TPS has provided protection in the U.S. for nationals from certain countries for whom a return home is unsafe or unfeasible due to natural disaster or civil unrest. Salvadorans are by far the largest group of TPS recipients and were granted this relief after a pair of earthquakes in 2001. With the highest murder rate in the world, El Salvador remains extremely unstable. Moreover, those with TPS have built their lives and raised families here in the U.S. for more than 15 years.
Approximately 200,000 TPS holders from El Salvador will lose their status in September 2019, after which their lives will be upended and put in danger.
“The Justice for Our Neighbors network has helped hundreds of Salvadoran TPS beneficiaries throughout the years with their applications and work permit renewals,” adds Rutland-Brown. “In doing so, we know they now face an impossible choice: whether to separate from their families, take their children into unsafe conditions in a country unknown to them, or retreat into the shadows of our communities.”
“The truth is, I feel very sad,” says Marco, a school custodian in Fairfax County, Virginia. Marco is a longtime JFON client and Salvadoran TPS holder. “I left El Salvador nearly 30 years ago because of the Civil War, and I have lived here all these years,” he explains. “I work day and night so my two children can have a good future. They were born here and this is their country. I wasn’t born here, but I feel like this is my country, too.”
NJFON believes in upholding human dignity, keeping families together and providing refuge to our most vulnerable neighbors. Therefore, we call upon Congress to act to protect vulnerable people and pass legislation that will allow TPS holders to obtain permanent legal status in the U.S.
Speaking on behalf of the entire Trump administration, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced his intention to end DACA by March 5th, 2018.
This decision will not only affect the 800,000 young people currently with DACA status, but many more DACA-eligible youths whose applications filed after today will not be considered.
Congress now has six months to take action on DACA and pass legislation to protect these young people and secure the future of all those eligible for DACA.
DACA recipients are not only our clients, but our board members, staff, partners, friends, and family. Our future is intertwined with theirs, our country and lives enriched by their many contributions. We stand in full solidarity with immigrants and our allies and will lift our voices unequivocally in opposition to this decision and in full support of the Dream Act of 2017.
In the meantime, our attorneys will identify any other avenues of legal remedies for clients with DACA and help these young people apply for immigration benefits.
This is not the end.
We are also here to stay, and we will never back down from this fight for justice.
“If I could work—even a little—it would help my brother who is supporting me and my little sister.”
In our video The JFON DREAMers in their own words, we see but a sampling of the young DACAmented clients the JFON network has helped over the last five years. They tell us of their plans to go to college, join the military, and have successful careers. They express their hopes to be of service to their communities, their adopted country, and the world. We hear their longing to belong and to be recognized as Americans.
But another, more prosaic, reason why DACA matters so much to our clients is found in an open-ended question on the I-765 Worksheet submitted to the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS). Applicants are asked to explain why they need work authorization.
“My dad is sick. He has diabetes and I want to be able to help him pay for his medicine and other bills at home.”
We’ve collected a lot of these statements from our clients over the years. Some of them expound on their goals and ambitions:
“I need to work to save for college,” they begin, followed by the expressed desire to become—a nurse, a teacher, a doctor, an engineer, a lawyer, a diplomat. One young man expressed himself simply and poignantly:
One constant that runs through many of their statements is the worry and concern for their parents. Some of these applicants are still teenagers in high school, yet they are keenly aware of their elders’ struggles and sacrifices:
“I know my parents are having a rough time with the economy. I want to help them pay the rent and buy food.”
“Helping my grandma pay for her medication would be the nicest thing I could ever do.”
Many of the DACAmented who were young adults in 2012—or who have since become young adults five years later—are now working to support their own children. Many others support parents, siblings, relatives both here and back in the country of their birth:
I am the cashier and food runner at a local deli and make approximately $8.00 an hour. I need to have more work. I send back money to Honduras to help support my mom, dad, and two sisters.”
“My mother and I work to support my younger brother, who has cerebral palsy.”
For many of our DACA clients, security, the ability to wake up in the morning and know they will return to that same place in the evening—this is what truly matters the most; even if that security is doled out two years at a time.
This benefit of DACA has gained greater urgency during the current administration, which has stated that all undocumented immigrants are priorities for deportation. The statements below were written way back in 2012 and to read them now is to feel, once again, the ever-present menace of living in perilous times.
“I have a daughter and want to start building her future. I would like to not be deported and have to leave my family behind.”
