PHARR -- The Texas Methodist Foundation has awarded $10,000 to Justice For Our Neighbors, a ministry of Pharr United Methodist Church.

Justice for Our Neighbors is an immigration program sponsored by the Pharr Community Outreach Project, a ministry of the Pharr United Methodist Church in Pharr, Texas. JFON is a faith driven ministry that welcomes immigrants into churches and communities by providing free, high quality immigration legal services, education and advocacy. Its core values are an expression of faith, quality, free legal services, cross cultural community hospitality, volunteer based education and advocacy in regard to the rights of non-citizens.

These grants come from a 2010 special distribution from the Foundation’s Undesignated Endowment to provide each of the six annual conferences served by the Foundation with a grant for outreach ministry in those respective conferences. Bishop James Dorff chose to designate a portion of both the Rio Grande and Southwest Texas Annual Conference grants to UMCOR—Justice For Our Neighbors.

The money awarded will be strategically used to sustain and help JFON grow. The program currently offers a monthly clinic. At each clinic, volunteers help clients fill out an intake form. After the intake form is filled, they proceed have a one-on-one with the lawyer. If eligible, the lawyer informs the clients how he/she will be able to help and even represent them free of charge if needed in an immigration court.

Currently, clients for JFON come mainly from the Pharr, San Juan, Alamo area, but many come from as far as Rio Grande City, or Brownsville. To enhance JFON, partners are being sought to expand help to other counties. “Many people cancel their appointments because they have to drive about an hour to get to the clinic.” explains Laura DeGrush, an intake volunteer.

A major challenge is deceit from notary publics and other lawyers who take advantage of the confusion immigrants face. Many immigrants aren’t educated on United States law or know where to go for help and sometimes end up paying money to people who can’t even help them.

Justice for Our Neighbors is always looking for volunteers for translating, child care, or hospitality as well. If you need immigration help or know somebody who does, please contact us at 956-787-4529 to set up an appointment. Everything is free and confidential.