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Ann Naffier of Iowa Justice for Our Neighbors shares some recent successes. The generous support of individuals and churches of the Iowa Annual Conference makes this ministry possible. Thank you.
Omar* is a mechanical engineer from Iraq, who worked closely with the U.S. army in Iraq throughout that last decade. He also worked with an international project specifically focusing on women’s economic rights in Iraq. From the beginning of his cooperation with the U.S. and the U.N., Omar and his wife and children faced threats and retaliation from elements in Iraqi society, but Omar strongly believed that he was working for the betterment of his country. However, as the situation became increasingly dangerous in Iraq, Omar applied for a special immigrant visa program specifically for Iraqis who had cooperated with the U.S., to re-settle his family, at least temporarily to the U.S. Because of U.S. national security background checks, however, Omar’s application for a visa was delayed for years. When Omar was offered a student visa to the U.S. to pursue his doctorate instead, he took it. He and his family moved here temporarily, hoping that Iraq would be a safer place for them to return to when his studies ended. Unfortunately, the opposite happened. While the family scraped by on Omar’s scholarship money at a university in Iowa, the terrorist group known as ISIS invaded the city where Omar and his family had lived, and ISIS continues to control that city. All of Omar’s extended family there were forced to flee, and Omar’s former home was destroyed by a bomb. That is when Omar contacted Iowa JFON to see if he would qualify for a permanent resident status in the United States. JFON assisted Omar is applying for asylum, but also in renewing his application for a special immigrant visa for Iraqis along with a waiver needed because of his student visa requirements. While Omar’s asylum application is still pending, his special immigrant visa and waiver were approved, and he and his family are now on the road to their legal permanent residency in the United States.
Rosario* first came to the Iowa JFON clinic in Columbus Junction near the end of 2014. She and her young daughter had both experienced domestic violence, and in the case of her daughter, violent incest. Rosario wondered if she would qualify for a U-visa. JFON took her case, and explained what documents she would need. Before she was able to collect the documents, she was arrested in a work-place raid and charged with a serious felony: identity theft. Rosario had not stolen anyone’s identity, but she was working with a false name and identification that she had purchased. However, as the government did in Postville back in 2008, the prosecution decided to charge Rosario with the most serious crime they could in order to convince her to agree to a quick deportation. Rosario was blessed with a wonderful public defender, who not only fought hard to lower the charges against her, but who also called JFON to consult with us about Rosario’s immigration possibilities. Between the public defender’s efforts, and JFON’s ability to get an initial important step of the U-visa process approved, Rosario was finally released from custody, and ICE chose to not pursue deportation against her. She is now deep into the next step of her U-visa process, with JFON’s assistance, and has reunited with her children.
*As always, names and some identifying characteristics in these stories have been changed to protect the privacy and safety of our clients.