“DACA will cease my fear of being deported and I would feel more safe and not so scared because I can prove to anyone that I can be in the U.S.A.”
NJFON Executive Director Rob Rutland-Brown urges you to take action against the anti-family and anti-refugee bill before Congress
National Justice for Our Neighbors strongly opposes the “Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy” (RAISE) Act, introduced by Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) and championed by the Trump Administration. This anti-family and anti-refugee bill would dismantle our nation’s immigration system based on supporting family unification and would greatly reduce refugee admissions, instead favoring a “merit-based” points system based on the applicant’s ability to speak English and benefit the U.S. economy.
Like so many other proposals that have been floated in recent months, the justification for this bill—that it would increase wages and protect American jobs—relies not on facts but on myths meant to make us fear immigrants. For example, last year the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine produced a 500+ page report in which the lead researcher concluded that immigration had “little to no negative effects on overall wages and employment of native-born workers in the longer term.”
More importantly, this bill is an affront to the core values of JFON: promoting family unity and defending the most vulnerable. We are called to serve those who are desperately seeking safety, refuge, and family.
Another relevant text, also not cited by those introducing the bill, the Bible, reminds us, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:40)
Here are some components of the bill that demonstrate why we vehemently oppose it:
Reduces legal immigration channels by 50-70 percent, with an 85 percent cut to family-based immigration.
Permanently caps refugee admissions at 50,000 per year, the lowest resettlement goal in U.S. history, during the largest global refugee crisis in world history.
Eliminates the ability of U.S. citizens to sponsor their brothers and sisters, and creates an impossible process for them to sponsor their parents for five-year visas, during which time the parents would not be able to work and the child would have to cover all expenses and health insurance costs.
Stops green card holders from sponsoring their children over the age of 18.
Leaves approximately four million people, who have been promised a visa and are waiting in line for it to become available, without any opportunity to reunite with their family members.
Essentially only permits individuals who have certain education levels, work history, English-language ability, or high-paying job offers to enter the United States.
The Interfaith Immigration Coalition, of which National JFON is a member, has drafted this sign-on letter that we encourage all faith leaders, churches, and JFONs to sign. Also, we urge you to call your Senators and Representative today at 202-224-3121.
Sample Script: “I’m your constituent from [CITY/TOWN], and I am strongly OPPOSED to Senators Cotton and Perdue’s RAISE Act. This bill would permanently cut refugee resettlement numbers to historic lows, make familyreunification inaccessible, and essentially only permit individuals who have certain education levels, employment history, and English-language ability to enter the United States. I urge you to reject this bill and do everything in your power to see that it does NOT become law.”
JFON Impact Litigation creates far-reaching change in the lives of immigrants
Each year, the JFON network of attorneys change, protect, and even save the lives of thousands of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. They do this one client at a time, slogging through the miles of paperwork, filings, and court appearances for each case.
But what if you—through your client’s case—could change, protect, or save the life of not only one individual, but hundreds, even thousands of people?
“When you are able to positively change policy—and in some instances, create law—through an individual case, you can help countless people with similar cases who come after that original client,” he explains. “The potential for making an impact on the lives of immigrants through this type of litigation is extremely exciting.”
Remberto Aguinada-Lopez was in a detention center, his asylum request denied, when Shane first came across his case.
Those seeking asylum in the U.S. must prove persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit had ruled that family ties could not be included in the “particular social group” category; therefore, people fearing torture and death from gangs in El Salvador due solely to a familial association were not eligible for asylum.
Remberto had been a student at a technical school. He was not a gang member, but his cousin was. Rival gangs, as a means to intimidate this cousin, repeatedly beat, shot at, and threatened Remberto. These same gang members would eventually shoot and kill the cousin outside of Remberto’s mother’s house.
The long history of murderous despots in this world tells us that this is nothing new. Whether they battle over a country, a village, or a territory of several city blocks, violent thugs do not restrict their slaughter to other combatants. Frequently they go after family members to “send a message” or just because they can. Such is life in El Salvador and in many other violence-ravaged countries and failed states in the world.
“Our odds of winning were not great,” admits Shane. “JFON had not represented him in the earlier proceedings; we were jumping in after he had lost at every previous level.”
Ultimately, the Eighth Circuit reversed its first decision and reaffirmed that persecution due to family ties is sufficient reason to make a person eligible for asylum. Family ties joined the “particular social group” along with race, religion, nationality, and political opinion categories for asylum seekers.
