September 2011

Client Story

Jhonathan’s photo on his employment authorization document, or work permit, shows a wide-eyed, curious face. His hair juts out at all angles in thick black strands. This card serves as his only photo identification in the U.S. and gives Jhonathan permission to work here, at least from Immigration’s perspective. The face in the photo is one of innocence, but Jhonathan has already endured a dramatic life. He has been separated from his family for half his life, with uncertainty about his future status in the U.S. But Just Neighbors and others have been able to intervene, helping to bring about a happy and permanent reunion with his parents here in the U.S. Jhonathan is three years old.

Not surprisingly, Jhonathan’s story starts with the sacrifice and perseverance of his parents. Before Jhonathan was born, his father, Balil, fled to the United States from Myanmar (formerly Burma) and sought asylum here. Balil was granted asylum by U.S. Immigration and travelled to Bangladesh to see his wife, Nora, who had fled there to live with extended family. Jhonathan was conceived.

Nora qualified for derivative asylum status as the wife of an asylee. This took a while to process, and she was not able to come into the U.S. until after Jhonathan was born. Both Balil and Nora were eligible to apply for their green cards and to eventually become naturalized U.S. citizens. However, immigration law states that if a child is conceived after asylum is granted that child does not qualify for derivative status baby Jhonathan could not lawfully enter the U.S. Nora made the difficult decision to come to the U.S. while she was still eligible, leaving her baby behind with extended family for an indeterminate amount of time.

Balil and Nora found an excellent nonprofit attorney in Ohio, where they settled, who helped Jhonathan receive humanitarian parole so that he could lawfully enter the U.S. Elated, Nora returned to Bangladesh to retrieve their baby, and the three of them settled in Virginia. However, Jhonathan’s humanitarian parole status was only temporary, which is where Just Neighbors entered the picture. We helped with a family petition that will be the basis of extending Jhonathan’s humanitarian parole in the United States and puts him on the waiting list of children of lawful permanent residents who seek a green card. Just Neighbors has given close attention to this unique case to ensure that as Jhonathan waits to become a permanent resident or citizen, he is in lawful status.

When Balil becomes a citizen in about two years, Jhonathan’s application for permanent residence will no longer be on a waiting list. In fact, as soon as that application is approved, he will become a U.S. citizen! We are glad that Jhonathan will be able to grow up with his parents here, and can hopefully find a fulfilling career many years from now.

Volunteer of the Month

This month, we’d like to thank our volunteer translators, who dedicated dozens of hours to translating over 300 pages of documents over the past two months, primarily from Spanish to English. Much of this work involved translating clients’ testimonials about the abuse they suffered– vital evidence to Immigration in VAWA and U Visa applications. This work can be emotionally and intellectually draining, and we are especially grateful that our volunteers were able to complete such a vast amount of work with sometimes tight deadlines.

The translators, who did much of the work from home, included Adela Rivera, Theresa Meehan, Reda Tseg, Aaron McCready, Alison Pavlis, David Jara, Carly Gillette, Esther McBride, and Erin Sagin. Just Neighbors has no budget for translation work, as we rely solely on a cadre of dedicated volunteers. If you are fluent in English and any other language and would like to offer your name as someone that we can call upon for possible translation assistance, please contact Rob Rutland-Brown at rob@justneighbors.org

Open House!

Date: Sunday, November 13th

Time: 2:00-4:30 p.m.

Location: 5827 Columbia Pike, Suite 320

Falls Church, VA 22041

Contact: Rob Rutland-Brown, Executive Director, at (703) 979-1240 or rob@justneighbors.org

Join Just Neighbors Staff, Board, clients, volunteers, and surrounding community members for an informational and fun open house to celebrate fifteen years of service and expansion of the nonprofit’s services and facilities. This is an informal event for the community to learn more about the work of the organization.

Around the Office

Just Neighbors was pleased to conduct a first-time clinic at the Shirlington Employment and Education Center (SEEC) in Arlington. Several staff attorneys and volunteers met with day laborers individually to determine if they had options under current immigration laws. Many of the men did not, and we warned them against paying someone who told them otherwise, as they would be scammed out of their money and could be committing immigration fraud. However, two immigrants did have options under current law. We have met with them for follow-up appointments at our main office. One man was the victim of a violent crime and the other is married to a U.S. citizen. Both of them may be eligible to work lawfully in the United States and eventually gain lawful permanent residence. These individuals would not likely have sought help on their own, having little money or resources, so we are looking into conducting such clinics more frequently.

Dave Franke, Vice-Chair of Just Neighbors’ Board of Directors, on how he became involved with the organization:

Several years ago, I was working with Pastor Glen Evans of Clarendon United Methodist Church on community outreach projects. Pastor Glen, who was working closely with the local Honduran immigrant community, asked me to look into whether we could establish an immigration legal clinic at the church.

I contacted several immigration clinics in the Arlington area, which led to a meeting with Allison Rutland Soulen, Director of Legal Services at Just Neighbors. Pastor Glen and Allison agreed that Just Neighbors would hold a once-a-month legal clinic at the church.

I began volunteering at these church clinics and was immediately drawn into the legal situations many of our clients were experiencing. They were at a huge disadvantage in dealing with government immigration agencies. Helping these individuals navigate the maze of regulations and laws was profoundly rewarding. Later, Rob [Rutland-Brown, Executive Director] invited me to join the Board of Directors, which allowed me to help clients in different, but just as rewarding, ways.

Client Notes

To All Staff,

I can’t pay any for your good and kind deeds, may our lord do for all of you in Just Neighbors. Without your help nothing would have happened for me and families. Thank you once more again.

Hi, I just want to take this time off to say THANK YOU to your entire staff for the tireless effort and belief you have shown in my situation. The fact that my case has been initiated, I can sleep better. It’s a great distance from where I have been all these months. May God richly bless you all and grant you what your heart desires individually and collectively.

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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