The Great Plains Conference Micah Corps interns were blessed to hear a presentation from Justice For Our Neighbors-Nebraska (JFON-NE) staff Guy Weinstein (Attorney) and Maria Mendoza (Legal Assistant). JFON-NE is a United Methodist nonprofit organization whose major role is to welcome immigrants into our communities by providing free, high-quality immigration legal services, education, and advocacy working hard to keep immigrant families together.
JFON-NE achieves its goal by hosting monthly legal clinics with immigrants in United Methodist churches as well as offering services in collaboration with other community partners.
Guy Weinstein explained the nature of the current immigration laws and how complicated and outdated they are. There are a limited number of visas available to applicants and no real lines for individuals to wait in to migrate legally. For some, the process of obtaining a visa can take about 25 years. In some cases, individuals may die before it gets to their turn. For persons who turn 21 or get married, they have to restart the process again.
One of the areas JFON-NE works in is to legally represent children who migrated into the US unlawfully in an effort to flee from abuse, danger and neglect from relatives. With the assistance of JFON-NE, children and families are able to seek legal status and have better chances of having a positive outcome. Families without information about the legal immigration process also benefit from the resources provided by JFON-NE. Research shows that immigrants with legal representation are five times more likely to successfully resolve their cases and yet nearly 70% of detained immigrants processed through the Omaha field office do not have the benefit of legal representation.
Maria Mendoza shared her story with the interns. Maria entered the US in 1997 at an early age with her mother and her sisters. Maria’s family migrated because of the abuse they were experiencing from their uncle after the loss of her father. Due to her immigration status, Maria had a childhood filled with fear of losing her mother to deportation or being deported herself. “I always had that fear in my heart that I would come home from school to find that my mother had been deported,” Maria told the Micah Corps interns. Unlike her friends at school, she was unable to take trips outside the country. Maria lived in the shadows in hopes of a bright future. At a tender age she was with child. She and her boyfriend got married. Maria then sought guidance on how to change her status to that of a legal permanent resident (LPR) through Catholic Charities, another legal service provider that JFON-NE collaborates with. It took several years but Maria is now a US citizen. “This was one of my proudest moments,” she recalls. Her mother and her sisters are also LPRs who are on their way to obtaining their citizenship status. Maria is thankful to be working as a legal assistant for JFON-NE and hopes to impact the lives of others through her knowledge and experiences as a former undocumented immigrant.
To learn more about JFON-NE, one of the Great Plains Conference Mission Agencies, go to: www.jfon-ne.org
Submitted by Micah Corps intern Ama Agyabeng