However, before Shane and his team could celebrate this astonishing victory, they had to deal with a fresh calamity. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had unlawfully deported Remberto back to El Salvador.
“It was an extraordinarily reckless action,” Shane says. “The Eighth Circuit had explicitly ordered DHS to keep him here while the court weighed our petition. But DHS deported him anyway.”
While Shane’s team scrambled to get Remberto back to the U.S., Remberto was in hiding in a distant relative’s house in El Salvador, confining himself to one room for weeks. Every day, every hour he remained there he was in grave danger.
The judge who had issued the original stay ordered the DHS to bring Remberto back as soon as possible. They were forced to return him on a chartered jet.
“He knew he was coming back to the U.S. to go to jail—and yes, detention centers are jails,”—yet still he preferred jail to remaining in El Salvador,” says Shane.
The deliberate violation of the court’s order had one fortuitous consequence for Remberto that DHS had not foreseen. Remberto, as a guest of the U.S. government, had entered the country lawfully on that chartered flight. He was now eligible to seek an adjustment of status through his U.S. citizen spouse.
“This is how you make lemonade out of lemons,” declares Shane with a grin.
Shane’s team secured Remberto’s release from detention and reopened his removal proceedings. He is now reunited with his wife and pursuing his green card application. He remains profoundly grateful to Shane and the herculean efforts of his entire legal team, acknowledging that every day of his life is an unexpected gift.
“Literally,” Shane says, “his life was saved.”
We agree that someone saved this young man’s life. But doesn’t the credit belong to Shane himself?
Shane shakes his head. “No, I was part of an excellent legal team. I had great support from the JFON network of staff, volunteers, and donors. I can’t take credit,” he explains earnestly, “for something I didn’t do alone. “
There will be other Rembertos. Other Felipes, Carmens, Myats, Mustafas, and Gabriels. The names may change. The countries of origin may change.
But those who are targets of horrific violence perpetuated by gangs due to their family relationships now have a chance to seek safety here in the United States.
That will not change.
From now on, when judges within the Eighth Circuit weigh asylum cases, they will be required to consider family ties as a legitimate reason for seeking asylum. That is a direct result of the game-changing impact litigation of Remberto’s legal team.
“Yes, it’s a good feeling,” acknowledges Shane, smiling broadly. “Trust me, there’s nothing like it in the world.”
I walk in, take a deep breath, and say, “me llamo Katrina, y trabajo para la Justicia para Nuestros Vecinos como abogada. No trabajo para el gobierno. Necesito a alguien para traducir.”
I’ve just introduced myself, assured them I don’t work for the government, and stated I need someone to translate.
Twice a month, this is what Tuesdays look like for me as I present Know Your Rights programs for the detained immigrants in the Calhoun County Correctional Facility in Battle Creek, Michigan.
The immigrants here are in various stages of the deportation process, and many are not from Michigan; they were brought in on buses from the border, and have no idea that they’re only three hours away from Canada.
The presentations I offer consist of information on how to navigate the court system, what their rights are in the court process, and what remedies they may be eligible for. The information I provide helps guide them in the right direction, without taking the immigrant on for full representation.
Currently, JFON West Michigan is the only agency that does these presentations at Battle Creek. Without us, the only sources of information detained immigrants have are the government, a small law library (all in English, mind you), other inmates, or, if they are lucky, family on the outside who can hire an attorney.
They need someone on their side. Someone to explain this biased system and our laws, just like I need someone to explain their language for me. They need someone to commiserate with them about being treated like criminals, even though they only wanted safety and fled for their lives. Someone to tell them how long they can be detained after they are ordered to be deported. Someone to assure them that being here doesn’t make them a bad person, a bad spouse, or a bad parent.
What do you do now? What happens to your daughter?
Do you know your rights?
At Know Your Rightsworkshops, immigrants—whatever their immigration status—can learn their rights as residents in this country, prepare for the possibility of a raid, and create a safety plan for their family.
These informational sessions are not a new thing, but the sense of urgency and the number of communities clamoring for them feels different from previous years. Hateful campaign rhetoric, multiple executive orders, subsequent cases filed to combat them, and the inundation of fake news on social media have all contributed to create an atmosphere of confusion, worry, and fear.
JFON attorneys across the country have responded to this heightened demand by leading more workshops, not only in their home churches, but in other houses of worship, schools, libraries and community centers.
