JFON immigration attorney Brynne Howard working at refugee "green card" legal clinic.
By: Judy Kading
I would like to dedicate the January 30, 2016 refugee “green card” legal clinic to the 48 Iowa United Methodist Churches that made a special donation to Justice for Our Neighbors during 2015. You don’t know the families that you helped today, but your gifts are part of a cooperative effort to make refugees feel welcome here in Iowa. You are sharing with Justice for Our Neighbors in order to ensure that this much-needed ministry for refugees and immigrants is still reaching out “to welcome the stranger” after 17 years.
During the clinic, families from Somalia, Liberia, Egypt, Congo, Bhutan, and Democratic Republic of Congo made their way to a room at DMACC. They had all come to the United States as refugees and are required to file an immigration application for legal permanent residency, their “green card,” after one year. Many refugees don’t understand this requirement or they don't have the money for an immigration attorney to help them. Many are not able to read English well enough to fill out the application. A group of organizations recognized last year that refugees were having a problem complying.
That problem has been solved for Polk County because of a local grant to a coalition of concerned non-profits in Des Moines. One of the members of this coalition is your ministry, Justice for Our Neighbors. Along with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Refugee RISE AmeriCorps and EMBARC, JFON’s attorney Brynne Howard, a Church and Community Worker with the General Board of Global Ministries, is part of the team hosting nine refugee “green card” legal clinics during 2016. Special help in writing the grant came from Alicia Claypool and Ann Naffier.
30 refugees were helped by 24 volunteers who helped fill out paperwork, make needed copies, and assemble packets to send off to USCIS. Ms. Howard, along with Jodie Mashek of AFSC, trained the volunteers several days beforehand. Two AmeriCorps staff, now working from the JFON office, completed all the logistics of recruiting volunteers, finding refugee clients, and arranging for the room at DMACC with computers and the equipment needed to make the day very efficient for the refugees and volunteer workers. Even Grisell Herrera, our legal secretary, administrative assistant and indispensable helper, gave up a part of her Saturday.
I would like to close by quoting the devotion for January 30, in Disciplines, A Book of Daily Devotions published by The Upper Room: “We must continue to trust that the more freely we offer grace, the broader we spread love, the more deeply we work for reconciliation, the more all people sense God’s presence.” P. 47.