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Dear Friends,

We have all read and seen in the news the recent horrific scenes of immigrant children along our southern border being taken from their parents.  More than 600 children were separated from their parents in the first two weeks of May alone, with no signs of a slowdown. 

This is part of a new policy undertaken by the administration to deter illegal entry. And yet, the majority of these families are fleeing unspeakable violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and seeking asylum in the U.S.  The U.S. maintains statutory and regulatory rights for people who arrive with or without papers and seek protection here. Those fleeing persecution and violence have a right to make their case heard, and Justice for Our Neighbors is here to help them.

Those parents in detention-- mostly mothers-- will need attorneys to guide them through their credible fear interviews with Immigration as an initial determination of whether they may have a valid asylum claim.  The detained parent will also need to demonstrate they’re not a flight risk or danger to the community.  They will need a competent attorney in the U.S. to prepare a detailed bond package so they can be released to rejoin their children.  Meanwhile, the children will also need representation for their immigration cases. 

As a father, I cannot imagine the anguish parents must feel at having their child forcibly taken from them, with no knowledge of where they are being taken and no reunion in sight.  Social workers assigned to care for separated children have reported that younger children are suffering from severe trauma due to their separation.  Justice for Our Neighbors cannot undo the long-term mental and emotional scars this “deterrence strategy” will leave on parents and children alike.  However, through skilled and targeted immigration legal services, we can expedite reunions of some families and increase their chances of being able to remain in the U.S. safely and permanently.

Today, I ask for your help in this work. Your tax-deductible donation will allow the Justice for Our Neighbors network to offer vital, high-quality immigration legal services to these separated families.  With your support fewer families will have to endure the pain of an unjust and inhumane separation.

Thank you,


Rob Rutland-Brown
Executive Director
National Justice for Our Neighbors

DES MOINES REGISTER: Iowa ‘sanctuary’ city ban signed into law

By Brianne Pfannenstiel

April 10, 2018

Iowa cities and counties that intentionally violate federal immigration law will have their state funding revoked under a bill signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds Tuesday. 

Senate File 481 targets so-called sanctuary communities across the state and has drawn widespread debate in the Capitol and across the state. It takes effect July 1. 

Reynolds, a Republican, did not hold a public bill signing event. 

Supporters say the new law will maintain public safety and uphold the rule of law, but critics argue that Iowa has no sanctuary cities and that the bill will only stoke racial fears that could fuel discrimination.

Republican leaders have said the legislation is in response to a policy adopted in Iowa City that says the city will not commit local resources to enforcing federal immigration law, as well as to similar policies in cities across the country. 

Officials in Iowa City have stopped short of identifying themselves as a "sanctuary" community, and they argue they comply with all federal laws. 

What's required under the new law:

  • A "local entity" cannot "adopt or enforce a policy or take any other action" that "prohibits or discourages the enforcement of immigration laws."

  • Local entities can't prohibit or discourage law enforcement officers or other employees from "assisting or cooperating with a federal immigration officer as reasonable or necessary, including providing enforcement assistance."

  • Local entities can’t prohibit or discourage law enforcement or other officials from inquiring about the immigration status of a person who is under arrest, sharing that information with other authorities, or assisting federal immigration officers as reasonable or necessary

  • Local entities and their employees can’t ask about the national origin of a person who is the victim of a crime, witness of a crime or is otherwise reporting a crime unless it’s pertinent to the investigation.

  • Each state or local law enforcement agency subject to the new requirements must put in writing any unwritten or informal policies relating to the enforcement of immigration laws and update those policies to be in compliance with the new law.

  • Those people who are enforcing the law "shall not consider race, skin color, language spoken, or national origin" while doing so.

  • Allows local entities to apply for reinstatement of lost funding after 90 days.