If knowledge is power, it is also a weapon, and it is the best defense our immigrant communities have against the Trump administration’s new enforcement priorities. Some of these new priorities give sweeping power to local officials, many of whom do not have a full understanding of immigration law. Armed with knowledge, our communities can make informed choices regarding their interactions with ICE agents and local police officers and can best protect their rights at home, in their car, on the street or in their workplace.
Know Your Rightsworkshops can help, says TJ Mills, NJFON consulting attorney and site attorney for New York Justice for Our Neighbors, “assuage the concerns about the Trump administration’s executive order to deport undocumented immigrants without regard to number of years they have lived in the country or whether they have criminal records.”
Being prepared for the worst-case scenario
“Safety planning” has become an integral part of all the Know Your Rightsworkshops led by JFON attorneys, who help immigrants in danger of deportation and separation from their family compile the documents they will need if they are suddenly detained by ICE. These documents need to be kept in a secure place, one known to other trusted friends or family members. They include:
Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit—so the person taking care of your child has authority to make school-related and medical decisions.
Special Power of Attorney—for the person who will be making long-term decisions for your child’s well-being.
Limited Power of Attorney—for the person who will be handling your financial assets.
Planning for the possibility of being forced to leave your family—even just thinking about it—takes courage. It’s confusing and scary, and it’s a task best not attempted alone. JFON attorneys can walk their at-risk immigrant clients through the planning process, explaining every step along the way, and providing them some ease and assurance that, even if the worst happens, they and their family will be better equipped to deal with it.
“They are very grateful for our help,“ says Dominique Poirier, NJFON consulting attorney and legal director for Just Neighbors, our JFON site in Northern Virginia. “From what I’ve seen, people leave the workshops actually feeling encouraged and hopeful.”
“We have never been more proud,” adds Melissa Bowe, program and advocacy manager for NJFON, “to serve our immigrant family members, neighbors and larger community in teaching about our constitutional protections and other best practices under American immigration law.”
“This order limits access to our nation by the most vulnerable people in the world—those we are called to serve. It does not make our country safer, and it most certainly does not follow the Biblical mandate to love thy neighbor.”
Despite nationwide opposition and multiple legal losses, the Trump administration introduced an Executive Order on Monday, March 6, that continues to bar travelers from six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days. It also suspends refugee resettlement for 120 days, and drastically reduces the number of refugees the United States welcomes—from 110,000 to 50,000.
Unlike the previous version, the travel ban portion of this new order will not be implemented immediately. As our friends at the National Immigration Law Center point out, “this is no doubt an effort to limit the protests at airports across the country we saw within hours of the original ban. But we will not be deterred.”
These orders continue to be devastating for travelers who are detained and threatened with deportation in our airports, for our community members who are waiting to be reunited with their family members, and for refugees overseas who need to be resettled to be safe from violence and persecution.
National Justice for Our Neighbors joins the chorus of dissent against this new executive order, and encourages everyone to denounce it to their elected leaders.
“This is a normal work day for you, yes?” Zamir asked, looking around the chaotic waiting area at Washington Dulles airport, where hundreds of protesters were gathered with signs, and lawyers sat on the floor with cellphones and laptops at the ready.
Zamir is a U.S. lawful permanent resident (LPR or Green Card holder). Having served our government abroad for years in a dangerous and vital capacity, he now calls Maryland home.
“All these lawyers…they are being paid?”
“No, we’re all volunteers,” replied Angela Edman, site attorney for DC-MD JFON. Having extensive experience serving refugees and asylum seekers, Angela had driven to Dulles early on Sunday morning to assist in any way she could. And there she had met Zamir, her newest client.
“We’re here to help you.”
Zamir was silent, but his face mirrored puzzlement and disbelief.
“Because I believe the president’s orders are wrong,” Angela told him. “This is not the America I love. And we want to show you that you are welcome here.”
Just then, as if on cue, the waiting room erupted in cheers as a group of travelers straggled through the doors. There were balloons, flowers, American flags and robust cries of “welcome home!”
It had been a terrible day for Zamir. His wife, also an LPR, and his baby daughter, a U.S. citizen, were in their home country, visiting a gravely ill family member. Now they were stuck there and could not get back to Maryland.
Zamir was sick with worry, but a smile tugged at the corners of his mouth.
“Wow,” he muttered, shaking his head in wonder and gratitude. “People actually do want us here.”
“I am glad I was able to go and help by providing legal information and explanations of the constantly changing situation. But more so, I am glad I was able to provide comfort to immigrants who were confused and scared about what would happen to their family members abroad who have green cards or U.S. visas and may not be able to return.
