12/08/2017 - Texas Bar Foundation Grants $10,000 to Austin Region Justice for Our Neighbors For Removal Defense and Emergency Preparedness
The Austin Region of Justice for Our Neighbors (ARJFON) is pleased to announce that it has received a $10,000 grant from the Texas Bar Foundation. The funds will go to removal defense in what non-lawyers usually call ‘deportation’ proceedings, and emergency planning for individuals and families in Bastrop, Travis, and Williamson Counties.
“We are grateful and honored that the Texas Bar Foundation has chosen to help us provide legal services to vulnerable immigrants and asylum seekers, including children” said Saul Pacheco, Board Chair of Justice for Our Neighbors in Austin. “Parents in our communities are sick with anxiety about what will happen to their kids if there are immigration raids and arrests. JFON strives to keeps families together, and to treat all our neighbors with hospitality, compassion, and respect.”
“Having a lawyer can make a difference,” added Virginia Raymond, legal director for Austin Justice for Our Neighbors. “Overall, immigrants and refugees who are represented are up to ten times more likely to receive favorable decisions. For women with minor children who come to the U.S. seeking safety, legal representation is even more critical: it is the single most important factor in determining what will happen in immigration court. Those families with lawyers are fourteen times more likely to win their cases.”
“As the Texas Bar Foundation works to educate the public about their rights and responsibilities under the law, provide legal services to the poor, and assist those who turn to the legal system for protection,” observed ARJFON Chair Pacheco, “we could hardly have found a more appropriate partner.”
Since its inception in 1965, the Texas Bar Foundation has awarded more than $18 million in grants to law-related programs. Supported by members of the State Bar of Texas, the Texas Bar Foundation is the nation’s largest charitably-funded bar organization.
The Justice for Our Neighbors site in Austin is one of a network of seventeen across the U.S. that emerged from the work of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), established in 1940. “We are proud of this long-standing commitment to respect and offer compassion to our neighbors who were once strangers,” Pacheco emphasized, “and we look forward to ever-strengthening cooperation with the Foundation and our colleagues in the Central Texas advocacy community.”
For more information contact Austin Region Justice for Our Neighbors: 512.645.7200
7/20/2017 - Supreme Court Thoughts
Hope everybody had a wonderful July 4th Holiday! Here at JFON, we had a relaxing yet anxious holiday as we prepared for some of our cases that were upcoming. Fortunately, we won our cases, and our clients have received the asylum that they deserve!
However, there is still much work ahead of us. As we all know, the Supreme Court on June 26th inexplicably allowed Trump’s travel ban (his words) to go into effect despite it being struck down at every level before reaching the highest Court in the land. And even then, when the Court left the faintest glimmer of hope by vaguely adding that people with “bona fide” relationships with citizens or entities in the United States were still allowed to come in, this Administration still feels that THAT is too much. Just this week, the Justice Department is appealing a recent ruling in Hawai’i that had the audacity to count grandparents as family members with “bona fide” relationships. How exactly does banning grandparents from entering the US make this country safer? What threat would an eighty-year-old person pose to the safety of this nation? Because make no mistake, if the Supreme Court again rules in favor of the attorney general, that person will be prevented from entering the United States.
While I may not have the experience or knowledge necessary to answer these questions with 100% certainty, my gut tells me that this measure, and measures like it such as Texas SB 4,is part of the same act that we have seen again and again. The mindset that went into writing up these orders is the same mindset that drives people to chant “ICE, ICE, ICE” at immigration activists. This mindset has always been and always will be about tearing up families and intimidating communities that have been deemed “un-American” for the way that they look or for the religion that they practice. They threaten actual Americans in the guise of protecting “America”. And so at JFON, while we try our best to win as many cases as we can, we realize that our work does not stop once the trial is over. We must also try to reverse this narrative that somehow only “real Americans” should be the only one’s treated with dignity that are promised to every human being. And as ICE begins to ramp up efforts to invade our cities once again, we must harden our resolve to fight back.
7/4/2017 - Independence Day Thoughts
As July 4th approaches and I think about what is happening in this state and this nation, I find myself constantly asking myself this: what is a nation? It’s a seemingly simple question, right? But if you go up to ten different people, you’ll get ten different answers. Sure, they will all allude to ideas of country or of ethnicity, but all of these definitions fail when used to define the United States. We are largely descended from or are immigrants from multiple backgrounds and heritages, but even when we are outside of our borders, we call ourselves Americans. So, what is America?
