In September 2017, the Trump administration announced it would end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). In response, The United Methodist Church is focusing on advocacy and increasing support for National Justice for Our Neighbors (NJFON).
The JFON network grew out of the United Methodist Committee on Relief's (UMCOR's) long commitment to refugees and immigrants. Since UMCOR's founding in 1940, refugee ministry has been at the heart of its work, guided by Christian values of hospitality to the stranger.
What is DACA? It was an executive order passed in 2012 for undocumented children and young adults, who were brought to the United States with their parents that allowed them to attend college, join the military or buy a house. They could also apply for temporary renewable work permits, Social Security numbers and are protected from deportation. These children and young adults are also known as DREAMers in relation to the DREAM Act.
| The children of volunteers play with the children of clients at a
JFON clinic. Most JFON clinics offer childcare so that the
parents can share their stories with immigration attorneys in
privacy. PHOTO COURTESY OF JFON
About 800,000 individuals are DACA recipients nationwide, Willis said. NJFON attorneys work alongside DACA recipients and other immigrants who come to the United States seeking a better life. Willis noted that JFON sites around the country have assisted more than 2,000 DACA recipients through the documentation process.
The end of DACA means hundreds of thousands of young adults will be at risk of deportation, many of whom are now part of the U.S. workforce. Many state economies would be negatively impacted as a result. As those with DACA begin to lose their status and their ability to work, NJFON and many other faith groups have been advocating for a clean DREAM Act, with no strings attached, to allow these young adults to become U.S. citizens.
With so many in need of legal services, assistance through immigration legal services is in high demand, but there are simply not enough immigration attorneys offering free or low-cost legal services. NJFON hopes to bridge this gap through increasing awareness of its mission and expanding its network.
Last year, NJFON set an ambitious goal to establish 20 sites (independently run local organizations) by 2020. Today, there are 17 sites nationwide, with some new sites close to joining. "I think we'll easily reach our goal sooner than we anticipated," said Willis.
"If we can increase our funding," he continued, "we can hire more immigration attorneys." In doing so, the JFON network can serve more families and individuals in need.
Asked why United Methodists should be involved in ministries like NJFON, Willis replied, "I always think about the John Wesley quote about doing all the good you can for as long as you can. The essence of this quote is to help people in need and to welcome the stranger. I think advocacy for immigrants is a great way for us to live out our faith in this way."
Bella DiFilippo, communication specialist from Mission Engagement for Global Ministries
One of six churchwide Special Sundays with offerings of The United Methodist Church, UMCOR Sunday calls United Methodists to share the goodness of life with those who hurt. Your gifts to UMCOR Sunday lay the foundation for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to share God's love with communities everywhere. The special offering underwrites UMCOR's "costs of doing business." This helps UMCOR to keep the promise that 100 percent of any gift to a specific UMCOR project will go toward that project, not administrative costs.
When you give generously on UMCOR Sunday, you make a difference in the lives of people who hurt. Give now.