Just in time for Mother’s Day…
On a sunny Saturday at Hillcrest United Methodist Church, smiling volunteers greet a teenage boy. His dad says something almost inaudible as he glances down at the folder in his hand, but one word is clear.
“Papeles,” he says.
A volunteer directs the pair to the church gymnasium. They arrive to find tables full of parents and kids, while a young woman gives instructions in Spanish. The majority of the people assembled here are from Latin America, though a few are from Europe and Asia. What they all have in common is that they want to be Americans.
Most live in southeast Nashville and Antioch, though some have traveled from outlying counties like Coffee, Sumner, Bedford and Rutherford. The woman slides a page into a projector, and the image of a blank white form illuminates the dark gym. Together, the families begin filling in the blanks.
By the time the day is over, they will have filled out daunting amounts of paperwork. For the young people assembled, these papers hold a new world of potential — a ticket to U.S. residency, a green card … a future. And for many of the immigrant parents who brought them, this bureaucratic gauntlet will be just the latest hardship they’ve braved in order to raise their children as American citizens.
Once a month, the Methodist-based nonprofit organization Justice for Our Neighbors of Tennessee holds a free legal clinic for Tennessee immigrants seeking a path to lawful residency in the United States. On these Saturdays, the organization’s staff attorney and the lawyers who volunteer their expertise meet with prospective clients, many of whom have no idea how to navigate the legal labyrinth that awaits them. (See “First Steps,” the final section of this story.)
Kathryn Spry, a retiree and volunteer, has run these Saturday clinics every month since the Tennessee JFON chapter started five years ago, one link in a national network. “There’s usually nervousness,” she says, recalling the mornings she’s had to cajole families into the building, reassuring them that the clinic wasn’t an Immigration and Customs Enforcement sting.
But as a grandmother herself, Spry says she admires the parents who exit the shadows and risk deportation to help secure their children’s futures. Tennessee JFON volunteer board president Kaki Friskics-Warren seconds her thoughts.
“For these parents to say, ‘We’re going to take this risk with you,’ ” Friskics-Warren says, “it’s an act of incredible love.”
In the following pages, you’ll find stories of both risk and incredible love. You’ll find immigrant mothers who took horrific risks to improve their kids’ lot in life, and raised those kids by doing hard jobs in a foreign land. You’ll find mothers who gambled what little they’d won by carrying folders of documents to a JFON legal clinic, braving deportation so their own children would never know that threat.
A child’s face, free from worry, is a Mother’s Day gift no brunch or bouquet could equal. Meet four women — in person and in one tragic instance, in memory — who hope to obliterate a single participle that has defined their children’s lives and narrowed their prospects: undocumented.
Continue reading… Click here: http://www.nashvillescene.com/nashville/immigrant-mothers-brave-hard-work-perilous-journeys-even-separation-to-raise-their-children-as-us-citizens-four-stories-of-those-who-paid/Content?oid=3394150
Justice for Our Neighbors is a faith driven ministry, welcoming immigrants into our communities by providing high quality, immigration legal services, education, and advocacy.
Meet Our Clients
“Alicia” was a victim of victim of domestic violence whose husband beat her nearly to the point of unconsciousness in front of their two young children and tried to run over the family with his vehicle when they returned home to get clothes and shoes. Through the efforts of Justice For Our Neighbors of Tennessee, she was able to get a Victim of Crime visa, enabling her to better provide for her two children and prevent her abuser from threatening further harm because of her immigration status.
Estefan came to the United States with his mother in 2004. After her death, Estefan was alone in a strange land without identification or immigrant documentation. Through Justice For Our Neighbors of Tennessee, Estefan has applied for Special Immigrant juvenile Status. Now 16, he is most excited about getting a drivers license.
Active Cases as of January 1, 2013
98 individuals (81 families)
- 63 U visas and family members
- 19 Green Cards
- 3 Special Immigrant Juvenile Status petitions (unaccompanied minors)
- 15 Other (Naturalization and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)
- 424 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals with the help of 584 pro bono hours from 45 volunteer attorneys
- Visas for victims (U visas) received: 6 in 2012, 129 since founding in 2008
- Green cards: 14 in 2012, 64 since founding in 2008
- Citizenship applications: 2
- Legal Consultations: 114
- Coordinated American Immigration Lawyers Association pro bono legal clinic with 200+ consultations