  Mail Address:   P.O. Box 41006  Des Moines, Iowa 50311   NEW OFFICe ADDRESS:     2024 FOREST AVE. SUITE 101    DES MOINES, IA 50311    Office hours: Monday-Friday from 9 AM to 4:30 PM ( call for appointments )    Phone: 515-255-9809    Fax: 515-619-5765

Mail Address:

P.O. Box 41006

Des Moines, Iowa 50311




Office hours: Monday-Friday from 9 AM to 4:30 PM ( call for appointments )

Phone: 515-255-9809

Fax: 515-619-5765


DACA FAQs (March 2018) 

From: Immigrant Legal Resource Center -

Recent government announcements and court cases on DACA have created confusion around who can apply, when they can apply, and how they can apply for DACA. To mitigate this confusion, below is an informational FAQ for your reference.
Please note that DACA cases are still pending in the courts, and information is changing.1 For now, the DACA program is still partially available and will continue according to the USCIS guidelines issued in January 2018 while litigation continues.2
Who is eligible to apply for DACA now?
Any individual who has DACA or was previously granted DACA can request a renewal. This means that you can request to renew your DACA if you:
• currently hold DACA;
• had DACA but it expired, or
• had DACA but it was terminated by USCIS or ICE.
If you never applied for DACA or you applied for DACA, but it was not approved, you are not eligible for DACA at this time. USCIS will not approve DACA for you now.
If your DACA was previously terminated by USCIS or ICE, speak with an immigration expert before filing your DACA renewal request. On the one hand, the reasons your DACA was terminated previously may impact your eligibility for or likelihood of having a DACA renewal approved now. On the other hand, if your DACA was terminated based on arrests, unproven allegations or a low offense that should not disqualify you from DACA, and the government did not send you a notice or an explanation, then the government may have terminated your DACA unlawfully.3 If that is the case, you may be able to have your DACA reinstated. If you think this may be your situation, you can contact the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) at
When can I file my DACA renewal request? Is it true I can only submit a renewal request if my DACA expires less than 150 days from today?
Although USCIS encourages DACA recipients to file a renewal request between 150-120 days before their current DACA expires, USCIS is accepting renewal requests filed earlier than the 150 days. These renewal requests have been accepted and receipt notices have been issued.
Some individuals have filed a renewal request up to one year in advance to ensure that their request gets reviewed now that the DACA program has restarted and in case the program gets rescinded again. Please note that if you do choose to renew in advance, an approval of a DACA renewal may overlap with your current DACA. With that said, you should talk to a trusted legal representative before you submit your DACA renewal request to ensure you are still eligible for DACA and to check for any red flags with your request.




February 2018

Iowa JFON seeks a Staff Attorney or Fully Accredited Representative

Iowa JFON seeks a highly motivated, self-directed professional to join  their team as a Staff Attorney or Fully Accredited Representative. Iowa Justice for Our Neighbors (Iowa JFON) is a non-profit organization and a mission of the United Methodist Church. Our mission is to welcome immigrants and refugees of all faiths into our churches and communities by providing free, high-quality immigration legal services, education, and advocacy.

Iowa JFON provides legal clinics in 7 different locations statewide.

Preferred candidates will also have a passion for promoting social justice and protecting the legal rights of immigrants and refugees in our midst.

Salary commensurate with experience and other qualifications. Quality benefits package includes health insurance and PTO. 

Please Email a cover letter and resume to: Sol Varisco Santini, Executive Director,

The position will be open until filled. 



Storm Lake event seeks to bring undocumented immigrants out of the shadows

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

By DANA LARSEN Pilot-Tribune Editor

Public Safety Director Mark Prosser addresses about 30 people at the Stand With Our Neighbors event Sunday. Legal advice was also shared, urging the undocumented to seek citizenship now, and DACA recipients who have expired off that program to seek protection again. / Pilot photos by Dana Larsen

A diverse crowd of about 30 turned out for a “Stand With Our Neighbors” gathering Sunday at Our Place multicultural center, where a panel discussed the uneasy situations facing Storm Lake’s large population of immigrants.

