May 2012

Client Story

Juan Carlos will have an especially Happy Father’s Day this year — he just received his lawful permanent residence (green card). Now his nine-year-old son, Jose, no longer worries about whether his father will be deported. This is a particularly happy case for us, because we “found” Juan Carlos during a community outreach event.

Volunteers and staff from Just Neighbors went to a day laborers’ site one weekday last September. We spoke generally with the workers about immigration issues. And then our volunteers and attorneys met individually with some of the men. One of them was Juan Carlos.

We learned that Juan Carlos had come to the United States on a tourist visa twelve years ago. He came and went several times, but on his last visit he met the love of his life and so remained in the United States to be with her. He became “undocumented” because his visa expired and he did not return to his home country.

Instead, he married Blanca. Blanca had come to the United States as a toddler and is a United States Citizen. He became a wonderful father to Blanca’s daughter, and now cares for her children as a proud and loving grandfather. Juan Carlos and Blanca also had a son together, who is just completing the third grade. Jose has never understood why everyone in the family is a United States citizen except his father. And he has never understood why his father needed, but didn’t have, special permission to work in the United States.

When we met Juan Carlos, an early question we asked was “Have you ever been to an immigration attorney?” He replied, “Yes, once, years ago; it was too much money.” We said please come to us, and we gave him our business card.

Juan Carlos did come to Just Neighbors with his wife and his adult step-daughter and his son. We helped his wife file an application for him; we helped him apply for employment authorization and a green card. We linked him with organizations that provided most of the funds needed for the filing fee and his medical examination, totaling over $1700. We do have a small client fee fund at Just Neighbors that contributed to this case as well.

When we went to his interview at Immigration several weeks ago, he was excited and nervous. When the Officer gave him the good news of approval, his joy lit up the room.

Vision and Mission of Just Neighbors

The board and staff of Just Neighbors have spent much of 2012 engaging in a strategic planning process. This has included surveys and interviews led by a consultant with all board and staff, a board retreat in March, a staff mini-retreat in April, and regular meetings of the Strategic Planning Commitee. We are still developing some of the goals within the new plan, but are proud to share our revised vision and mission statements.

Our vision is that immigrants in Northern Virginia will be welcomed into the community so that they can take their places as self-sufficient, contributing members of mainstream society.

Our mission is to provide immigration legal services to low-income immigrants and refugees of all faiths and nationalities, especially those who are most vulnerable. We also seek to foster enriching experiences that enhance community and mutual understanding among our clients, volunteers, and staff.

Just Neighbors participated in the Footprints for Hope walkathon and 5K race to raise funds for the Connections for Hope center that supports Just Neighbors’ Herndon office. The event raised more than $32,000 for the seven participating agencies and attracted nearly 200 community members.

Around the Office

Last month, Mount Olivet United Methodist Church sponsored a Just Neighbors Community Clinic in our Falls Church office. Eight volunteers from the church came to conduct the intake interviews with new clients from Spain, Ghana, El Salvador, Peru, Nigeria, Mexico, and Eritrea. The volunteer involvement from that evening, as well as the financial support provided by Mount Olivet for our work, has enabled Just Neighbors to take on the clients who came through this clinic. We will continue to work with these immigrants in the months ahead until their families are united, they have lawful permanent residence, and they are assured authorization to work.

Just Neighbors is grateful for a grant of $25,000 from the Meyer Foundation in support of our work to provide economic security for low-income immigrants. We are also thankful for recent support from the Olender Foundation

Volunteer of the Month

We are proud to name our volunteer attorney Thierry Ghattas as the Volunteer of the Month for May. Thierry actually interned for us in 2006, before he attended law school. In fact, Thierry was our first-ever volunteer of the month, in April 2006. Back then, he embraced the daunting task of merging all of our physical files from our Herndon and Arlington office locations. Thierry has now finished law school and passed the bar, and is once again offering his time to Just Neighbors. Now he manages his own caseload and handles a wide range of cases. Most recently, he assisted an asylee from the Congo to petition for his wife and nine children to come to the United States. Thierry’s French fluency was particularly useful in working with this family. We are grateful for Thierry’s help three days per week as he pursues employment as an immigration attorney.

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