May 2011

Client Story

Rosa’s case was not as straightforward as we had predicted. She came to Just Neighbors from a shelter where she had sought refuge from her abusive husband, John. Five years earlier Rosa had been deeply in love with John, telling us that he “respected” her and treated her more kindly than anyone had ever done in the world. But, as we often see, the relationship had deteriorated and become dangerous for her. Just Neighbors had a full caseload when Rosa approached us. In an effort to serve her more quickly, we asked the law firm of DLA Piper (one of three private firms that provide pro bono attorneys for some of our cases) to take on the case with our supervision. Rosa was an engaging, articulate woman, and readily agreed to work with a volunteer attorney from their firm.

The cacth to Rosa’s case occurred when Immigration requested proof of John’s status as a U.S. citizen. John had been born in Cambodia and received a U.S. birth certificate from the U.S. Vice-Counsel there. Rosa remained fearful of her husband and understandably could not ask him for his birth certificate. The U.S. embassy in Cambodia would provide a copy only to John or his parents; Rosa was scared that if she contacted her in-laws, the would reveal her whereabouts to John. Rosa contacted John’s former employer, but he had no records of John’s citizenship. After these dead ends, Rosa mustered the courage to ask her sister-in-law for a copy, who after payment from Rosa, supplier her with a copy of John’s certificate of birth.

Immigration then requested that we “Submit the original, recently issued, unaltered certificate of birth…. A photocopy will not be satisfactory.” Simply unable to obtain anything other than a photocopy, the pro bono attorney requested that Immigration pursue its questions regarding the certificate of birth with the Department of State directly. (There is a liaison between Immigration and the Department of State for these purposes).

We all breathed a sigh of relief when Rosa’s application was approved the following month.

Just Neighbors had handed what we believed to be a straightforward VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) petition case to the pro bono attorney. This storey relates just one of the twists that she had to negotiate. The pro bono attorney admitted in one understated email that it had been a “complicated” case. Nevertheless, the firm attorney accompanied Rosa to the interview for her green card last month. Rosa’s green card was approved and her case is closed!

Rosa and Just Neighbors appreciate the dedication of volunteer attorneys who help clients like Rosa navigate through the Immigration maze. Just Neighbors has encountered frustrating difficulties in several cases in trying to document that the abusive spouse is a United States citizen; we simply cannot imagine an individual trying to do this without counsel.

Thank you

Just Neighbors is grateful for a recent grant from the Verizon Foundation for our work with immigrants who experience domestic violence. In addition, we thank the Arlington County Bar Foundation for helping to fund our work with low-income immigrants in Arlington County.

We also thank everyone who has supported us throughout this spring’s Mother’s Day campaign. And it’s never too late to send in a check to the address below; we will be happy to honor your mother--or father— in June!

Around the Office

The Walkathon on May 21st was a huge success for the six nonprofits at Connections for Hope that took part. Just Neighbors joined Helping Children Worldwide, the Jeannie Schmidt Free Clinic, Vecinos Unidos, Reston

Interfaith, and the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia to raise funds and awareness for the shared nonprofit center in Herndon.

This center serves as a satellite office for Just Neighbors and enables clients to access a range of services conveniently and for the nonprofit to collaborate while saving on overhead costs by pooling resources. Over 150 walkers participated and over $39,000 collectively was raised. Thanks to all who participated!

From Anne Ledyard, Board Chair:

“My connection with Just Neighbors really grew out of my work as a teacher in the Arlington County Schools. Over a 32 year career, I met many immigrant students and their families from all over the world. They came to America for many reasons- to join family members who were already established here, to seek a job, to get a good education— and often to escape the grinding poverty and conflict within their own countries. They came seeking the peace and stability that many of us take for granted. “Immigration” is not an abstract concept for me– I see in my mind and remember names of students I have taught. That is why I am a part of the Just Neighbors community.”

Volunteer of the Month

Charlie Kramer has come in Wednesday mornings over the past couple months to undertake one of the least exciting projects in our office: scanning old files. For the past eighteen months, we have been in the process of scanning all files that have been closed for more than five years to our server, which is backed up remotely. We never know when a former client will call asking for their records (many of our clients are homeless). Also, if immigration laws were to change and provide options for individuals living in the U.S. for a certain time period, we often have documentation from the client to demonstrate this presence.

One challenge in this project is that we continue to close cases more rapidly than we scan them… so the project has felt never-ending. Charlie, who is in-between careers, has made significant headway in this effort, and he has done so with a cheerful attitude and sense of humor. Thank you Charlie!

Just Neighbors Primary Signature-Reverse-01

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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