Generous support at a January event is making it possible for Iowa Justice for Our Neighbors to “Give a Child a Chance.” More than 100 people gathered on January 28, 2015, to support JFON, which “is a faith-driven ministry, welcoming immigrants into our churches and communities by providing free, high-quality immigration legal services, education, and advocacy.”
Frank Camp, JFON’s Board chairperson, called the outpouring of support “really huge.” He was heartened to see “a group like this that’s really different from our usual support base get this interested in our mission, our goals.”
The evening was “a dream come true for Justice for our Neighbors,” said Ann Naffier, JFON’s regional attorney. Simply put, it was “an incredible thing,” and incredible beyond seeing the number of people who made their way to the law offices of Dorsey & Whitney on the 41st
floor of 801 Grand. Even higher than the vantage point over the City of Des Moines was the hope of being able “to provide services to children who would otherwise not have access to legal services,” observed Brynne Howard, JFON’s regional attorney and church and community worker. “For those children it may mean the difference between life and death because the children come from dangerous, horrible situations in their home countries.”
JFON had an announced goal of raising $100,000. Speaking at the January 28 program, Frank Camp said, “We’re getting tantalizingly close” to getting there. And getting there “will mean that we will be able to support one lawyer and a part-time legal assistant for the first year,” Camp added.
“What it’s really going to do is to free us up to continue that work that we’re doing around the state meeting with any number of immigrants with any number of kinds of cases,” Ann Naffier noted. “We’ve not really been able to give our full attention to that because we’ve been dealing with the unaccompanied minors,” but by meeting the goal and being able to add desperately need staff the JFON team will be able to work together to expand that service.
Realizing the goal will mean, “We’ll be able to grow the kinds of services that we can offer to the over 250 unaccompanied children in Iowa” reported Brynne Howard. In addition to that, “Part of the work of the new attorney will be to mentor and grow our network of pro bono attorneys who are helping with these cases.”
Former Iowa Governor Robert Ray sent a note of support. Speaking on behalf of his wife and himself Ray said, “Billie and I support Justice For Our Neighbors, the expert nonprofit in Iowa on immigration legal services…[and] support expansion of their good work, giving newer immigrants a chance for a safer and better life of opportunity in Iowa.” He added, emphatically, “Iowa is a welcoming state!”
Ongoing support, beyond the January 28 event, can come in many ways. “People can contribute, monetarily,” Naffier said. In addition, “We’re always looking for volunteers to help us out with our clinics, with our clients, and help us advocate for better immigration laws for immigrants in Iowa.”
“Iowa Justice for Our Neighbors has been serving clients in our communities since 1999. Established by the United Methodist Committee on Relief in 1999, JFON helps people from all over the world. Our services are available to all without regard to race, gender, or religion. Clinics are located in Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Columbus Junction, Storm Lake and Ottumwa.” (from the JFON website) More information is available at: www.iajfon.org
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on attorney April Palma joining the JFON staff