2020 Year in Review
As our gala theme indicated, it has been a year full of change. Of course, immigration law undergoes rapid and frequent changes all the time, and we work hard in partnership with our tenacious and inspiring clients to change lives for the better through immigration legal services, advocacy, and education (if only practice made change easy!).
This year, alongside the world, we adapted to changes necessitated by COVID-19 in order to keep our clients and staff safe and stop the spread of the coronavirus. While figuring out work-from-home and then a hybrid of office work and WFH, we've also been negotiating moving to a new office so that changes to the buildings at Parker Lane can move forward in partnership with Foundation Communities and the Capital District of the United Methodist Church.
We're excited to announce that we will be partnering in a new way with Saint John's United Methodist Church as we move onto their campus for a season! SJUMC has been a strong supporter of ARJFON since our beginning, and is a faith community passionate about LGBTQ+ advocacy, interfaith ministry, and of course, refugees and immigrants, among other areas of ministry.
Thank you for your encouragement, prayers and good vibes, offers to help move furniture, donations, and more as we embrace this big change and fight for more good changes for our community!
A conversation about changes,
excerpted from the gala, between Michelle Salgado, Legal Assistant,
and Lizzie Wright,
In mid-August, access to adjust status to Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) opened up for 10 of our clients. This was incredibly good news.
For these 10 children and young adults, we've been waiting since 2016 to take this huge step toward permanent safety.
But moving forward in the process triggers a "request for evidence" (RFE) that requires a specific medical exam and possible vaccinations that can cost $600.
While we do not charge our clients for legal services, they do often have to pay application fees and other expenses to the government if we can't secure a fee waiver. In the middle of a pandemic, with little to no access to government relief or assistance, how were our clients going to pull the funds together for this exam?
We had asked for help covering two DACA renewals back in June - each of which cost $495 - and our supporters had helped cover those fees in less than a day. There was no doubt in our minds that our supporters are generous, but could we raise enough to cover medical exams for 10 more clients? As Michelle celebrates in the video excerpt from the gala above, our supporters stepped up in a huge way, helping to cover medical exam expenses through generous donations and a matching gift so that our clients didn't face taking out predatory loans, sacrificing rent or grocery money, etc.
As it stands in December, we've got 5 more clients taking the last steps to Lawful Permanent Resident - and the funds to support them!
In May, we celebrated 7 years of Austin Region Justice for Our Neighbors working to welcome immigrant neighbors, provide safety and hope, and keep families together.
Celebrating together apart, something too many families have been forced to do for far too long by our broken immigration system, our work and celebration look a little different but the mission remains the same.
What's next? We need to fill out our staff again by hiring a full time administrative assistant, another attorney, and then add another legal assistant!
We are working with area and state partners to organize advocacy efforts during the 87th Texas Legislative Session in 2021.
While we know the focus will largely be on COVID and the economy at the start, we will press for the new federal administration to return to the historic average for the refugee admissions goal, to end the Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP or "Remain in Mexico" policy) currently keeping thousands of asylum-seekers stuck at the border and in danger, to safeguard Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and open a pathway to permanent status and citizenship, among many other needed changes for freedom and justice for all in our nation.
Thank you for your support! May this new year bring us together and move us forward in our fight! #togetherforjustice