JFON Client stories

August 02, 2017

Please share these stories of Iowa Justice for Our Neighbors clients with your churches.
Client Story  from Brynne Howard  (June 9, 2017 Staff Report to JFON Board)
Martha and her husband, Marcos had already had been led down several dead-end paths and spent thousands of dollars on attorneys trying to obtain legal status for Martha by the time they came to meet with Iowa Justice for Our Neighbors.

Martha came to the United States more than 20 years ago.  Soon after Martha came to the U.S. she was referred by a friend to someone who helped her fill out an application for a work permit.  Unbeknownst to Martha, this person was involved in a scam with an immigration official who was fraudulently issuing work permits to individuals in California.  This officer later was fired and criminally investigated.    

Martha later married Marcos, a legal permanent resident, and they had 3 children. Martha and Marcos paid an attorney thousands of dollars and began the process to apply for Martha. They paid the immigration fees and, after several years Martha received a notice that she was scheduled for an interview in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.  At that time Martha and Marcos decided not to continue with their attorney and came to JFON for help.

Martha and Marcos met with a JFON attorney who realized that Martha’s brother had also filed a petition for Martha many years ago.  As a result, Martha was eligible to apply for her legal permanent residency in the U.S. and did not need to travel to Ciudad Juarez.  Martha and Marcos were extremely relieved to learn that Martha would not need to travel to Juarez.  They feared what would happen if she were denied and worried about how they would care for the children while she was in Mexico.  Fortunately, with JFON’s help, Martha never had to travel to Juarez.  She had an interview in Des Moines and her case was approved.  After many years, thousands of dollars and several false starts, Martha finally received her legal permanent residency in April and she can finally feel secure in the country that is home to her.     
Client Story from Ann Naffier (June 9, 2017 Staff Report to JFON Board)
Juan Espinoza* and his wife Yulissa* are originally from Central America.  They came to the United States more than 15 years ago, and have three children who were born here.  Juan works hard in a factory in eastern Iowa, but also is receiving training to become a lay pastor at a mainline denomination congregation where he and his family have been attending and offering leadership for years. 

Unfortunately, several years ago, Juan and Yulissa fell prey to an attorney from California who was helping people apply for political asylum even though they were not qualified.  Juan and Yulissa ended up in deportation proceedings. 

I met Juan and Yulissa in Cedar Rapids in 2015, and began to assist them in preparing for a fairly complicated legal procedure called “Request for Prosecutorial Discretion and Administrative Closure.” This request asked Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to voluntarily allow the judge to close Juan and Yulissa’s removal cases, even though they did not qualify for any specific immigration program.  It would grant them a work permit and temporary protection from deportation.  After months of document collection and brief-writing, JFON was able to submit Juan and Yulissa’s Request to ICE. 

This legal procedure, once quite rare, had become more common in the last few years, because President Obama had created a policy instructing ICE to carefully consider and approve, if possible, these Requests.  Unfortunately, by the time we had completed the Request, it was mid-November, after the election, and we knew the days of being able to get such a Request granted were numbered because of the radically different immigration policies of the incoming administration.  In a beautiful moment that redeemed my faith in the goodness of all people, including ICE personnel, the supervisor of ICE and I met to discuss their case (and several other Requests we had made for other clients), approved them quickly, and got them before an Immigration Judge to get the official order closing their deportation cases, just days before the inauguration.  Juan and Yulissa are now as safe as they can be, in temporary but stable and indefinite legal status, ready to weather out the next few years of potentially stormy immigration policy. 
Client Story from April Palma (June 9, 2017 Staff Report to JFON Board)
Cristian is a 16 year old from Guatemala. Cristian left Guatemala because there were no opportunities for him there. Since the age of 12 he was no longer able to attend school because his parents would not pay for him to go to school. Rather, he was told he had to work in order to help support his younger siblings. He was also having problems with his father. His father is an alcoholic. Shortly before Cristian left Guatemala, he and his father had an altercation and his father hit him. While it was the only time his father has physically abused Cristian, Cristian has witnessed his father abusing his mother for many years. Cristian also left Guatemala because of the growing gang violence. He left when he was 15 years old, which is prime recruitment age for the gangs. Cristian is now reunited with his uncle in Iowa. His uncle reached out to JFON and we are currently assisting Cristian with his petition for SIJS.
Client Story from Emily Rebelskey (June 9, 2017 Staff Report to JFON Board)
Carmen currently works as a bilingual tutor with the Marshalltown school district and hopes to retire soon. She therefore wishes to naturalize so she can collect the retirement benefits that she has earned over the years. Carmen first got her lawful permanent residence in the United States in 1978. Her 70’s-style permanent resident card is so old that it has no expiration date. She meets all the qualifications for citizenship: she’s been continuously residing in the U.S. for nearly 40 years, speaks fluent English, and is a person of upstanding moral character. She never naturalized because she did not know what the requirements were, and could not afford a lawyer to help her through the process. Carmen attended one of our first Marshalltown clinics and JFON is happy to help Carmen through her citizenship journey!