILA, bar associations, and other immigration legal service organizations.
B.) Organization Development for JFON Network
The JFON network’s primary mission is to provide immigration legal services to low-income immigrants. Many cases undertaken by JFON attorneys require months or years to fully resolve, so it is imperative that sites are sustainable and clients are not left without representation.
NJFON recognizes that new JFON site’s needs differ from established sites with experience serving clients. For new JFON sites joining the network, NJFON will work to support local site boards and staff in learning programming and management skills, and creating cultures of generosity and philanthropy to support the work of JFON in their communities. We will expect boards to demonstrate diversity in age, gender, faith background, ethnicity and life experience. NJFON expects and requires new JFON sites to develop practices of excellence in their governance and operations at the earliest stages in their existence.
NJFON will develop processes to help sites construct appropriate, meaningful strategic plans, development plans, and succession plans and will establish mechanisms to hold sites accountable to those plans. We will also help sites engage in best practices that promote retention of skilled staff attorneys and other staff; fundamental to quality legal service delivery and organizational growth.
NJFON recognizes that JFON sites are most successful when they employ a dedicated, highly-skilled executive director to lead the organization. In some instances, JFON sites struggle when their attorney is expected to carry out non-legal work that is typically directors’ responsibilities. In other cases, such work falls to a board of directors who have neither the time nor skills to undertake the director work. Therefore, NJFON will focus on helping JFONs to select, retain and train successful executive directors to lead the organizations.
NJFON will promote opportunities for executive directors to learn from one another. We will also support nonprofit management training for executive directors. Additionally, NJFON will maintain strong relationships with site leadership to promote relationships of trust and facilitate idea and information sharing across the JFON network.
NJFON will assist sites in developing stronger relationships with their Annual Conferences, United Methodist Districts, local United Methodist Churches, and other faith communities. We will support and where possible, facilitate relationship-building with law firms, the private bar, the American Immigration Lawyers Association and other organizations and individuals who may serve as volunteers or donors. We will foster opportunities for sites to partner with other organizations and local immigrant communities in creative programming and in fund development activities including non-profit organizations serving immigrants and their families in the medical, educational and human service areas in.
NJFON will ensure that new sites are positioned to serve an unmet need, are not duplicating services, and have identified partners for their work. NJFON will pursue the development of a robust network where sites increasingly look to each other for support.
NJFON advocates for policies that promote family unity; protect access to the justice and immigration/citizenship systems; defend marginalized populations, including unaccompanied children, survivors of abuse, asylees, refugees and border communities; and enhance the rights and dignity of all individuals. We strongly believe in supporting and equipping immigrants and refugees to be leaders in the movement and amplifying the voices of impacted populations at the national, state, and local levels.
NJFON recognizes that over the next three years, advocacy at the state and local level for immigrants and refugees will be increasingly critical. We also recognize that neither NJFON nor JFON sites have the capacity to advocate alone, and that any advocacy effort is most effective in partnership with others. Therefore, our advocacy strategy both for the local/state level and the national level focuses on enhancing partnerships.
NJFON will advocate for federal immigration policies that align with our values and defend against policies that threaten them. We will strengthen partnerships with other immigrant and refugee rights organizations. We will seek to add value to advocacy through our network’s on-the-ground experiences with low-income immigrants seeking legal assistance. We will leverage our connections to clients and the stories they voluntarily share to enhance advocacy efforts.
We will continue to use impact litigation as a way to leverage our legal expertise for advocacy. We will strategically select cases to litigate, as well as weigh in on pending cases through amicus curiae briefs, that align with our values and expertise and that have the potential to create precedent for immigrants nationwide. Our impact litigation will be used as a tool for positive social change for countless immigrant families even while immigration reform is stalled. Whenever possible, we will partner with other organizations in these efforts.
B.) State and Local
NJFON will concentrate its support for local and state advocacy efforts in areas served by JFON sites. Most JFON sites do not have the resources to lead advocacy efforts. Thus, NJFON will focus on supporting JFON sites’ ability to strengthen local partnerships with organizations that specialize in advocacy for immigrant issues. We will explore ways to foster coalition-building at the local level with the goal of helping sites raise awareness of issues that impact immigrants and refugees.
There are two layers to NJFON’s education efforts. The first relates to educating immigrants and our communities about immigrants’ rights, immigration laws, issues and policies, global migration and much more. While the desire for this type of information by immigrants and others has intensified over the past year and may continue to do so, NJFON will not seek to duplicate the quality materials and resources that are created and maintained by our various partners. We will ensure that JFON sites have access to trustworthy, relevant information. We will seek to create resources whenever gaps are identified or whenever it is useful to produce materials unique to JFON.
NJFON will take a hands-on role in helping sites inform a wide range of stakeholders, including immigrants, about the work of JFON. This includes creating templates for promotional and fundraising materials, writing stories, sharing photos and more. We will encourage sites to tailor this information so that it is useful for educating their own communities about their organization.