Immigration Law & Justice Network began as the Justice for Our Neighbors network and grew out of the United Methodist Committee on Relief’s (UMCOR) long commitment to refugees and immigrants. Since UMCOR’s founding in 1940, refugee ministry has been at the heart of its work, guided by Christian values of hospitality to people seeking refuge.
After the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), UMCOR began strengthening its connections with local United Methodist congregations on immigration issues, sending information and alerts, conducting workshops, and speaking out about immigration at church events—all for the express purpose of better enabling congregations to understand and respond to the needs and concerns of immigrants.
One of the projects funded by UMCOR was Just Neighbors. Several pastors and attorneys of the United Methodist Church founded Just Neighbors in 1996 to develop a practical response to the legal challenges that immigrants with limited financial resources face in the United States. The organization set out to provide accurate and reliable information and services to the local immigrant community. Today, Just Neighbors continues to offer volunteer-centered legal clinics, compassionate and expert legal counsel, while engaging in outreach to foster mutual understanding between immigrants and the larger community in which they live.
Based on the Just Neighbors model and with their support, UMCOR established Justice for Our Neighbors in 1999, now known as Immigration Law and Justice Network, which has grown to a network of 19 sites with more than 200 attorneys and staff members, many more volunteers, and supporting over 50 clinics to serve thousands of clients annually.