“We have the potential every day to have a family from literally anywhere in the world show up,” Superintendent of Schools Carl Turner said. He felt the assimilation system is working, if imperfect, with others seeing that the community is accepting of its immigrants, and wanting to relocate here as well.

The school population is 84 percent non-caucasian, he said, with that figure having risen considerable in just the seven years Turner has served here. He introduced some of the school English Language educators and the migrant coordinator who attended the event, who noted that the immigrant population is not all Hispanic, but represent many different cultures.

Public Safety Director Mark Prosser told the crowd that his departments feel a strong responsibility to serve the entire population, regardless of immigration status, language or where people came from.

“Over decades now, we’ve learned that we can’t do that sitting behind a desk at the police station,” he said of the department’s public visibility and involvement in community events.

He noted that he, and other police chiefs, oppose the state legislature’s bill that would withhold funding from sanctuary cities. “It’s a poorly-written bill that we don’t need,” he said.

Many communities in Iowa do not have much experience in dealing with immigration, he said, feeling it is up to communities like Storm Lake to “lend our voices” to the issues.

Marie Sennett, a veteran attorney now working with immigration cases out of the Nick Brown legal office in Storm Lake, also addressed the group.

She urged DACA recipients who have been taken off that status to re-apply, and also stressed that immigrants should learn their rights.


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They do not have to say or prove their immigration status, and have a right to an attorney regardless of their status, she said. Prosser clarified, noting that while people are not approached to prove legal residency, they may be questioned in an attempt to identify persons in a criminal investigation.

Sennett said that in many cases, people may be driving without proper licenses - and may have little choice if they live and work in rural Iowa.

Some states have adopted limited driver’s licenses so people can drive legally, but Iowa has resisted that step, Prosser said.

Attorney Sennett warned that they should try to change their status if they can, and if not, should try to arrange rides with someone else. If they are stopped multiple times driving without a license, it can negatively effect their immigration status. It is in the immigrant’s best interests to steer clear of trouble, she said. “If you are in Mo’s and a fight breaks out, get out of there. Don’t stay to watch. For a high schooler, if there is alcohol or marijuana at a party, they need to leave. They need to protect themselves and their parents.”

Sol Varisco-Santini, of the Iowa Justice For Our neighbors program, made the case during a Storm Lake discussion on immigration, that newcomers possess the very values that Americans prize most.

She noted that some have been here long enough to have raised children who are legal citizens. She said that while it is difficult, families in such situations need to make plans on what will happen if one to both parents are separated from the children through deportation. A plan needs to be in place for who will care for the children.

With temporary protected status ending, some undocumented people are being told to return to their native country and try to come back. “They are terrified,” she said.

For those who have the opportunity to become a citizen, they should do it now, Sennett said. “Find the money.”

However, there are unscrupulous people and agencies preying on terrified immigrants, promising to file papers for them for payments such as $150, knowing the papers will be rejected.

Some in Storm Lake are even improperly marrying people. Sara Huddleston, also working with Brown Law Office as an interpreter, said that immigrants should ensure that their immigration papers are signed by an appropriate attorney and not a notary, and that marriage licenses are signed by a judge.

Bennett added that anyone who feels they have signed a plea deal in a criminal case without understanding consequences on their residency status, may be able to apply for some relief.

There has also been more attention to worker rights, in the wake of the “Postville Raid” in Iowa in 2008.

Prosser noted that immigrant status for those who are arrested is reported to ICE through an automated federal system based on fingerprinting.

While law enforcement doesn’t condone entering the county illegally, there is no money, infrastructure or manpower to deport the estimated 11 to 17 million undocumented people living in the U.S., he said. One member of the audience suggested deportation threats are being used as a “terrorism of fear.”

Prosser said he hopes for immigration reform that will allow the undocumented to come forward to sign up for some form of legal residency, and a path toward citizenship if they choose.

