By Abby Miller, ODIS Team, Highrock Covenant Church
Immigrants are often overlooked in our society. In part, this is due to a fragile or non-existent legal status, and in part because we (American citizens) do not commit to getting to know those who are different from us. Yet as Covenanters we have roots as an immigrant church, and as Christians, we follow Jesus who himself was “a stranger with no place to lay his head.”
Open Door Immigration Services is a ministry of Highrock North Shore that seeks to love its immigrant neighbors through provision of affordable legal services. Its formation came about through the juncture of community need, congregational passion, and church support. The North Shore Community Development Coalition, which works with low-income and distressed neighborhoods in Salem, MA, asked for support from the church, and there was a clear sense of God’s leading. Those from the congregation who had been through the process of immigration themselves and those who had a particular passion for justice stepped up and began to collaborate on a solution. This intersection of knowledge, experience and heart is where ODIS was born.
With the support of The Immigration Alliance, ODIS has made significant progress toward becoming recognized and accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals to offer immigration legal services to those in the Salem area. It is a long and complicated process that would be overwhelming without the support of The Immigration Alliance and the network of churches and denominations that it has created. There is a commitment to working together, across denominational lines, for justice.
ODIS Team Training
Members of Highrock are regularly approached by people who need help and don’t have the means to pay the steep legal fees. Fatima (name has been changed to protect her identity) is a Christian woman from the Middle East. She recently came to ODIS asking for help with an application for asylum. Fatima and her entire family are Christians and their lives have been threatened in their home country. She is afraid to return home and wants to get her family help as soon as possible. Fatima told ODIS, “There is a one-year deadline for asylum seekers. I want to apply as soon as possible because my family is in trouble and they are facing many difficulties. I really need a good experienced lawyer as soon as possible. It’s a very serious issue. Please help me and pray for me and my family.” Open Door Immigration Services will soon be able to meet this real need. “The foreigners residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” – Leviticus 19:33-34