Sunday evening, Oct 22nd, the local satellite clinic of Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON), hosted a fundraiser, “Beacons for Immigrants” at ECCO in downtown Traverse City, MI. JFON is an organization organized in 1996, in response to the increasingly complex immigration regulations stemming from the Immigration Reform and Immigration Act of 1996. September 11th and the Patriot Act have exacerbated the situation, causing backlogs on new and existing applications and an increase in deportation orders. The event was kicked off by Alline Beutler, the Traverse City Clinic Coordinator and remarks by the national Executive Director of JFON, Rob Rutland-Brown from Virginia.
Rob began by asking, “what is happening with immigration in the US today?” The way he sees the it, we are at a crossroads where two narratives regarding immigrants and immigration are playing out as we speak. According to the first narrative, immigrants are seen as a threat to American jobs and national security. This has led to reductions in refugee intakes although there
is an extensive vetting system in place. In this narrative, young people brought here as children have no right to be here leaving immigrants like the Dreamers wondering about their futures and why they are not welcome. We continue to close our doors while the Trump administration demands cutbacks in family based immigration and immigration quotas in general.
However, there is a second narrative which is part of a growing movement of hope. This
movement is raising money for immigrants who have no access to legal representation. Immigration law firms are asking, “how can we help?” Courts are blocking Trump’s immigration bans. Views are changing in support of immigration with people like ourselves are advocating for Dreamers and sharing their testimony, pushing back on the idea that refugees are a burden to society. This support is making immigrants less afraid and feeling more welcome in America. As a society we need to decide what immigration we want to see going forward.
Mr. Golam M. Rabbani from Bangladesh, explained the circumstances that brought him to the US as a refugee in 1973. He had been a lawyer for the Bangladeshi Supreme Court and did social work for twenty years. He wrote articles for his local newspaper supporting democratic reforms. The government police raided his offices and his home. He was beaten and pursued seeking medical treatment by moving from hospital to hospital. He escaped, moving from one place to another until finally his wife suggested that they leave the country. They became stateless and homeless. Upon arrival in the US, JFON gave them new hope. He obtained a social work degree and license from MSU. He now serves as a board member for JFON here in Traverse City, MI. He reminded us that there are now more people displaced world-wide than any time in the past, including after WWII. What he desires, along with all refugees, is for his family to be able to live in a country where they will be safe.
Marcello Betti, Staff Attorney, explained that JFON provides low cost immigration services for poor people. They only have two part-time staff members and depend on volunteer legal services which makes it impossible to serve everyone who needs help. People get turned away.
Agnes Jury, President of the local JFON Association asked for financial support, offering to match
donations from attorneys up to $750. Donor gifts will be used to support the local JFON Clinic. At present, they have $25,000. Agnes asked for help to reach more people by raising their current budget by $50,000 to $100,000. She emphasized that very gift will make a difference.
Donate: Justice for Our Neighbors, Traverse City Clinic, Central Methodist Church, 22 Cass St., Traverse City, MI 49684-5734. For more information, contact Alline Beutler, Traverse City Clinic Coordinator, at 231-357-0026 or go on-line to www.JFONwestmichigan.org.