|Being part of the United Way has already paid off for residents in the Northern Shenandoah Valley!
This year, Just Neighbors received its first grant from the United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley (United Way NSV) to continue providing immigration services to residents in rural Virginia. After participating in our first United Way NSV meeting in July, we received a warm welcome from local organizations and multiple requests to help clients in the Winchester area – one of which, came from a local shelter.
Almaz*, originally from Eritrea*, was in dire need of immigration services. Almaz* came to the US in 2016 and later met her husband, a U.S. citizen. They started the process to apply for Almaz’s green card based on the marriage. Following the marriage, Almaz’s husband started engaging in abusive behavior. He was arrested after a particularly brutal attack against Almaz and was in jail when Almaz was scheduled for her final green card interview with the government. The immigration officer told Almaz that she would need to file a domestic violence application within 30 days, or else her green card application would be denied, potentially putting Almaz at risk of deportation proceedings. The family attorney who typically provides pro bono services to the shelter was unable to assist in the case, since he did not have experience in immigration law.
Tori, the Just Neighbors Managing Attorney for Rural Programs was able to answer the urgent need. Despite her full schedule, she arranged a meeting with Almaz* at the shelter and identified that she qualified for under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Through VAWA, Almaz* would be able to self-petition for her green card, rather than having her case depend on her abusive spouse.
Working with the shelter staff and a volunteer interpreter all Friday and through the weekend, Tori and Almaz were able to successfully compile and file all the appropriate paperwork on time. Almaz received confirmation that her green card application will remain pending until the VAWA application is approved. With Just Neighbors representing her, Almaz can focus on healing from the trauma she experienced.