Standing in Solidarity with Refugees at DFW Airport

Thousands of Americans streamed into our nation’s airports this past weekend to both protest President Trump’s mean-spirited and ill-conceived exclusion ban and to support our Muslim immigrants, refugees, and neighbors.

 Heidi Ortiz, a volunteer from Justice for Our Neighbors Dallas-Fort Worth was there. This is her story:

On Sunday morning, January 29th, we received the message via Facebook. People with valid visas and permanent residency cards (green cards) were being detained at DFW airport.  We decided instead of attending service at our local United Methodist Church, we should immediately go to the airport to show our support. Rumors were circulating that officials were pressuring the detained to waive their rights and get on an 11 AM flight out of the country. We loaded the kids into the car, said a prayer, and were on our way.

At the airport, there were people of all different types, and many families with kids. The airport police were visible and courteous.  As long as protesters did not get in the way of passengers or airport workers, we were able to chant and hold signs.  One of the chants that caught my attention was “free my Grandma”.  Later I learned via the Dallas Morning News that a number of the detained were elderly with health issues.

Someone had brought supplies to make posters.  For myself, I made a sign that says “Jesus stands with Refugees”.  In addition to being theologically sound (indeed, Christ loves all people), I wanted our Muslim brothers and sisters to know that as a Christian, I was standing with them.  Jesus himself was a refugee, fleeing to Egypt after an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream.

For my two-year-old daughter I wrote “Toddlers Stand with Refugees”. She has a friend her age whose parents are from Yemen.  While their exact status may not be refugees, the mother told me they cannot go back because of the dire situation in that country.  Toddlers don’t care much about borders—they just love people!

No one wants terrorists in this country. Unfortunately, so many people are unaware of the different types of immigration to the U.S.   Refugees are fleeing war.  Lawful permanent residents have already made their home in the U.S.  In both cases, those detained are our neighbors AND they had legal permission to enter our country.  This sudden action did not stop terrorists.  It was wrong and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to oppose it personally.  Before we left the airport, we stopped to pray as a family.

My prayer for you is the same as the one at the airport — that God will open our hearts to be more like Him and that He would show us how to love our neighbors as ourselves in these trying times.

What can I do?
Rising Together to Defeat the Ban

“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. 

Volunteer New York JFON Attorney and American Friends’ Service Committee’s Supervising Attorney Alexandra Goncalves-Pena gathers with other immigration attorneys at Newark International Airport. Photo Courtesy of Buzzfeed

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.

  • Collect Stories

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 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 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.

Please consider donating $20.20 TODAY! 


Raising Awareness and Funds In D.C. #UACResponse

Thousands of children are fleeing violence in Central America and seeking safety in the United States.  Many of these children have legitimate claims to legal residency in the United States, but they have no right to a free lawyer.  Church World Service (CWS) and National Justice for Our Neighbors (NJFON) provide free legal services to unaccompanied children.  With your support we can ensure that these children do not stand in court alone.  CWS and NJFON are responding to this crisis by sending attorneys to Lackland Air Force Base and other shelters in San Antonio, Texas, where children are being temporarily housed, to inform them of their legal rights and advise them of their options before being released into the custody of sponsors.

Join us on September 9th from 6:00-8:00pm at Impact Hub DC in showing your support for the thousands of children who are fleeing violence in Central America!  Rob Rutland-Brown, Executive Director of NJFON, and Jen Smyers, Associate Director, Immigration and Refugee Policy at CWS, will talk about the current state of this crisis along with a presentation by one of our expert attorneys working directly with unaccompanied children followed by Q&A.  All proceeds from this fundraising event will be used to provide legal services to unaccompanied children through the CWS and NJFON networks.  

Enter UACServe for a discount on tickets:


Special thanks to our event sponsors Impact Hub DC and Tortilla Café!

Photo credit – UMNS News

NJFON Executive Director Visits Holding Facility in Texas

“We seek to learn how we, as a church, can best welcome these children now and in the days and weeks that lie ahead,” says Rob Rutland-Brown of National Justice For Our Neighbors.  “We are committed to keeping them safe and making sure they know they are loved.”

Rob at McAllen August 2014Rob joined faith and community leaders from both The United States and Mexico will visit a temporary holding facility for unaccompanied migrant children in McAllen, Texas on Monday, August 18, 2014.  The United Methodist Church’s California-Pacific conference has more details.  #theyarechildren


Find out how JFON is providing immediate and long-term help to the thousands of children fleeing Central America. Learn what you can do to help.

What is driving the mass migration of thousands of Central American children to the U.S.?

The recent surge in child migrants is attributed to a combination of factors, such as governments in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras that are struggling to govern effectively, entrenched poverty that makes it difficult for large numbers of young people who are entering the workforce to find jobs, and powerful armed criminal groups that are targeting children who are especially vulnerable to physical harm and manipulation to carry out illicit activities. Unaccompanied children are also drawn to the U.S. to reunify with a family member residing here. More detailed information is available here.

