by Caroline Sato, staff at Fountain of Life Covenant Church, Long Beach, CA
Love Mercy Do Justice is committed to partnering with Immigration Legal Service Centers to provide guidance and care for those on the margins of larger society. In partnership with LMDJ and World Relief, Fountain of Life (FOL) Covenant Church is launching an Immigration Legal Services office in West Long Beach, California.
Through connections to legal services in other cities, FOL has been able to help local friends and neighbors. A citizenship fair last spring helped FOL ESL students, Ana and Josefina, to become citizens, and they connected about 30 people to legal services at another event last fall. FOL has saved people money who thought that they needed an expensive lawyer for their process, when in fact their uncomplicated process could be completed by an accredited representative at World Relief.
Since Fountain of Life began the process of establishing a legal service center this year, the landscape in immigration legal services has changed weekly, and even daily. One day, FOL was informed that a program that protects Honduran and Nicaraguan immigrants had been canceled unexpectedly. Another day, the news was full of stories about legal residents losing their status with no explanation, and that Cubans could no longer count on a path to residency. On yet another day, they were informed that a much higher than usual number of applications for legal service center accreditation had been rejected by the Department of Justice (DOJ). Because of the constantly shifting news on immigration policy, FOL is more and more concerned that services must be extremely well-informed, and that all the paperwork required must be done expertly.
Through connections with legal services in other cities, FOL has been able to successfully submit applications for residency for people who have lived in the U.S. for years without status, help a woman get a work permit after her release from ICE detention, see a mother and her children reunited after two years apart, and most delightfully, have had the opportunity to make calls to let people know their applications for citizenship were accepted! The FOL team has learned most of the practical steps necessary for these processes, and uses these experiences in helping with the questions that families at Fountain of Life bring every week. As FOL legal center volunteers serve at legal services events in Long Beach, they have met more and more people in need of help, and have grown increasingly convinced that they are called by God to persevere in this work.
Please thank God with us for this transformational ministry! Pray that doors continue to open to meet the needs of individuals seeking affordable immigration legal services, and for people to experience the deep, abiding love of God through the care of the church.