Metro Nashville Awards $50,000 to TNJFON

Victims of gang violence, terrorism, or human trafficking arrive daily in Middle Tennessee, sometimes alone, more often with their small children or teens. Others have faced terrible violence or been a victim of crime once in the United States. Those who report and testify against criminals risk arrest and deportation.

Dreamers--children brought to the US by their parents--formerly qualified for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, which allowed them two-year, renewable periods of deferred action from deportation and made them eligible for a work permit in the U.S. Those who qualified before the program was shuttered must file renewals, a process that seems complicated even to native English speakers.

So, while these families and individuals have a legal right to remain in the US, they are nearly doomed to deportation if they lack legal assistance. The U.S. does not provide court-appointed counsel to immigrants, even those who face deportation and are unable to afford a lawyer. That means that only 37 percent of all immigrants and 14 percent of detained immigrants go to court with lawyers on their side, according to a 2016 American Immigration Council study.

Immigrants, including young children on their own, who have limited English proficiency and even less understanding of America’s complex immigration system, are forced to present their cases in court without legal representation. They face well trained and well funded government agencies.

The difference is stark: 73 percent of those with lawyers are able to remain in the U.S. Only 15 percent  of children who had no attorney are allowed to stay. Adults are 16 times more likely to get the relief they need if they have an immigration attorney.

Thanks to Nashville’s Mayor David Briley and Metro Nashville, more families will now get the legal help they desperately need. Metro has just awarded $50,000 to TNJFON to provide legal education and to expand our capacity to represent newcomers to Nashville.

Alyssa Curran