What happens to unaccompanied children once they arrive in the U.S.?

Children originating from countries that do not share a border with the United States are picked up by U.S. border patrol and handed over to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement within 72 hours of apprehension. They spend an average of one month in ORR custody before being released to a sponsor, typically a family member, until their case is heard in an immigration court. According to Migration Policy Institute, approximately 85% of unaccompanied children have a family member residing in the U.S. National Public Radio addresses this topic well here.

How has this situation evolved into a crisis?

The United States Government projects that as many as 90,000 unaccompanied children will enter the U.S. by the end of this fiscal year with as many as 30,000 children arriving from June through September. This situation has prompted President Obama to declare a humanitarian emergency and has put the Federal Emergency Management Agency in charge of this response. Overloaded immigration courts have become further backlogged as unaccompanied children can wait up to 18 months for their case to be heard. Communities are also struggling to meet the increased demand for social services in an environment of fiscal austerity. Migration Policy Institute’s article provides more explanation here.

What support do unaccompanied children need?

There is a need for children who are in ORR’s custody to know about their legal rights and their legal options. Once the children are released to their families in the U.S., there is also an urgent need for pro bono attorneys that are trained in immigration law and sensitive to the special needs of unaccompanied children to petition for Special Immigrant Juvenile status on behalf of eligible children. Unaccompanied children also need access to social services, such as English language classes, vocational skills training, and medical care.

How are we addressing the needs of unaccompanied children?

We have been responding to the mass migration of unaccompanied children to the U.S. by sending our staff attorneys around the country to the Lackland Air Force Base (which recently closed) and surrounding shelters in San Antonio, Texas where the unaccompanied children are temporarily housed.  With support from our JFON Austin attorney, who is experienced in working with unaccompanied minors, JFON network attorneys are informing children about their legal rights and advising them of their options while they are housed at the base and the shelters.  However, this immediate, short-term involvement is only the beginning of the immigration process with which the children need help.

After the children leave these facilities, the majority will be sent to live with family in the U.S. as they await an immigration court hearing. These children desperately need an immigration attorney a to  help them apply for benefits they are eligible for that will enable them to remain safely in the United States, including a special immigrant juvenile visa for children who were abandoned or neglected. Our attorneys will engage in long-term work with unaccompanied children that can put them on the path to legal residency and a better quality of life.

With your support we can expand the capacity of the JFON network to provide further legal assistance to unaccompanied children by taking on special immigrant juvenile cases.

Join us in demonstrating what it means to be a good neighbor:

  • Make a financial contribution to help vulnerable immigrant children seeking protection
  • Volunteer with a Justice for Our Neighbors site in your community
  • Share information with your network about the unaccompanied children crisis
  • Stay updated by signing up for our newsletter – see right hand column on this page.


Children Traveling Solo Across US Border

David Greene talks to Pulitzer Prize winning author Sonia Nazario about the growing crisis of unaccompanied minors from Central America and Mexico attempting to migrate to the U.S. This  is five-minute NPR interview in both audio and text format and is definitely worth a listen!.

“Many of these children are being ordered to go to immigration court. The vast majority of these children – they’re not entitled to government appointed attorney, they can’t afford one. One study showed that 40 percent of these kids are eligible for some kind of relief to stay here in the United States. But they are largely not getting it. They’re being deported back to very dangerous situations, where these children could be killed.”

Formal Complaint Filed on Behalf of Immigrant Children

child-detained“Widespread abuse of unaccompanied immigrant children at the hands of U.S. border officials spurred a group of civil and human rights organizations to file a complaint today on behalf of more than 100 children, each of whom reported experiencing abuse and mistreatment while in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the border enforcement agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)”

These organizations are:  National Immigrant Justice Center Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project, L.A., ACLU of ArizonaAmericans for Immigrant Justice.

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More information is here.

(Photo Credit




I live in fear of deportation: My life as an undocumented worker

I was 10 when we crossed the border without papers. I built a family here — but it could all be taken away.



Hugo Carrasco writes a touching and honest account of building a life and a family in the U.S. for Salon. The following excerpt succinctly gets to the heart of the issue that Justice For Our Neighbors cares so deeply about – keeping family together.


I’m an advocate now and have been meeting with members of Congress to share my story and explain why we need immigration reform to keep families like mine together. Millions of immigrants like me are unable to become legal residents because of a previous conviction, but we deserve a second chance. I need to work to support my family, and I need documents in order to do that lawfully.

I may have come into this country without papers, but it’s the only life I’ve ever known. If I’m sent back to Chihuahua, my children won’t have their father by their side, and my wife won’t have the support she needs and deserves. Who could ever call that justice?