The sheer number of people who showed up this weekend–not just the lawyers, but the huge group of regular citizens who wanted to support and welcome these people–they all helped restore some of my faith in humanity.”
-Angela Edman, site attorney for DC-MD JFON, at Washington Dulles International Airport.
National Justice for Our Neighbors is thankful to immigration attorneys—heroes and heroines like Angela–who are on the front lines zealously defending immigrants and refugees under attack by President Trump’s latest Executive Order.
The third and most recent immigration-focused Executive Order by President Trump, signed Friday, January 27th, targets refugees as well as those traveling from seven predominantly Muslim countries. National Justice for Our Neighbors is strongly opposed to this action because it shuts the door on the world’s most vulnerable people.
This order includes an unprecedented travel ban in that it excludes entry into our country based on where someone was born. The order applies to Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, Libya, Sudan, and Yemen. The ban splits families apart, prevents many students in America from continuing their education, and threatens the jobs of people who need to travel for work. In 2016, the JFON network served 175 refugees and asylees from the seven banned countries. Notably, while the ban purports to protect Americans, the total number of Americans killed on U.S. soil by citizens of those countries since 1975 is zero.
The Executive Order suspends America’s refugee program for 120 days, which will effectively grind refugee resettlement here to a halt. This is because many of the requirements of refugees, such as security screenings and medical exams, are time-limited and will expire by the time the ban is lifted. The order reduces the number of refugees we will accept from 110,000 to 50,000 and bans all refugees from Syria, reneging on our nation’s pledge to the world to provide refuge to these most imperiled people.
Another troubling element of the Executive Order is the provision which allows states to have a more active role in banning the acceptance of refugees. We have seen many governors over the past year seek to shut the door on refugees, and this order grants them more authority to do just that.
The administration action’s force our immigrant neighbors further into the shadows and cruelly endanger the lives of those fleeing violence. These actions also threaten our identity and legacy as a country. It is more important now than ever to educate ourselves and our communities, and take action in any way we can. Here’s how you can help.
Learn More and Share Information about the Latest Executive Order
Advocates from Refugee Council USA have put together the FAQ Tool attached below on what is currently known about the latest Executive Order. Please note the disclaimer at the top of the document that it “is not legal advice but instead provides the best answers that we can provide at this time. It is subject to change as additional guidance is released from the U.S. Government.”
Refugee Center Online (RCO) has prepared webpages in English, Amharic, Arabic, Chinese, French, Karen, Kurdish, Nepali, Russian, Spanish, Turkish and Vietnamese to help explain to refugees how the Executive Order will affect them. Please distribute widely!
Call Elected Officials
Elected officials must understand the broad support for welcoming refugees and other newcomers. Please call your local, state, and national leaders — tell them where you’re from, why you care about refugees, and urge them to support the U.S. refugee resettlement program. Click here for more information including a sample call script from our friends at Refugee Council USA.
We are all hearing stories of people around the country and around the world who are directly affected by the Executive Order. The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society developed this form to collect and share these stories to illustrate the widespread devastation of Trumps’ policy. These stories can include:
People detained at ports of entry
Refugees who were expecting to come to the U.S. (in the “pipeline”)
U.S. residents who were expecting their family members to join them in the U.S.
Communities and congregations who were expecting to welcome refugees (i.e. furnishing apartments, collecting donations, etc.)
By filling out the form, you are granting permission for these stories to be told publicly. No identifying information will be used. Photos are encouraged. Please contact email@example.com with any questions.
Host a Vigil or Press Event
We urge you to check out Church World Service’s resources regarding hosting VIGILS & PRESS EVENTS opposing this announcement and the immigration announcements that happened on Friday. Let us know if you decide to host an event and please send us photos!
Sign A Petition
Sign THIS PETITION from Moveon.org that opposes the latest Executive Order and already has more than 37,000 signatures within 24 hours.
Thank you for all the ways you are helping us lift a message of inclusivity, compassion and justice.
Donate to our 20 by ’20 Campaign!
If we learned anything these past few days, it is that the law, the courts, and lawyers are crucial in this fight to protect and defend our immigrant, refugee, and asylee neighbors. We know that without attorneys, our most vulnerable and marginalized neighbors don’t stand a chance. In response, NJFON is introducing our…
20 by ’20 Campaign!
We currently have 15 JFON sites across the country.
Our goal is to increase that number to 20 sites by 2020.