New England JFON helps teen immigrant, San Antonio JFON expands, and understanding the "Credible Fear Interview"
Stories & News from the JFON Network
We will break these chains forever A mother's sacrifice to save her daughter from child marriage
The man who had bought her was a man of great importance, her father told her. A leader in the Ogboni secret fraternity of Nigeria, he would do a lot to help her family. It was a good match for his daughter. Why wasn’t she happy about it?
Chichima was nine years old. Her soon-to-be husband was nearly 60.
“Let her stay in school a bit longer,” her mother pleaded. Lebechi had tried begging before, when her daughter had been forced to submit to the traditional female genital mutilation that made her “marriageable” to Ogboni men.
Lebechi had failed then, and she failed again. She was powerless; less than nothing. And so was Chichima.
The old man died several years later. As was Ogboni custom, Chichima was then offered to his eldest son. He decided to take his father’s widow into his house.
Chichima rebelled. She was now 14 years old, but had already lost twin babies. She did not want to be married again. And she knew that the son was even worse than the father.
With her mother’s help, she tried to run away. Each time she was brought back, and each time her father grew more enraged.
“You go back and stay with your husband,” he told her. “Try this again, and I will send you back in a coffin.”
"I knew I had to do everything I could to win this asylum case," says Migladys Bermudez, staff attorney for JFON Michigan.
"I was 100 percent certain that Chichima would be killed if she were forced to return to Nigeria.”
Nos vemos al otro lado / See you on the other side
NJFON Executive Director Rob Rutland-Brown was in TIjuana, Mexico in early May, volunteering with JFON attorneys and staff there to help the asylum seekers prepare for their all-important "credible fear interviews."
You know nothing about the interviewers or the questions they’ll ask you. This is indescribably stressful because this interview, needless to say, is extremely important.
It’s not a stretch to say your life depends on it.
If you’re like me, you’d want some help preparing for the interview from experts who know what you’ll be asked and can teach you how to tell your story in a way that is both clear and compelling.
You’ll want someone to explain to you that answering the question, “Why did you flee to the U.S.?” with “Honduras can be dangerous,” says nothing about your situation. You’ll need someone who, after hearing the atrocities you’ve experienced, reminds you to emphasize to the interviewer that the gang actually shot your cousin and said you were next unless you handed over your daughter to them.
These interviews, conducted by asylum officers, are the first barrier in the long, complicated, and ever-changing gauntlet of the U.S. asylum process. In order to even receive a court date (months or years down the road) and avert immediate deportation, one must pass this interview.
It is a chaotic and confusing system; a high percentage of asylum seekers miss hearing their number called and risk having to go to the back of the line.
The last number called on May 2 was 2,441.
Everything in Texas is bigger San Antonio Region JFON expands its reach
May 1, 2019: San Antonio Region Justice for Our Neighbors (SARJFON) has expanded to include the Coastal Bend area of South Texas. They are now offering free and low-cost expert immigration legal services in these coastal communities, as well as Know-Your-Rights workshops, child guardianship planning, and other educational training opportunities.
A year ago, board members of the prospective Corpus Christi JFON had thought to open their own independent JFON site; however, after researching the needs of the community, they found that overhead could be greatly reduced and more resources could be put directly into client services if they joined forces with SARJFON.
Terry LeVine, local Corpus Christi attorney and secretary of the San Antonio Area Justice for Our Neighbors Governing Board said the two boards have merged but will retain their local advisory councils in an effort to keep their ear to the ground regarding the needs of immigrants in their local communities.
Legal services will include adjustment of status, work authorization, naturalization, and identifying potential forms of humanitarian relief under current immigration law.
“With the addition of services in the Corpus Christi area,” says SARJFON Executive Director Matt Lohmeier, “we hope to have a client case load of between 100 and 120 cases annually.
"We know we won’t be able to meet the full needs of the community right away,” he adds, “but it is a start and, as financial support grows, our client base will also grow.”
It sounds like this could be the beginning of a beautiful (and productive) relationship!
Raul's Story New England JFON runs Boston-area clinics focused on serving the special needs of immigrant teens
During his entire 16 years of existence, Raul, born in the Dominican Republic, has had a loving and dedicated mother who taught him good morals and the value of hard work.
Unfortunately, Raul also had a father who was a cruel, controlling, and abusive alcoholic, one who seemingly took delight in causing his son both physical and mental pain. Raul was deathly afraid of him, and it was poisoning every good thing in his life.
With no one to aid them in their own country, Raul and his mother fled to the U.S. to start a new life here. They settled in the Boston area and Raul found help at a youth-focused immigration legal clinic run by New England Justice for Our Neighbors.
Now Raul is an 11th grader and a proud member of his school's JROTC program. He has good grades and good friends, and no longer lives in constant fear and anxiety.
“With our help," explains Ana Otero, Raul's attorney, "we hope that Raul can get his permanent residency and eventually become a contributing member of society as a U.S. citizen."
Raul's wish is much simpler: “I just want to be the person that God created me to be."
Mothers who sacrifice, mothers who protect, mothers who LOVE...
We know thousands of these mothers.
We bet you know one, too.
This Mother's Day, your tax-deductible donation will help immigrant mothers and their children live safely, securely, and together here in their new country.