As we ended 2020, we looked to 2021 with hope. Hope that the vaccine will speed the end of the pandemic and a return to “normal.” Hope that a new administration will begin to reverse the policies that have been so damaging to immigrants and refugees. Hope that the divisiveness of the last four years will begin to heal.
The last four years have been particularly challenging for our immigrant and refugee neighbors. Not only did they have to deal with rapidly changing laws and policies from the Trump administration, but they also had to navigate a U.S. in which negative and frightful discourse directed toward them increased exponentially. Here at Just Neighbors, our clients were impacted by these changes both on a case level and on a personal level. Refugee admissions plummeted. Cases were rejected or denied for the most mundane reasons, such as failure to mark N/A on applications where the question did not pertain to the applicant. Our staff attorneys tried heroically to keep up with all the insidious and racist legal and policy changes which occurred on a weekly, often daily, basis. In short, it has been a disastrous four years for immigrants, refugees, and our Just Neighbors family.
Yet we hope. We hope that the new administration will find ways to heal the divides. We hope that we will become a nation that loves our neighbor, regardless of political belief, the color of our skin, or where we are from. We hope that we will never again see the violence that played out at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
The Biden administration has given every indication that they intend to undo many of the harms that have been done: restoring refugee admission numbers to historic highs; implementing a common-sense adjudication of applications with USCIS; establishing a deportation process which does not tear apart families; and ensuring the humane treatment of those fleeing persecution, civil war, and natural disasters.
We know this will not happen overnight or even in the first 100 days. We know there will be long-lasting impacts from the last four years. We at Just Neighbors hope that the next four years will bring real and positive change, and we commit, with your help, to continue the work that makes the transition for our newest neighbors better, smoother, fairer, and more affordable. No matter what happens, Just Neighbors will continue to provide our immigrant and refugee neighbors with a warm welcome and the quality help of our staff, volunteers, and everyone associated with Just Neighbors.
Erin McKenney Dominique Poirier
Executive Director Director of Legal Services