In June, part of our communion rail offering will go to Austin Region Justice for Our Neighbors. JFON is a United Methodist-affiliated immigration ministry that provides free or low-cost legal advice and services. Austin JFON has been operating for one year, and is changing lives. Here is one story of its work.
NELSON (name changed)
Nelson entered the United States as an unaccompanied minor in November of 2013. He grew up in Honduras, and his parents were separated. His father required him to work and would not allow him to go to school. His mother simply could not support him. He worked at home for his father on the farm and worked a second job in construction to help support his siblings. When he was 17, Nelson was approached by the “18” gang on his way to work. They told Nelson he had to join the gang or be killed the next time they saw him. Nelson says he refused to join because he did not want to be associated with drugs and evildoings. Yet he knew that they were good on their word, and decided to flee the country immediately. His father gave him enough money to travel to Mexico. In central Mexico, Nelson ran out of money. He lived on the streets and found work selling juices so that he could eat. After eight months, he made contact with a distant uncle in the U.S. who offered to pay for the rest of his trip to the U.S. Upon entering at the U.S. border, he was caught by immigration officials and then taken into custody by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) due to his age.
At the ORR shelter, Nelson was housed with other children and received humane treatment, yet Nelson became distressed because it appeared he had no one who could sponsor his release. Thanks to attorneys at RAICES in San Antonio, he was able to obtain Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and was released to Austin to live with his uncle and aunt.
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status had prevented Nelson from being deported, but it did not give him the right to work. ARJFON’s Legal Director, Julie Flanders took over Nelson’s case in April of 2014 and represented him in requesting permanent legal status in the U.S. Today, he is a Legal Permanent Resident with permission to work, get a driver’s license, and travel. Nelson’s dream is to work and send money home to his siblings so that they can go to school. He also wants to travel to other countries and see the world. He continues to live with his aunt and uncle in Austin and is part of their close and loving family.