However, he suggested that many of the county’s leaders seem to have lost the “art of compromise.”

“It’s not going to be an all-win for anybody, We’re going to have to be able to come to the middle and work it out.”

Sol Varisco-Santini, director of the Iowa Justice For Our Neighbors program also attended, urging Storm Lakers to get to know their neighbors. “Don’t assume that they will come to our churches. Go to their celebrations,” she said. She also spoke out against families using their children as interpreters in important matters like legal and medical meetings, which she felt can traumatize young children.

She stressed that Iowa communities need the new generation of immigrants, as they need the influx of Irish, italian and German people in the past. “We need workers,” and it is usually those with limited language skills who are willing to fill the difficult labor jobs for a time. Immigrants often possess the same personal values of family and hard work that America prizes, she said.

The term “assimilation” is being gradually replaced by “integration,” according to Varisco-Santini, as more tools become available to help newcomers become part of their community.












Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals: Response to January 2018 Preliminary Injunction

 Version en espanol abajo:

Jan. 13, 2018, Update:  Due to a federal court order, USCIS has resumed accepting requests to renew a grant of deferred action under DACA.  Until further notice, and unless otherwise provided in this guidance, the DACA policy will be operated on the terms in place before it was rescinded on Sept. 5, 2017. 

Individuals who were previously granted deferred action under DACA may request renewal by filing Form I-821D (PDF)Form I-765 (PDF), and Form I-765 Worksheet (PDF), with the appropriate fee or approved fee exemption request, at the USCIS designated filing location, and in accordance with the instructions to the Form I-821D (PDF) and Form I-765 (PDF).  USCIS is not accepting requests from individuals who have never before been granted deferred action under DACA.  USCIS will not accept or approve advance parole requests from DACA recipients. 

If you previously received DACA and your DACA expired on or after Sept. 5, 2016, you may still file your DACA request as a renewal request.  Please list the date your prior DACA ended in the appropriate box on Part 1 of the Form I-821D.

If you previously received DACA and your DACA expired before Sept. 5, 2016, or your DACA was previously terminated at any time, you cannot request DACA as a renewal (because renewal requests typically must be submitted within one year of the expiration date of your last period of deferred action approved under DACA), but may nonetheless file a new initial DACA request in accordance with the Form I-821D and Form I-765 instructions. To assist USCIS with reviewing your DACA request for acceptance, if you are filing a new initial DACA request because your DACA expired before Sept. 5, 2016, or because it was terminated at any time, please list the date your prior DACA expired or was terminated on Part 1 of the Form I-821D, if available.

Deferred action is a discretionary determination to defer a removal action of an individual as an act of prosecutorial discretion.  Further, deferred action under DACA does not confer legal status upon an individual and may be terminated at any time, with or without a Notice of Intent to Terminate, at DHS’s discretion.  DACA requests will be adjudicated under the guidelines set forth in the June 15, 2012 DACA memo (PDF)

Additional information will be forthcoming.

Last Reviewed/Updated: 01/13/2018


Acción Diferida para los Llegados en la Infancia: Respuesta al Mandato Judicial Preliminar de Enero de 2018


13 de enero de 2018, actualización: Debido a una orden judicial federal, USCIS ha reanudado la aceptación de peticiones para renovar una otorgación de acción diferida bajo DACA. Hasta nuevo aviso, y a menos que se indique lo contrario en esta guía, la política de DACA operará en los términos existentes antes de que fuera rescindida el 5 de septiembre de 2017.

