|I am applying for||Juanita Peterson Grant|
|FUNDS WILL BE USED TO:||Maintain/expand current ministry|
|Name of Organization||Austin Region Justice for Our Neighbors|
|Address||PO Box 17516|
Austin, TX 78760
|Contact Person||Elizabeth Wright|
|Explain connection to The United Methodists Church|
The Justice for Our Neighbors network began under the umbrella of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) in 1999 as a recognition that the mercy of relief work must ultimately be paired with the long-term work of justice. Austin Region Justice for Our Neighbors was organized as an initiative led by clergy and lay leaders through the then-Austin District of the Southwest Texas Conference in 2013. Legal services began to be offered in 2014 with the hiring of our first attorney and through collaboration with local churches to provide space and volunteers for legal clinics.
We continue to be a United Methodist immigration ministry, as our logo states. While other mainline Protestant denominations are joining in relief efforts to address immediate physical needs for food, clothing, and shelter, and Presbyterians and Lutherans have advocacy agencies similar to the UM Board of Church and Society, the UMC stands apart in its commitment to provide legal services for long-term justice for immigrants and their families through Justice for Our Neighbors.
|How many volunteers are involved?||30|
|How many staff members?||3|
|Have you explored opportunities to collaborate with other United Methodist Churches to work toward your mission?*|
|If yes, please describe.|
Within the Capital District, we collaborate with St. John's UMC, where we will be moving our offices, as well as First UMC of Austin, University UMC, Tarrytown UMC, Servant Church, Oak Hill UMC, Westlake UMC, and Bethany UMC, primarily for educational presentations and short-term volunteers. By going virtual with our gala as well as congregations engaging in virtual worship and small groups, we have been connecting a bit more with congregations beyond the district, though Wimberley UMC and Goliad First UMC had also welcomed us in worship before the pandemic began. We have pastors throughout the conference who reach out with legal questions and emergency concerns on behalf of neighbors connected to their congregations, which we strive to respond to them with support as able despite a case load at full capacity. We're also blessed by a continuing partnership with the Georgetown MFSA and support from several UMW chapters inside and outside our district and annual conference.
|How does your mission fulfill the purpose of the grant you are requesting?|
While our mission names "welcoming immigrants into our community," the harsh reality of the immigration system in our country and the manner in which immigration law is enforced leads us to the intensive work of keeping families together.
Women and children comprise more than three-fourths of our clients. We work to get them legal protection, permits to work, and assorted advocacy with schools and local law enforcement, etc. as necessary. This past year, we worked on a campaign to raise funds for medical exam expenses for those clients finally able to adjust status from Special Immigrant Juvenile (temporary status) to Lawful Permanent Resident (green card holder). While we do not charge for our legal services the government charges fees for applications and requires evidence provided through costly medical exams (~$400-600). This is our formal work.
Our informal work is to give emotional relief to mothers worried for their children's safety, to connect them with services needed to make rent, get supplies for school, and more. The first months of 2021 included walking alongside a client and young mother who received a terminal brain cancer diagnosis, assuring her that her children would continue to receive legal support after her death, which happened during the winter storm in February. We also get to share in the joy, like when we gave a green card to a young woman this past week and when asked how she felt, she described her excitement and her mother's tears of joy at the news that the card was ready for her to pick up.
As a note on the grant's purpose to support projects for women and children, it seems like we ought to note that our staff of three is all women. It's not a project, but a facet of the intent to support women includes supporting women in leadership roles.
|How many individuals will be served by the funds requested?||150|
About one-half of our clients are under the age of 21. Two-thirds of our adult clients are women. The vast majority of those women are seeking protection for themselves and their children. Often, their children can qualify for Special Immigrant Juvenile status, which we can apply for and gain separately from the asylum case of the mother.
All of our clients must demonstrate that their household income does not exceed 200% of the federal poverty level for their family size.
Our current client roster includes neighbors with nationalities near and far, though the vast majority of our minor clients come from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico. Our clients who identify as women come from Central America as well as Cameroon, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq.
|Grant history and reporting|
We have received a Juanita Peterson grant over the past few years. We use the funds to work on our Special Immigrant Juvenile cases. We are celebrating that many of the client neighbors who began with us five or more years ago as SIJ cases are finally eligible to apply to adjust status to Lawful Permanent Resident (green card holder). We would love to use any Juanita Peterson funds granted this year toward the work on those Adjustment of Status (AOS) cases!