Build Bridges, Not Walls

Advocacy Alert: Build Bridges, Not Walls: Immigrants and Refugees Welcome

As many of you know the future of immigration and refugee resettlement in the United States has been shaken to its core this week. As a result of the new administration’s recent actions a group of community members are organizing to show support for Muslims, refugees, and immigrants.   We just had a tremendous showing at the Blue Bridge.  It supported not only Refugees but all Immigrants who are threatened with new Administrative Actions and removal of good policy.   Thanks to all who came out!

Link to WoodTV8 Story on Event >Link

If you are interested in joining upcoming events, please follow Justice for Our Neighbors West Michigan on Facebook. We will post events we organize or others we participate with.  If you know of events in your community that JFON could participate in please let us know!  We also have a link to Church World Service on our home page.  They are a great source of information straight from Washington steps.

We need to use this time as a platform to educate and advocate. Thank you for your continued support of our mission and welcoming refugees and immigrants into your communities.

When you attend an event, bring a sign that says:
Refugees Welcome
Jesus was a refugee
Build Bridges, Not Walls
Welcome the stranger
God’s love has no borders
Immigrants are a blessing, not a burden

Kalamazoo Celebrates 1st Anniversary

Kalamazoo joined JFON West Michigan in September 2015.  Since opening this satellite clinic, we have accepted new clients at five intake clinics, served 33 refugees at special form preparation workshop and delivered Know Your Rights presentations to 143 detainees at ICE facility at Calhoun County Jail.

Here’s a quick overview of our clients served to date:

caseload pie chart

Supreme Court Decision and DAPA/DACA+

Supreme Court Issues Disappointing Split Decision in United States v. Texas

Entire JFON Network Support Expanded DACA and DAPA

News Release
National Justice for Our Neighbors
Date: March 8, 2016
Contact: Rob Rutland-Brown, Executive Director (703) 766-0442
National Justice for Our Neighbors and the Entire Justice for Our Neighbors Network
Urge the Supreme Court to Allow the Expanded DACA and DAPA Programs to Move Forward
Today, National Justice for Our Neighbors, on behalf of the entire Justice for Our Neighbors Network, filed an Amicus Curiae (i.e., friend of the court) Brief before the U.S. Supreme Court urging it to uphold President Obama’s expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) programs.
The High Court agreed to hear the case following a 2-1 November 2015 ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that refused to lift the injunction blocking the Executive Action programs.  These programs, first announced in November 2014, have been on hold since February 2015, when a District Court judge in South Texas temporarily blocked the programs from being implemented on technical grounds.  The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case earlier this year.
“We at National Justice for Our Neighbors call upon the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the Expanded DACA and DAPA programs,” said Rob Rutland-Brown, Executive Director of NJFON.  He explained that “these programs represent a common-sense approach that balances the enforcement of immigration law against the very weighty humanitarian interests involved in such enforcement.”
Charles Shane Ellison, the JFON attorney who authored the brief, added that he “remains confident that if the law is fairly applied to the expanded DACA and DAPA programs, these initiatives will be upheld.”  He explained that “deferred action, as an exercise of prosecutorial discretion, has existed for more than four decades; it has been explicitly acknowledged by Congress, referenced within federal regulations, and recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court.  These initiatives rest on a solid legal foundation.” The court will hear oral arguments in the case on April 18, 2016.  A decision is expected in late June or early July.
Read the full brief here.
National Justice for Our Neighbors (NJFON) supports a network of fourteen JFON sites nationwide which collectively employ more than thirty immigration attorneys, operate in eleven states and Washington, D.C., and manage approximately forty clinics.  JFON served low-income clients in more than 7,800 cases last year.

