Iowa Justice For Our Neighbors (IJFON) is a non-profit organization, welcoming low-income immigrants of all faiths into our churches and communities by providing free, high-quality immigration legal services, education, and advocacy.
Iowa Justice For Our Neighbors has been serving low-income clients in our communities since 1999. Established by the United Methodist Committee on Relief in 1999, Iowa JFON helps people from all over the world. Our services are available to all without regard to race, gender, or religion. Clinics are located in Cedar Rapids, Columbus Junction, Decorah, Des Moines, Ottumwa, Marshalltown and Storm Lake.
In October 1999 we provided our first legal clinic in Sioux City and in January 2000, Iowa Justice For Our Neighbors (JFON) legal clinics were begun by churches in Sioux City, Des Moines and Omaha. Under the leadership of volunteer Executive Director Doris Knight, attorneys from JFON in Washington DC flew in once a month to supervise the clinics and advise the clients. Volunteers coordinated the clinics and conducted the interviews. In 2001 the three sites worked together to hire an attorney who was located in Omaha and drove to Sioux City and Des Moines twice a month for clinics and follow-up appointments with the clients. The program continued to expand - Iowa and Nebraska each became separated JFON regions with their own attorneys. In 2008, Iowa hired a second full-time attorney. In January 2012, we added a fifth clinic site in Ottumwa, Iowa. The sixth clinic site was added in Decorah during the summer of 2014 due to strong partnerships and community collaboration in that area. Currently one attorney serves Iowa JFON sites in Storm Lake and Des Moines, and the other serves the Iowa JFON sites in Cedar Rapids, Columbus Junction and Ottumwa. In October 2013, we hired a third staff member under a Federal Grant to serve immigrant victims of domestic violence and sexual assault throughout the state of Iowa.
In January of 2015, Iowa JFON held a fundraiser, Give a Child a Chance, and was able to raise enough funds to bring on a third attorney, April Palma, to work specifically with Unaccompanied Minor cases (UAC) and another part-time paralegal, Laura Mendoza, was hired who then took on the part-time Domestic Violence Project role.
In 2017, under the leadership of our two managing attorneys Brynne Howard and Ann Naffier, the community in Marshalltown was able to organize volunteers and financial support and we added our seventh legal clinic in Iowa. In November 2017, and after 18 years of existence, Iowa JFON hired its first paid Executive Director Sol Varisco Santini.
Although we are historically a project of the United Methodist Church, Iowa Justice For Our Neighbors is looking to the future. We know that congregations and individuals in many denominations, and those without faith commitments, are looking for opportunities to welcome the newcomers in their communities. We believe that our program offers such an opportunity. We want to expand by inviting representatives from other denominations and beliefs to serve on our board and volunteers to serve at the legal clinics. Financial support is needed and is an important way for individuals and congregations to be involved. In return, Iowa JFON speakers welcome the chance to provide a space for faith-based dialogue on immigration issues and to present information about immigrants, their experience, and the gifts that they bring to our communities.