Immigration Law Clinic Opens at Temple UMC

September 24, 2009

A Justice for Our Neighbors immigration law clinic has "hung up its shingle" at Temple United Methodist Church in San Francisco. JFON is a United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) ministry/project to provide free (sliding scale) professional legal services to immigrants. It assisted Bay Area churches in organizing the Bay Area Immigration Task Force (BAIT) region, which opened the first clinic on September 10.

Temple UMC is located at 65 Beverly Street, San Francisco, CA 94132.
 
As the JFON website explains, the project "represents the response of the United Methodist Church and its local congregations to the needs of immigrants," and each clinic "is an opportunity for local congregations to 'open their doors' with a warm and hospitable welcome for newcomers in their midst."
 
The grand opening was preceded by an extensive and information-filled volunteer training session, attended by more than 20 volunteers, the day before.
 
Danny Upton, the clinic's immigration law attorney, and Alice Mar, JFON Project Manager, were on hand for the training and directed BAIT/JFON through the first day of the clinic's operation, when nine clients were served.
 
"It was very gratifying to see our clients come into the clinic, not knowing their current immigration situation, but leaving the clinic with new knowledge concerning their outcomes here in America, and smiles on their faces," said Clinic Coordinator Belinda Robinson.
 
She added that not all immigration problems are the result of willful intent.
 
"People don’t have to be undocumented to skirt the law. Sometimes it just happens . . . because U.S. immigration laws are so convoluted," she said.
 
The clinic will be open every second Thursday of the month, 6-9 p.m. Its next days of operation will be October 8 and November 12 and the staff is already registering clients for those dates. Contact Robinson at bfrconsulting@gmail.com or call 415.586.1444, Ext. 205, if you know of someone who requires the clinic's services. All clients must have an appointment and space is limited.
 
Robinson notes that all the clients on the first day were accompanied by their pastors, which she recommends as a means of comfort for clients who are a part of a church family.
 
Volunteers are welcome, as well. If you're interested in volunteering, email Lupe Afu, acting volunteer coordinator, at bait@tumcpeace.org and give your phone number and email address. You need not volunteer for every clinic, but Robinson recommends that you become oriented as soon as possible.
 
The Bay Area Immigration Task Force is scheduled to open a second immigration law clinic, at Laurel UMC, in September of next year - and has plans to locate a third at First UMC of Redwood City.