Our volunteer Frank met with a cordial gentleman from a country in the Horn of Africa. The client works with his wife at a local supermarket, helping to bag groceries and stock shelves. In his home country, the client was a dean at a prominent secondary school, and an adjunct faculty member at a university. The client and Frank developed a warm rapport, and the client assures us he will be back when his wife and children are ready to apply for their green cards. (They need to be in the United States as asylees for a year before they are eligible to apply for green cards.)
Seventeen of our new clients in November have been refugees or asylees. To obtain asylee or refugee status, the inpidual must prove to immigration that he or she has been persecuted or feared persecution in the home country. When the asylee or refugee reaches Just Neighbors, he or she is ready to apply for a green card; often there is a family ready to complete the application forms. Refugees do not have to pay any filing fee to Immigration for the green card; asylees have to pay a $1,070 filing fee. We usually complete fee waivers for our asylee clients, who then pay only several hundred dollars for the required medical examination. Additionally, each client has three to five forms to fill-in and sign for Immigration.
Our volunteers step in to carry out much of the work with these cases. With a routine case, we have the client come into the office for an appointment only twice before the application is ready to mail to Immigration. We try not to revisit the reason why the client has status as an asylee or refugee, because it is by definition a reason that involves trauma. But we do enjoy learning about the client and the family, family members both with them and those still “back home.”
Our volunteer Theresa is working on a green card application for a woman from Egypt. She earns $576 a month, with which she supports her husband and their child; she was a homemaker in her home country. Her husband and child are newly arrived, and the husband is looking for employment. In addition to working with the client, Theresa has also been working with the physician that completed the required medical form. The physician noted that the client was not required to have a flu vaccine because it is “not flu season.” Theresa is working with the doctor’s office to correct this oversight, and save our client months of delay in the processing of her green card application.
Three volunteers worked with a family from China at our Tuesday evening clinic. The sixteen-year-old served as the interpreter; she is the eldest of three sisters. She has been in the United States for almost two years and is already fluent in English. We spoke with her about college, and made calculations with her as to whether she could get U.S. citizenship before she graduates from high school. We then explained to the father that we had been speaking with his daughter about college. He beamed in response, nodded, and said, “Of course! I came to this country for my daughters.”
Volunteer of the Month
Priscilla Ro has served as a volunteer attorney with Just Neighbors since July. She has office hours three days per week and maintains her own caseload, including family unification cases and cases for victims of domestic violence. Priscilla, fluent in Spanish, came to us with immigration law experience and received her law degree at American University’s Washington College of Law. We are very fortunate to have her while she pursues paid employment.
Around the Office
Just Neighbors welcomes the newest member of our family! Staff Attorney Sarah Selim Milad and her husband, Father David, had their first child this month, Elijah. They are doing well and are even sleeping occasionally. We will be glad to have Sarah back with us in January.
Falon Rainey, Legal Fellow at Just Neighbors
I first became interested in immigration while participating in the International Baccalaureate program in high school. While attending the Florida State University, I wrote my honors thesis on the positive impact that immigrants have on American society, which further piqued my interest in immigration. During law school at the University of Miami, I was fortunate to have the chance to learn from many esteemed immigration law practitioners including Mr. Ira Kurzban. While I was in Miami, I also had the opportunity to clerk at a full service immigration firm for a year. It is so rewarding to help immigrants navigate the legal system and obtain the benefits to which they are entitled. Since passing the Bar I was awarded a Legal fellowship to work at Just Neighbors full time for six months and I absolutely love the work!
Alternative Gift Fairs
Just Neighbors will be taking part in two Alternative Gift Fairs in December for those who would like to give to a local organization for the holidays as part of their gift-giving. The first fair will take place in Fairfax on December 3rd. More information can be found at www.giftsthatgivehope.org/fairfax. The second gift fair will be in Arlington on December 3rd. More information can be found at www.giftsthatgivehope.org/Arlington. Both fairs include well-respected organizations throughout the community. Also, both fairs allow you to shop on-line at their websites for those who cannot attend in person. Happy shopping!
For the second straight year, Just Neighbors will take part in Virginia’s Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP). Individuals who pay Virginia income taxes will receive a 40% tax credit on any donation made to Just Neighbors of $500 or more. The gift cannot be made on-line, and the number of available credits is limited. For more information, visit www.justneighbors.org/donate or contact Rob Rutland-Brown, Executive Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org
In May 2010, we shared the heart-wrenching story of Arash (see www.justneighbors.org/client-stories), who was wrongly accused of a violent crime. Although the case against him crumbled and was clearly unfounded, Arash spent nine months in jail here. His entire family had green cards, but he needed Just Neighbors’ help to receive his because the arrest had caused Immigration to put his application on hold. He received his green card last summer.
This month, Arash had his interview to obtain U.S. citizenship. After his swearing-in ceremony, he left a brief and emotional message on his attorney Allison’s voicemail, exclaiming “I’m an American!”