Excerpt from GR Rapid Growth Feature

Liz Balck Monsma, Legal Services Director, Justice for Our Neighbors

I’m guessing you and I settled in Grand Rapids for similar reasons: our strong economy rooted in agriculture and entrepreneurship, great schools and freedom to fully express our religion.  My own parents moved to Grand Rapids from the Detroit area in the early 1970s for my dad’s job, but also because it was such a great place to raise kids.  Why wouldn’t immigrants want to live in Grand Rapids as they have since the 1820s?  The reality is, it can be very difficult being an immigrant in Grand Rapids.  Before listing what I’d like to see for 2016, let’s praise our former Mayor Heartwell for proclaiming Grand Rapids a “Welcoming City” in 2015.  That’s a great first step, but I think Grand Rapids can do more to show how welcoming we really are.
1. Increase refugee resettlement.  You’ve heard a lot about the Syrian refugee crisis lately — it is heart wrenching to watch.  But we don’t have to just watch.  What if we — through our wonderful new Mayor Bliss — joined the cities of Detroit and East Lansing to affirm that we are ready and willing to resettle Syrian refugees?  West Michigan already welcomes hundreds of refugees from around the world each year, but we can do more to help families fleeing violence and to promote our city’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

2. County identity cards: It is impossible for undocumented immigrants — and very difficult for some documented immigrants — to obtain a Michigan driver’s license or state identity card.  Not having a driver’s license or photo ID makes every day tasks challenging.  Even getting a GR library card involves showing two forms of ID if you don’t have a driver’s license (eg., a photo ID and something that shows your name with current address). This just isn’t possible for some people in our community. In order to overcome this problem, Washtenaw County in Southeast Michigan has implemented its own County ID card program. Law enforcement was supportive of this program, because it provided a way for the police to quickly identify a person but it also allows people to be less fearful of contacting the police to report a crime.  Let’s start a similar program in Kent County!

3. Combating human trafficking/domestic violence.  Immigrants — especially undocumented immigrants — are some of the most vulnerable people in our community. That puts them at a higher risk for human trafficking and domestic violence.  This month (January) is Human Trafficking Awareness Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month is in October.  I’d like to see our city leaders, including law enforcement agencies, set the bar for not only become more aware, but being more proactive on these issues.

4.  Law enforcement’s relationship to our immigrant community.  I’d also call on local law enforcement agencies (LEA) to improve their relationship with our diverse immigrant communities. One way they could do that is by streamlining internal processes to assist immigrant advocates in our requests for “helpfulness certifications” for temporary visas for victims of domestic violence and other serious crimes in the United States (called the “U Visa”).  We already have a great network of LEAs who are willing to work with us on these sensitive cases, but we can do better for the most vulnerable population in our area.  Imagine how much more safe we would ALL feel if our judges, prosecutors, and police officers made it clear to immigrants (especially women and children) that they should report crimes without fear that they will be deported for speaking up.  We would all win.

To read whole piece by ANNA GUSTAFSON | THURSDAY, JANUARY 07, 2016

Read Article


ICE Raids on Central American Refugees

You may have heard about the announcement that ICE will be conducting targeted raids of Central American refugees who have recently entered the US. Immigration Customs Enforcement has begun targeted raids of Central Americans seeking asylum fleeing violence. These raids will be focused on those who have been issued a final deportation order since January 1, 2014 and could begin as early as January 1, 2016. The Obama Administration has announced that they will start a new round of raids at the homes of certain undocumented immigrants. We do not know how long this will last.

-Homeland Security has said that the raids will focus on immigrant families from Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras) who were arrested by Border Patrol or ICE on the southern border after May 1, 2014 AND who have final orders of deportation (with no more appeals pending) OR who did not appear at their scheduled immigration court hearings.

-So far, the new raids have happened in Georgia, Texas, North Carolina and Illinois. As of January 5th, we have not received reports of new raids in Michigan.

-Agents may go to the homes where targeted Central American families formerly lived, but no longer reside. They may detain other undocumented people in the home, regardless of whether they are current priorities.

Here are several ways faith communities can respond:

Call the White House

White House Comment Line directly at 1-888-907-2053.
“I’m from City, State, Congregation/Community and as a person of faith, I urge President Obama to immediately STOP plans to deport Central American children and families. These individuals are fleeing violence and should have access to legal counsel so that they can apply for asylum and protection in the United States.”

Report When A Raid Is Happening:

HOTLINE: 1-844-363-1423


 Distribute Know Your Rights Information

It is imperative to educate all immigrant communities on know your rights resources.   Be prepared.  Good resources for preparation and know your rights include:

 AFSC- Know Your Rights- Conozca Sus Derechos
United We DREAM Know Your Rights

Guide to sharing your story of rights abuses, raids and deportation


 ‪#‎Not1More‬ campaign

Information from Not1More campaign:

“The best way to keep immigrant communities and families safe is to make sure people know their rights, organize to denounce the raids when they take place, and fight against the deportation of individuals targeted.