Las personas a quienes anteriormente se les otorgó acción diferida bajo DACA pueden solicitar la renovación presentando el Formulario I-821D (PDF, 526 KB), el Formulario I-765 (PDF, 307 KB) y la hoja de trabajo del Formulario I-765 (PDF, 235 KB), con la tarifa de presentación correspondiente o la aprobación de petición de exención de tarifa, en la localidad de presentación designada, y de conformidad con las instrucciones del Formulario I-821D y del Formulario I-765 (PDF, 307 KB). USCIS no está aceptando peticiones de parte de personas a quienes nunca antes se les ha otorgado acción diferida bajo DACA. USCIS no aceptará ni aprobará peticiones de permiso adelantado presentadas por receptores de DACA.

Si usted recibió DACA anteriormente y su DACA caducó en o después del 5 de septiembre de 2016, aún puede presentar su petición de DACA en calidad de petición de renovación. Por favor escriba la fecha en que caducó su DACA anterior en la casilla apropiada de la Parte 1 del Formulario I-821D.

Si usted recibió DACA anteriormente y su DACA caducó antes del 5 de septiembre de 2016, o su DACA fue cancelada anteriormente en cualquier momento, usted no puede solicitar DACA en calidad de renovación (debido a que las peticiones de renovación usualmente deben ser presentadas dentro del plazo de un año a partir de la fecha de caducidad desde su último periodo de acción diferida aprobado bajo DACA), pero sin embargo, puede presentar una nueva petición inicial de DACA, de conformidad con las instrucciones del Formulario I-821D y del Formulario I-765. Para ayudar a USCIS con la revisión de su petición de DACA para que esta sea aceptada, si usted va a presentar una petición inicial de DACA debido a que su DACA caducó antes del 5 de septiembre de 2016, o debido a que fue cancelada en algún momento, por favor escriba la fecha en que terminó su DACA anterior, si la tiene disponible, en la Parte 1 del Formulario I-821D.

La acción diferida es una determinación discrecional para diferir la acción de remoción de una persona como un acto de discreción procesal. Además, la acción diferida bajo DACA no confiere estatus migratorio legal a una persona y podría ser cancelada en cualquier momento, con o sin una Notificación de Intención de Cancelación, a discreción de DHS. Las peticiones de DACA se adjudicarán caso por caso según los criterios establecidos en el memorándum de DACA del 15 de junio de 2012 (PDF).

Última Revisión/Actualización: 01/13/2018



National Justice for Our Neighbors

Denounces Termination of Salvadoran TPS

Posted on

National Justice for Our Neighbors (NJFON) vehemently opposes the Trump Administration’s decision to revoke Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for El Salvador.

TPS has provided protection in the U.S. for nationals from certain countries for whom a return home is unsafe or unfeasible due to natural disaster or civil unrest. Salvadorans are by far the largest group of TPS recipients and were granted this relief after a pair of earthquakes in 2001. With the highest murder rate in the world, El Salvador remains extremely unstable.  Moreover, those with TPS have built their lives and raised families here in the U.S. for more than 15 years.

Photo credit: Telemundo Los Angeles.

Approximately 200,000 TPS holders from El Salvador will lose their status in September 2019, after which their lives will be upended and put in danger.

“This is the latest addition to the Administration’s appalling trend of expelling immigrants from our communities,” says NJFON Executive Director Rob Rutland-Brown.  The announcement follows the cancellation of TPS for Haiti, Sudan, and Nicaragua, as well as termination of the Central American Minors (CAM) program that protected children fleeing violence in Central America.

“The Justice for Our Neighbors network has helped hundreds of Salvadoran TPS beneficiaries throughout the years with their applications and work permit renewals,” adds Rutland-Brown. “In doing so, we know they now face an impossible choice: whether to separate from their families, take their children into unsafe conditions in a country unknown to them, or retreat into the shadows of our communities.”

“The truth is, I feel very sad,” says Marco, a school custodian in Fairfax County, Virginia.  Marco is a longtime JFON client and Salvadoran TPS holder.  “I left El Salvador nearly 30 years ago because of the Civil War, and I have lived here all these years,” he explains. “I work day and night so my two children can have a good future. They were born here and this is their country. I wasn’t born here, but I feel like this is my country, too.”

