Back To Work, Together

Immigration Law and Justice New York

When NY JFON’s Chinatown clinic was established in 1999, co-ordinator Sue Lee and other organizers set out on a mission to help immigrants live a more dignified life in the United States. What they didn’t fully predict was the unfailing sense of community and togetherness between clients, volunteers, and lawyers that would emerge from the monthly clinics.

Another thing Sue and other members of the clinic never anticipated was the COVID-19 pandemic, which would come 20 years after the clinic opened. Despite the required isolation of the pandemic, not to mention frightening spurs of anti-Asian hate crimes, Sue continued to organize a virtual clinic. NY JFON’s Managing Attorneys TJ Mills and Samantha Blecher were still hard at work, tackling around 6 cases every month through the Chinatown clinic alone. Thanks to the perseverance of Sue, TJ, Sam and other members of the NY JFON community, several clients were granted the documentation they sought.

Yet, something was missing. It was the energy of Sue’s reassuring smile, the confidence in TJ’s miraculously fast legal work, and the laughter of people from all over the world coming together. “We missed the times we could sit together and laugh,” reminisced Sue. There was nothing like it.

Last month, the Chinatown clinic finally re-opened in person for the first time since the spring of 2020. Things are not exactly the same as before: Sue ensures that clients are temperature checked, sneeze guards are in place, and all surfaces are regularly cleaned. But as they work on each clients case before convening for lunch, the volunteers at the NY JFON Chinatown are especially grateful that together, they can create a space for the shared hope that our world emerges from the pandemic darkness filled with compassion, love, and community.

At this time we are mandating that all of our volunteers adhere to our covid protocols. This includes requiring that all volunteers are vaccinated, masked, and have their temperatures checked. “We are still evaluating whether to return fully to in person clinics,” said Executive Director Rev. Paul Fleck. “The Delta variant is a very real concern and we will be monitoring and watching it closely.”

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