March 2012

Client Story

This month we had the pleasant opportunity to call a client and tell him that he was, to his disbelief, already a U.S. citizen!

Meena came to us because his wallet had been stolen, and his green card was in it. He needed our help to file for a replacement green card. The case was slow going at first because we needed Meena’s help in gathering documents to apply for a fee waiver for Immigration since he did not have money to pay for a new green card.

However, as we began investigating Meena’s situation more closely, we realized he was a minor with a green card when he came into the U.S. back in 1999 and that later that year his mother naturalized. Unbeknownst to both of them, he became a U.S. citizen in February 2001 because of a change in the law while he was still a minor.

The next trick was to obtain proof that he was actually a citizen. Through research and conversations with the Passport office, we learned that he could get a U.S. passport (proof of citizenship) by providing the following: his Ethiopian Passport (with its dated entry stamp into the U.S.), his original birth certificate, his mother’s naturalization form, a small fee, and passport-sized photos.

When we called to share the exciting news with Meena, he was thrilled and shocked, asking three times for us to explain how this was possible. We are glad that he can now fully enjoy the benefits of U.S. citizenship, including an opportunity to vote in November’s presidential election.

In the News

This week, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced that Syria will be designated for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for eighteen months. This means that qualified individuals in the United States from Syria will be able to apply for work authorization here and to live here lawfully during TPS. Syria joins a list of several other countries that have been designated for TPS because the United States deems it unsafe for individuals to return home. In order to obtain TPS, one must have had the status since the opportunity first became available for that country. Just Neighbors will be assisting any eligible Syrians with this process. For more information, click here.

Around the Office

For the first time in our history, Just Neighbors conducted an immigration clinic at a school. Last month our Director of Legal Services, Allison Rutland Soulen, presented to a group of students at a local high school about immigration laws and about our services. Afterward, it became clear that many students could benefit from learning their options under the law. But it was also clear that these students could not get to our office easily, and so would be unlikely to follow-up with us. We worked with a school counselor to arrange a time to meet briefly with students individually.

Last Thursday, three staff attorneys, eleven volunteers, and our indispensable office manager met with fourteen students who sought help or clarity on their immigration options. We interviewedeach of them, providing them with advice and counsel. Some do not have options for attaining immigration status under current laws and will therefore have difficulty affording college. However, we believeseveral of them may have options for legal status, and we have scheduled follow-up meetings with two of them.

Get Involved

On Wednesday, April 4th, Just Neighbors will be the featured nonprofit at Bus Boys and Poets’ “Change the World Wednesdays” in Shirlington. This is a monthly Bus Boys and Poets series, free to the public, in which local organizations come to share about their work. Just Neighbors will have clients on stage sharing their experiences of coming to the United States and how Just Neighbors has helped with the process. The event is from 7pm-8:30pm at 4251 Campbell Ave, Arlington VA 22206. Click here for information about their Shirlington location. Come join us!

Support Just Neighbors by Just Walking!

Once again Just Neighbors, along with five other member organizations at our Connections for Hope office in Herndon, will host the annual “Footprints for Hope” fundraiser on Saturday, May 19th at 9:00am. In addition to the 3 mile/1 mile walk that we had last year, there will also be an officially timed 5k Run. All are invited to walk and raise funds for Just Neighbors. Afterwards, learn about the work we do at Connections for Hope while you enjoy music, awards, raffles, Zumba, and other family activities. For every $50 you raise for Just Neighbors, you will be entered into a drawing to win an Apple iPAD! Pre-registration for the walk is $30 for adults and $15 for kids and $40/$20 the day of the walk. Pre-registration for the 5k Run is $40 for adults and $30 for kids and $50/$35 the day of the walk. For more information and to fundraise for Just Neighbors, click here.

Our Clients

One of our clients came by in person to thank her volunteer attorney here. He wasn’t in, so she left him the following note:

Hello Jim,

I came here to thank you in person for your hard work that helped me gain my green card. I hope you will keep on helping others the way you have helped me. Thank you very much, and God bless you.

Another client brought us these in gratitude:

Last month, you may recall the story of a client named Raja, from Iraq, that we were serving in a variety of ways (see story here). We had helped with her green card application, and our social work intern assisted with finding rental and health care assistance.Happily, the day that the e-newsletter went out with the story, we received a letter from Immigration regarding Raja. Here green card was approved, and she now has it in hand.

Volunteer of the Month

Alisha Baum has been with Just Neighbors full-time since January as a law school intern from Cooley Law School in Michigan. She has assisted a number of clients, including Meena from this month’s client story. In addition to working with clients at our main Falls Church office, she meets with clients at our Woodbridge office fifteen miles to the south as well. We will miss Alisha as she leaves soon to finish law school. We wish Alisha the best of luck.

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The mission of Just Neighbors is to provide immigration legal services to low-income immigrants and refugees in Virginia, especially those who are most vulnerable. We also seek to foster enriching experiences that enhance awareness and mutual understanding among our clients, volunteers, staff and community.

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