At this point, I have to defer to a local lawyer, Dr. Lealon Martin, for what I believe to be the best answer that I have heard. During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln was tormented by this very question as he presided over a literally divided nation engaged in a bloody war which was itself started over not only who was an American but who was a human being. And in arguably his most famous speech, Lincoln gave his answer in Gettysburg on November 19, 1863, starting with the eternal line, “Four score and seven years ago…” Some quick math will reveal that four score and seven (87) years from 1863 would have been 1776, the year that the Declaration of Independence was signed and the year that Lincoln chose define as the birth of America. This is significant because of the years Lincoln decided not to designate: 1783 (the year that America won the Revolutionary War) or 1789 (the year that the US Constitution came into effect and founded the government that has lasted until today). To Lincoln, a nation did not need to be created through the blood shed of a war for independence or through the creation of a unifying governing structure. All that was needed to create a nation was to simply declare one as such. That’s why we celebrate July 4th as the birthday of our nation instead of September 3, 1783, or March 4, 1789. On July 4th, 1776, this nation’s most founding document, the Declaration of Independence, was signed. And what does this document say? “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This, Lincoln pinpointed, is the very founding definition of the United States of America.
And so on this July 4th, we would like those of you out there ponder that statement. Realize that anyone who scoffs at that line (like a certain fascist Texan did in a recent nationally-televised interview) not only scoffs at the idea that all human beings of certain naturally born rights but is all scoffing at the very founding idea of America. And above all else, think of ways that you can help uphold the spirit of those words. Here at JFON - Austin, we are fighting to make sure that every person that comes to this country gets treated with dignity befitting not just of an American but of a human being. Whether it’s providing legal representation to asylum seekers yearning to be free or fighting against SB4, we already know what we’ll be doing. We just hope that you will join us.
6/18/2017 - Why I Joined JFON - Austin
Hello, my name is Nathan Simmons. I am the volunteer website designer for Justice for Our Neighbors - Austin. That means that I manage and update this update with events, services and volunteer opportunities provided by JFON in our mission to provide affordable immigration legal services in for clients with limited income. I also help Virginia Raymond research cases for people seeking asylum. I am incredibly thankful for the opportunities and support given by everyone here, which is doubly important for me as I prepare for the LSAT this summer in order to become an immigration lawyer.
Considering that at this time last time last year I was working as a full time engineer, JFON has been great in bringing me along at my own pace. Now, admittedly going from engineering to law is a big change, but obviously I would not be making such a big change without a few good reasons. The political situation has changed drastically over the past year. I remember back on election night feeling completely helpless and sick to my stomach. I wanted to find a way to get involved and try to combat those in power, and seeing the horrendous immigration policies as well as just the absolutely disgusting rhetoric and attitudes about immigrants presented by the current administration was enough to get me involved in this fight. From the expansion of the immigration enforcement system to a weekly list of ‘immigrant crimes’, the current executive office very clearly exhibits a sinister agenda when it comes to some of the most vulnerable people in our country.
In all fairness, these problems did not start this year. Obama earned the title of ‘deporter-in-chief’ by having a higher amount of removals than either of the prior administration to his. Friends of mine would flippantly say that people should just come into the country legally or post videos comparing immigrants to gumballs. Supposed progressives obliged themselves into helping bullies minimize the plight of undocumented immigrants and dehumanize them further. At JFON, we have a dedicated group of people helping to fight back against this liberal apathy towards these marginalized people.
But in the end, the biggest reasons that I have decided to volunteer with JFON are personal reasons. I had always entertained the idea of becoming lawyer back in college, and that inkling only became stronger once I had started working as an engineer. While I cannot say the work I was doing was not helpful, it was admittedly a bit difficult to become incredibly passionate about concrete and parking garages. At JFON, you get to actually meet the people that you are trying to help and know right away what they need as they navigate an increasingly complex legal system. And to be a little selfish, it is personally encouraging to be in contact with people you are directly helping. But I wouldn’t be doing this type of work out of a narcissistic need to make myself feel better. No, in the end of the day, as a son of an immigrant I want to guarantee that the next generation of people coming to America get the same opportunities as those that came before us. We at JFON will keep fighting to make sure that this country founded by immigrants will always be home to immigrants.