NJFON believes in upholding human dignity, keeping families together and providing refuge to our most vulnerable neighbors.  Therefore, we call upon Congress to act to protect vulnerable people and pass legislation that will allow TPS holders to obtain permanent legal status in the U.S.


What is TPS?

You can copy and paste link below from Catholic Legal Immigration Network:





   Next Iowa JFON Legal Clinics in March 2018

To make an appointment call- Para hacer una cita llamar al:



  • Ottumwa:                      Thursday, March 8th, 2018 (full)

  • Storm Lake:                  Sunday, March 11th, 2018 (few appointments left)

  • Marshalltown:            Tuesday, March 13th, 2018 (full)

  • Cedar Rapids:               Tuesday, March 20th, 2018 (full)

  • Des Moines:                   Monday, March 26th, 2018 (full)


**Clinics are by appointment only.  To make an appointment, please call JFON at 515-255-9809 during normal business hours.  Appointments are giving on a "first come first serve" basis, in the order that the phone calls were answered.  


Types of cases:  Iowa JFON provides services to low-income Immigrants and Refugees for Work authorization, Family reunification, Escape from violence (asylum, victims of domestic violence, victims of other violent crimes), Naturalization and citizenship, DACA, TPS, limited removal defense, and advice and counsel.






Maria Sol Varisco-Santini was appointed to become Iowa JFON’s next Executive Director. She took the reins on Monday November 13, 2017.

The Committee is thrilled that Sol has accepted this position.  Committee Chair Frank Camp said, “After interviewing several candidates in our search for a new ED over 12 months, we believe Sol has the experience, passion and initiative that we were looking for and have needed for so long.”  

She brings experience from another not-for-profit organization providing direct social services to multicultural populations. As the Program Director of the Hispanic Outreach and Refugee Resettlement Program, she gained extensive experience working with volunteer teams, handling budgets, statewide presentations and supervising up to twenty staff persons.

Sol’s experience includes the management and oversight of private, state and federal grants.  She demonstrated a capacity to assemble, mobilize, and inspire cross-functional teams in the design, deployment, and implementation of organizations’ strategies.  She has leadership skills coordinating advocacy with multiple organizations to help immigrant communities and experience providing immigration 101 presentations. She is fluent in English and Spanish.

Join us in welcoming Sol to our organization. We have exciting times ahead!


Iowa Justice For Our Neighbors is a non-for-profit organization, welcoming immigrants of all faiths into our churches and communities by providing free, high-quality immigration legal services, education, and advocacy. Iowa JFON has been serving 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 national origin, race, gender, or religion. Clinics are located in Cedar Rapids, Columbus Junction, Decorah, Des Moines, Ottumwa, Marshalltown and Storm Lake.

Your donation allows Iowa Justice For Our Neighbors to provide free immigration legal counsel to low-income refugees and immigrants.  For more information and if you would like to donate please visit our website:



On June 25th, 2017 the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) announced the Pro Bono Champions awards at this year's annual conference. Our Managing Attorney Ann Naffier was awarded. 

Ann Naffier is a Managing Attorney with Iowa Justice for Our Neighbors where she has worked since January 2014. Ann has been a dedicated legal services provider and leader for immigrant justice in Iowa for more than 20 years. Prior to becoming an immigration attorney, she worked as a Board of Immigration Appeals Representative for more than 10 years. With her clients, Ann is compassionate, enthusiastic and highly knowledgeable. She has helped expand access to free, high quality immigration legal services throughout the state of Iowa. Over the years, she has volunteered countless evening and weekend hours at free legal clinics, Know Your Rights presentations and community town hall presentations. In addition to her dedication to her clients, Ann has been a volunteer mentor to immigration attorneys across the state of Iowa and beyond. Many Iowa immigration attorneys can say they trained or volunteered under Ann’s direction and still seek out her gracious leadership. For more information visit AILA's Website:




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