NY-JFON Celebrates Volunteers for Outstanding Work in Hospitality

Immigration Law and Justice New York

New York Justice For Our Neighbors (NY-JFON) held an appreciation dinner to thank the almost 30 volunteers that make immigration clinics possible during an event on Feb. 29, 2020 at John Wesley United Methodist Church, which also serves as the immigration clinic site for Brooklyn. NY-JFON’s executive director, Rev. Paul Fleck, and John Wesley United Methodist Church’s Rev. Ebenezer Aduku welcomed the volunteers who serve in immigration clinics in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island. 

Like many of the volunteers, Aduku brought a personal story evoking the importance of NY-JFON’s work when he needed legal immigration services after entering the country. He acknowledged the hostile environment towards immigrants in the United States and around the world while emphasizing the need for communities of faith to support these vulnerable populations. TJ Mills, managing attorney, later added that the current situation for immigrants in the country is “the harshest cruelty you can imagine,” citing descrimination and children being detained in cages. 

“Let’s celebrate that every day we are doing something to help them,” Aduku proclaimed. 

Mills also presented statistics about NY-JFON from the past 20 years. He informed that New York was the first expansion of the JFON model, which originated in Virginia, in 1999. Since then, NY-JFON has served over 6,000 clients with over 750 different clinics. He added that the attorneys at NY-JFON accumulate more cases per lawyer than most JFON sites in the country and that none of these achievements would be possible without volunteers who make this unique model of serving immigrants work. 

“I have never been prouder to serve with a team of volunteers like this,” Mills finished. 

While God calls people to love their neighbors, humans tend to choose only to help the neighbors they already love and know. NY-JFON, however, is committed to showing love and hospitality to immigrants no matter where they come from or what struggles they have overcome to get here. 

Sue Lee, clinic coordinator at Chinese United Methodist Church in Manhattan, and all of the volunteers present, acknowledged Mills for his tireless work helping immigration clients. Lee stated that while most volunteers work four hours during clinic days, MIlls and the other lawyers put much more time into seeing the immigration cases through to final results. 

Amanda Lin, co-coordinator at the Chinese United Methodist Church clinic, highlighted how this immigration work and hospitality ministry is deeply connected to the Christian faith. She shared that while God calls people to love their neighbors, humans tend to choose only to help the neighbors they already love and know. NY-JFON, however, is committed to showing love and hospitality to immigrants no matter where they come from or what struggles they have overcome to get here. 

Diane Larrier, clinic coordinator at John Wesley United Methodist Church, said that working at the immigration clinics is also a transformative experience for the volunteers. 

“Not only do we help people, but in doing so we become friends and we become family,” said Larrier citing Bible studies and gatherings that the volunteers have shared together through their common connection with NY-JFON. 

The uncertain future of the United Methodist denomination was also mentioned during the event by Rev. Dr. Marjorie Nunes in her closing remarks for the evening. She reaffirmed that no matter how the denomination splits or changes after the upcoming General Conference, “we will work with anyone who strives for justice.” 

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