In addition, the five things for immigrants to know if immigration enforcement comes to their home are:

1. Prepare by having an emergency plan and gathering documents. Individuals who may be targeted by ICE can prepare by gathering all their important documents and putting them in a trusted place, including any children’s birth certificates, tax information, medical information, school diplomas, immigration documents (the “Alien” number), etc.

If the individual is detained, these could be useful in fighting their case or getting them bond. If the individual has children, have an emergency plan with them, and know who would be called in case of a raid.

2. Do not open the door. No law enforcement agent can come into anyone’s home without a warrant signed by a judge. This includes immigration agents, even if they have a photograph or document showing the person they are looking for. This is not a warrant. If they have a warrant, they can share it or show it before the door is opened. Make sure that other people in the family know this, even young children.

3. Do not give immigration agents your information. If they don’t have a warrant, immigration agents do not have a right to question anyone, or ask for information or identification. If immigration agents enter a home, workplace, or community, no one should give them their identification – especially if the documents are from another country, or fake. No one should sign any documents, or consent to be fingerprinted. Even if taken into custody, individuals have the right to remain silent.

4. Organize to get individuals released and fight deportations. Just because immigration enforcement has labeled an individual a “priority” for deportation – as they have the targets of these raids – individuals and communities still have a chance to fight the deportation. People  facing deportation should find a local community organization and a trusted attorney or get in touch with the #Not1More campaign to get an evaluation of their case and consider doing a public campaign to stop an individual released or stop their deportation.

The Not1More campaign offers this form, for people to get an initial evaluation of their case if they are facing deportation:

5. Denounce the raid and organize. Do not suffer or fear in silence and isolation. Everyone needs to know that these raids are happening. Individuals who have experienced raids and those concerned should talk with others in their neighborhood about what is happening and how to have a safety plan. But also talk about it with community organizations, local elected officials, news media. It is important that these stories are denounced publicly.

Press Conference – Day of Action for DAPA and DACA +

December 10, 2015 at 11:00 am

Justice for Our Neighbors West Michigan

Front Lobby, 207 Fulton St. E, Grand Rapids (“First Place”/LSSM Building)

On November 9, the U.S. Fifth Circuit ruled on DAPA and DACA+ in a flawed and biased decision.  This does not end the possibility of DAPA and DACA+.  Instead, we are one step closer to a final resolution of the issue.

Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and Expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA+) must be heard by the Supreme Court.

Please stand together with us on December 10th, a national day of action, to call for the Supreme Court to hear this case and give immigrant families the chance to stay together.
Please RSVP to: Alexandra Gillett at

Bishop Deb speaks to Syrian Refugees Deb



Dear friends,

My heart is breaking over the terrible and tragic attacks that have recently taken place around the world. My prayers are for all those whose lives are impacted by the constant threat of violence and terror.

In the wake of attacks this past week, more than half of our country’s governors have called for a pause to the resettlement of Syrian refugees and legislation continues to be introduced that would limit or stop the Department of State’s resettlement. I am disappointed by this reaction from our elected officials. These statements and actions are harmful to refugees, misleading to Michigan’s citizens, and only further the fear and terror perpetuated by extremist groups. The screening process to enter the U.S. as a refugee is comprehensive and rigorous.

The world is a dangerous place. Thousands of innocent people are attempting to flee violence, hatred, and extremism. Even “pausing” our refugee resettlement, I believe, will make the world a more dangerous place.
Recent United Nations statistics tell us that three quarters of the Syrian refugees who are waiting to enter the U.S. are women and young children. As Christians we are called to welcome the stranger and to pay special attention and care to the widow, orphan, and foreigner – the most vulnerable members of our human family.

As United Methodists, our Book of Resolutions reminds us that “Jesus fully identifies with the sojourner to the point that to welcome the sojourner is to welcome Jesus himself. (Matthew 25:35) Jesus teaches us to show special concern for the poor and oppressed who come to our land seeking survival and peace.”

