May 22, 2020

The Welcoming Tradition Continues

JSS has good news to share this week! In a time when challenging news and disappointments permeate the airwaves and immigration to the United States has essentially been halted, we are delighted to be helping newcomers become lawful permanent residents of the United States. Since the Safer at Home into effect in mid-March, five JSS clients have received their green cards and Carrie Fox-Kline, Director of Immigration Legal Services, has submitted nine more applications.

Most of these green cards are for refugees we have resettled. Refugees can apply for a green card a year after arriving in the US. In my experience with our refugee clients, many of them are focused on the goal of becoming citizens and anxiously await becoming lawful permanent residents. This status is the first step toward citizenship and creates a deepening sense of being settled and safe in their new country. Carrie shared with me the joyous reactions of her clients who just received their green cards.

But it is not only refugees that JSS helps to obtain green cards. Maya Garbuz, case manager, also sees clients who need immigration legal assistance. A few months ago, a young man lost his green card and without it, he could not find any employer willing to hire him. Maya supported this young man in his applying for a replacement card on his own. He just received it last week and is already interviewing for jobs.

Another young man who came to JSS as social services client just received his social security card. He came to the U.S. as a child with his mother who married an American citizen. The man was very abusive and the woman and her son had to leave. They had no status, as the husband/stepfather never applied for social security or green card. The son came to see Maya who provided social services and support while he obtained legal help to apply for legal status through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). His VAWA petition was approved. He can now get a job, which he could not do without legal status.

These stories shine a bright light during a dark time for immigration in our country. Since late March, refugee resettlement, naturalization ceremonies (to complete the process of becoming a citizen) and issuance of green cards to those outside the United States (with some exceptions) have been halted. The US has closed the southern and norther borders to non-essential travel and more than 20,000 migrants have been immediately sent back to Mexico or their home countries. Only two migrants have been allowed to remain in the United States to pursue asylum and the Trump administration is moving to extend its coronavirus border restrictions indefinitely despite the push to re-open business inside the country.

The Jewish story is one of immigration and protecting the vulnerable is at the heart of our tradition. JSS, which has a long history of serving and advocating for immigrants, will continue to do so and invite you to join us in this commitment.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Renee Bauer, JSS Community Chaplain