Beginning in 2007, a man in Maryland conducted an elaborate ruse, posing as an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer. He victimized more than 50 immigrants by convincing them he could assist in applying for a special immigration visa. He opened up an office, hired secretarial staff, and even acquired a uniform, a badge, a squad car, and weapons.
This man requested $15,000 from each family and met with them on many occasions to process their “cases” at his office. When they became suspicious due to the length of time the cases were taking, he began to threaten them and continued to extract payments from them. He pulled his gun out at one meeting and told the family that ICE knew where they lived and could come and deport them if they did not keep paying. Out of fear, many of the families took out loans with 25 percent interest in order to keep paying him.
Eventually this man was caught by the authorities, and in January 2011 he was convicted of countless charges and sentenced to 70 years in prison. However, the victims had lost their money and remained without legal status or authorization to work.
At this time, a counselor at Loudoun Community Services Board contacted Just Neighbors about several of the victimized families she was counseling. Just Neighbors met with the clients and, after months of diligent legal work, applied for U visas based on their victimization of a violent crime and their cooperation with the authorities.
In the past few weeks, Immigration has mailed approvals for most of these families! This means they now have lawful status, a work permit, and, in three years, can apply for a green card. They are extremely thankful for the help of Just Neighbors, and we are grateful to have strong connections with various counselors, social workers, and others throughout the community who connect us to immigrants like these in need.
On election day, many of our former clients had the opportunity to vote for president for the first time. Several clients spoke to us about the joy and the pride they felt in taking part in this right of citizenship.
Just Neighbors will be participating in the 2nd annual Gifts that Give Hope Fair on Saturday, December 8, from 10am-2pm at Calvary United Methodist Church at 2315 S. Grant Street in Arlington.
Please visit www.giftsthatgivehope.org/arlington for more info or to shop online!
Thank you to everyone who has supported Just Neighbors this year. Your donations allow us to continue our vital work of uniting families, enabling women and children to escape from domestic violence, and helping eligible immigrants attain authorization to work.
It’s not too late to give! You can make your tax-deductible donation here or send a check to Just Neighbors at:
5827 Columbia Pike
Falls Church, VA 22041
Volunteer of the Month
Bexy Gomez (Photo by Jim Coates)
We have been very fortunate this semester to have an outstanding intern, Bexy Gomez, working in our front office. Bexy is here from Thousand Oaks, California, through the Lutheran College Washington Semester program. Bexy is willing to do absolutely anything (and will in fact be at the gift fair referenced above). She is always smiling and speaks comfortably in English and Spanish with our clients. We are glad to have her be the first person many of our clients meet here at the office.