JFON Working to Cover Increased Demand for Help

JFON Working to Cover Increased Demand for Help


Each year, attorneys across the country working for the Justice For Our Neighbors (JFON) program assist thousands of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. According to their web site, they do this one client at a time, slogging through the miles of paperwork, filings, and court appearances for each case.

And these services are needed now more than ever in light of the actions and policies of the Trump administration.

Recently, Rob Rutland-Brown, director of National JFON, reported that the need for services has “skyrocketed.” In 2016, JFON served 35 percent more clients than in the previous year, hitting the 10,000 mark in terms of cases undertaken, according to Rutland-Brown. The organization also opened a site near the US-Mexico border last month in Imperial Valley, California.

Steven Lee, executive director of the NYAC program, agreed about the rising need.

“We are seeing an increased demand for our legal services at our clinics, as well as increased demands for educational workshops,” Lee said.

In terms of numbers, JFON has hosted 10 “Know Your Rights” workshops or other education events in the first three months of 2017– the same number that they might normally hold in more than a year.

These workshops are in addition to JFON’s regular schedule of legal clinics in four locations in the conference:

  • Chinatown, Manhattan: Chinese UMC, founded in 1999
  • Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn: John Wesley UMC, founded in 1999
  • Flushing, Queens: La Promesa Mission, founded in 2000
  • Long Island: Hicksville UMC, founded in 2014
The increased demand for appointments has resulted in a backup of several months, according to managing attorney TJ Mills. His greatest hope is to hire another attorney and find additional office space so “we could see more clients.”

JFON-NY is supported as a line item in the NYAC budget each year. For 2017, that amount is $60,000; their request for 2018 is $85,000, according to Ross Williams, chief financial officer for the conference. Discretionary lines in the budget, like JFON, are dependent upon the payment of apportionments for full funding. Since the conference never collects 100 percent of apportionments from its churches, JFON receives roughly 90 percent of its request.

The project is also currently looking for “highly knowledgeable, experienced, and professional members” of individual churches to serve on New York JFON’s board of directors. According to Lee, current board chair, Rev. Marjorie Nunes of the Hicksville UMC, has started to bring about a much-needed change in the project’s governance culture and more work needs to be done. Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton has also asked Rev. Bill Shillady to serve as the cabinet’s representative to the board.

How you can help:
  • More information about NY-JFON and instructions on making financial contributions can be found on their web site. Steven Lee and Rev. Marjorie Nunes can each be reached by email.
  • NYAC Task Force on Immigration: Updates on training and action events.