EXPONENTIAL GROWTH: LOCATIONS
In 2013, a diverse group of Wesleyan leaders and pastors gathered to discuss ways to build relationships with and serve immigrants and refugees in their local communities around the United States. Rather than wait for much needed immigration reform, it was decided to launch a grassroots network that would launch Department of Justice recognized immigration legal services (ILS) offices and provide low cost legal services to immigrants and refugees in local communities across the country.
The first Immigrant Connection site launched in February 2014. Since that time, Immigrant Connection has launched 21 DOJ recognized immigration legal services offices, located in a diverse range of communities and hosted in a diverse range of Wesleyan local church contexts. The exponential growth in sites is due in large part to 3 main components: 1. IC's partnership with World Relief, 2. The development and ongoing refinement of application and launch processes, and 3. Financial grants which helped overcome obstacles and provided momentum
DOJ Recognized ILS Sites Launched
Immigrant Connection Sites Currently Open and Operational
Out of 24 Wesleyan Church Districts
New Sites within the process (to launch in 2020/2021)
FOCUSED GROWTH: COMPETENCE
The goal of Immigrant Connection was not to launch as many ILS sites as possible, but rather to create successful, sustainable ILS offices with growing capacity to provide exceptional, proficient legal services to an expanding number of immigrants. While IC has a system and process to prepare a successful application to the DOJ to receive recognition, it takes expanding the number of DOJ accredited representatives at each site and deepening each legal representative's understanding and proficiency in both immigration law and office management to grow capacity.
Immigrant Connection currently has 29 DOJ accredited immigration legal representatives who receive regular, ongoing training through: 1. Immigrant Connection's Annual Church-Based Immigration Legal Services Conference (an in-person 3 day conference), 2. Monthly IC Legal Network Calls (online), and 3. World Relief's weekly calls and webinars. A goal across the IC Legal Network is that every IC site will have at least 2 DOJ legal representatives on their roster with 1 individual focusing at least 20 hours per week on the Immigrant Connection office
Annual Church-Based Immigration Legal Services Conferences
Participants in 2019's Annual IC Conference
Goal of every site having 2 DOJ Legal Reps on roster with at least 1 devoting 20 hours per week to IC site
Individuals have gained in-person ILS shadowing / experience through IC - an expanded online platform coming in 2020 will increase the number
IMPACTFUL GROWTH: CAPACITY
With the exponential growth of IC locations and the focused growth of DOJ legal representatives, the capacity of individual IC sites and the entire IC Legal Network has grown, allowing more immigrant families to be served through consultations and more immigration cases to be filed on behalf of IC clients. Due to the diversity of context (both in communities and local churches), different IC sites continue to operate at different capacities.
The three highest-capacity IC sites each serve over 450 immigrant families per year. The next five serve between 100- 200 immigrant families per year. The remaining IC sites may serve less immigrants due to either recently launching or only being open limited days, but they still are making an impact in the lives of the immigrants they are serving. Increased capacity means more staff are being hired and more cases are being filed, which opens up the IC Legal Network to more risk. Rather than expecting each individual site to figure out their own legal liability insurance, Immigrant Connection now has a legal liability insurance policy that covers the entire legal network
Total number of immigrants served since 2014
Average number of immigrant families served during average open day across entire IC network
Participants in IC Citizenship Classes
N-400 applications filed for citizenship /naturalization
Continued Growth: Beyond Legal
How can Immigrant Connection partner with every individual and every local church with the goal of helping them take their first step or next step along the journey of learning, connecting, and welcoming?
IC facilitators will take participants through the six week Welcoming the Stranger curriculum specifically formatted on Multipliciter's e-learning platform. The goal is to track participation and also cultivate a group of participants who will then facilitate a learning cohort in their own local church after taking part in an IC online learning cohort.
The table is a powerful place; connection is cultivated, relationships are formed, and transformation takes root at the table. IC must find ways to help native born individuals meet and connect at the table with foreign-born individuals. IC currently has a table toolkit entitled "What Generation are You?" which provides information and instructions of how a local church or community can take this step.
IC has always functioned best as a grassroots, organic network; we work best allowing innovation to occur at the local church level and then utilizing peer learning. With this in mind, rather than having paid staff lead the creation and direction of programs, we will create and implement regular Welcome Network calls for peer practitioners to learn from and empower one another.
Not every local church should launch a church-based ILS office; but every local church should find ways to welcome immigrants. IC seeks to promote several different ways that a local church can spread welcome, including: Citizenship Classes, Family Resource Nights, Conversational English, Know Your Rights Workshops, and partnerships with existing IC legal sites. IC can track which local churches are Welcome Hubs, connect them to Welcome Network Calls, and partner with WR for e-learning growth opportunities.