By Billie K. Fidlin, Director of Outreach | Desert Southwest Conference
Years and years ago, the Desert Southwest Conference wanted to establish a Justice for Our Neighbors (AZ JFON) legal clinic. With SB1070 looming over Arizona, and similar strife in Nevada, we wanted to respond, to be a beacon of light and a source for help in the midst of turmoil and heartache. Sadly, the costs of nearly a quarter of a million dollars at that time were insurmountable, and our immigration team, with heavy hearts, let the dream go.
As of February 1, 2018, the dream was not only revived, it became a reality! Members of the Desert Southwest Conference and the Tucson community celebrated the grand opening of Arizona Justice for Our Neighbors, A United Methodist Immigration Ministry, with a glorious ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Pastor Augustin Jimenez described the many servant programs and ministries housed at New Hope Methodist Church and pointed out the symbolic meaning of the church’s name giving hope to those who seek justice.
Led by JFON Board Member Rev. Jim Wiltbank, the day was a complete celebration. Speakers included Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, Desert Southwest Conference Bishop Robert Hoshibata, and Ella Rawls, lead attorney and the driving force behind AZ JFON. Other board members in attendance included Jeannine Reynolds, Mary Thomas, Scott Morris, Rev. Sherry Brady, Rev. Mark Conrad, Rev. Tom Jelinek, Rev. Agustin Jimenez, Sarai Milla Perez, Gretchen Lopez, and Billie Fidlin. Many of the area clergy attended. AZ JFON is located at New Hope UMC in Tucson, and neighbors, community partners, and ecumenical clergy – even the media – were in attendance as well.
Attorney Ella Rawls opened the speeches for the day. She stated,
“Today is a day of a dream come true. There are people who need our help… We are absolutely overwhelmed by the welcome of New Hope United Methodist Church and we are thrilled to be here… we want to challenge the way immigration has been talked about and the way our immigrant brothers and sisters have been talked about.”
Mayor Rothschild thanked the United Methodist Church for helping people overcome the “hurdles for people who have a right to citizenship, attain citizenship. He shared that Tucson is an immigrant welcoming city but also a city of laws that pertain to civil liberties and human rights. His administration is one dedicated to protecting the rights of all people – and in that light, the term is NOT political correctness; the term is patriotism. He shared,
“While the name of this church is New Hope, the name of this work being done is new hope!”
Bishop Hoshibata continued the prophetic message of the day by all speakers. “God calls us to use the gifts we have to do something positive and transformational…We yearned for the day this would come to pass… and here we are! We are reminding the community that the courage of the immigrants around us is who we are at this time… While there are those who would seek to divide us using hatred, fear and the building of walls, there are persons who have forgotten we are all a part of one human family.” Ours is “to offer a hug of warmth and welcome… to invite others to be a part of our family. The immigrants’ story is one of courage that you, and I, can learn from.” The Bishop also reminded all of us of the ongoing opportunity to help support AZ JFON financially.
The kinds of cases AZ JFON will assist people to include family-based immigrant petitions, filings with USCIS, adjustments of status, work authorization renewals, naturalization applications, humanitarian-based forms of relief such as Violence Against Women Act applications, U-Visa applications, and Special Immigrant Juvenile applications. Work will also center on education and information.
As our afternoon drew to a close, we were reminded that we cannot be satisfied with the injustice around us. AZ JFON will be a beacon of hope for many.
God provides in Creator’s timing… dreams do come true.
Watch the JFON television news coverage: https://www.kgun9.com/news/local-news/arizona-justice-for-our-neighbors-clinic-opening-in-tucson
JFON clinics in Arizona focus on family-based immigration advice and council. They are held every second Saturday of each month from 9:00 am-12:00 pm. Appointments are made by leaving a message at 520-488-9930 and including a call-back phone number. All calls are completely confidential.
Additional information is available at: