For some time, Mario and his friend were harassed by a local Narco group led by the town’s own Mayor. “[The Mayor] tries to recruit all the boys to be murderers and vigilantes for him,” says Rachel. But Mario and his friend both resisted. This refusal came at a high price, and when Mario was only 16, the Narcos killed his friend in front of him. Mario barely escaped with his life.
Recently, Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic was honored at Exodus Refugee Immigration’s Celebrate the Life Ahead gala. We were given the award for Community Partner of the Year. Elizabeth Standiford, Director of Development and Communication at Exodus, says, “[The Clinic] is a true partner in upholding human rights and you have made such a difference for refugees.”
Brandon Fitzsimmons, who serves as the Program Manager for IJP, acknowledges the hardships faced by immigrants who come to this country. He says, “There is a sacrifice taking place on the side of the client, because they are leaving their homeland, the place where they were born and have their earliest memories and deepest cultural sensibilities.” Considering the hardships faced by immigrants helps to spur on their work, day by day. Rachel adds, “I like to remind people of how hard working immigrants are—that they are not taking advantage of our system. They’re not criminals; they’re not rapists; they’re not horrible people. They’re just trying to make a better life for themselves.”
Rachel says that although this kind of complex immigration process is often taxing on both her and on the clients she assists, outcomes like this are great learning experiences and serve as important reminders. “It taught me that we always have to be patient and sometimes the answer isn’t revealed to us right away, but as long as we endure, we’ll be okay.” Now, Ko Mya Aye and his family have finally been reunited here in the U.S. He told Rachel, “My family is complete again.”
Becoming friends with the parents of her children’s friends emphasized the blessings afforded her simply by being born in this country. “There but for the grace of God go I,” she says. “I didn’t do anything to deserve this. I just happened to be born in a family that happened to be here [in America].”
Every day at the Clinic, we encounter new clients who are seeking refuge in our country. Though their reasons for leaving their homeland may vary, they are often in need of legal services. As a legal services agency, we are committed to assisting these individuals, but oftentimes the need is greater than the resources that are available. That is why we’re asking other attorneys to equip themselves with vital information regarding Immigration Law and to consider taking on a volunteer case with the Legal Clinic.