Standing on the cusp of Advent, we are reminded that Jesus and his parents fled to Egypt to escape the violent regime of Herod. It is with this tradition of compassion and hospitality in my heart that I encourage you to respond in the following ways:
Join me in calling our elected officials to welcome the resettlement of Syrian refugees in our nation and in our state. You can email Senator Debbie Stabenow , Senator Gary Peters, and your congressional representative, or by calling the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121. You can email Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s office or call 517-373-3400. Please share this message: “As a United Methodist living in [City], I support the resettlement of Syrian refugees in my state. I urge (Senator / Representative / Governor) to represent me and other constituents who seek to welcome Syrian refugees.”
I also encourage you and your congregations to consider supporting the resettlement of refugee families in the coming year. You can learn more by attending an informational meeting organized by the Detroit Renaissance District and the Refugee Department of Lutheran Social Services of Michigan on December 9 at 10:00 am at Newburg United Methodist Church (36522 Ann Arbor Trail, Livonia, MI 48154). LSSM staff will share the current state of refugee resettlement and how congregations can assist in the effort. A summary of this meeting will be posted on Please RSVP to Rev. Paul Perez ( if you plan to attend.
In the gospels Jesus says, “Do not be afraid!” We as Christians can guide the world to live in hope, rather than fear, and welcome refugees into our communities and our lives.

Blessings and peace to you all,

Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey
Michigan Area

Forward this message to a friend

Take action to welcome Syrian refugees now!

Message from the General Board of Church and Society Office of Civil and Human Rights:

U.S. leaders are vowing to reject Syrian refugees
Take action to welcome refugees now!
November 18, 2015
Refugees are the single most vetted and scrutinized individuals entering the U. S.
Yet we have U.S. elected officials who are fully aware of our existing security systems and they are shamefully calling for discrimination against Muslim refugees. With some leaders even calling for the refugee resettlement system to be shut down entirely. This is inexcusable. As followers of the refugee Christ, we must welcome all sojourners recognizing that security measures are in place and have been effective. I urge you to take action today and to recruit folks from your congregation and surrounding congregations to take action as well. Here is what you and others can do:

Please take action TODAY:

Call your Representative and Senators : 202-224-3121

AND if you live in these states, call your Governor!
·         Alabama: (334) 242-7100

·         Arizona: (520) 628-6580 / (602) 542-4331

·         Arkansas: (501) 682-2345

·         Florida: (850) 488-7146

·         Georgia: (404) 656-1776

·         Idaho: (208) 334-2100

·         Illinois: (217) 782-0244 / (312) 814-2121

·         Indiana: (317) 569-0709

·         Iowa: (515) 281-5211

·         Kansas: (785) 296-3232

·         Louisiana: (225) 342-7015

·         Maine: (207) 287-3531 / 1-855-721-5203

·         Massachusetts: (617) 725-4005 / (413) 784-1200 / (202) 624-7713

·         Michigan: (517) 373-3400

·         New Hampshire: (603) 271-2121

·         New Jersey: (609) 292-6000

·         North Carolina: (919) 814-2000

·         Ohio: (614) 466-3555

·         Oklahoma: (405) 521-2342

·         South Carolina: (803) 734-2100

·         Texas: 800-843-5789 / (512) 463-1782

·         Wisconsin: (608) 266-1212
When you call, tell the receptionist that as a constituent, you want to help WELCOME Syrian refugees and that you’re against the calls of some governors to reject Syrian refugees. Here is a sample script:

“As a United Methodist, [City] I support the resettlement of Syrian refugees in my state. I urge the Senator / Representative / Governor to represent me and other constituents who seek to welcome Syrian refugees.”

Here are some helpful points that you may want to mention, but the most important point is your story and why your community wants to welcome Syrian refugees!

·         The U.S. government handpicks the refugees who resettle here, and refugees are the most thoroughly vetted people to come to the United States.

·         All refugees resettled in the United States undergo rigorous security screenings by the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, Department of Defense and multiple intelligence agencies, including biometric checks, forensic testing, medical screenings and in-person interviews.

·         This is not an either/or situation. The United States can continue to welcome refugees while also continuing to ensure national security. We must do both.

Let’s continue to welcome the refugee Christ.

In Christ,

Bill Mefford
Director, Civil & Human Rights