Local non-profit brings immigrant resources to Ellensburg

Jack Belcher, Senior News Reporter

Musician and Grammy-nominated artist Mela Dailey will be at CWU on March 15 for a concert titled, “An Evening of Music from Around the World.” The proceeds of this event will benefit the Central Washington Justice for our Neighbors (JFON) clinic, which will go towards constructing an immigration law center here in Ellensburg.

Dailey’s CWU concert will be on March 15 in the McIntyre Music Building at 7 p.m. The goal of this concert is to raise $5,000 for the immigration law center. Tickets will be sold for $35 for general admission, while CWU students will only have to pay $25.

JFON is an organization from the United Methodists Church and works on providing legal advice to immigrants. JFON was established in 1999 and now has 18 sites that support almost 50 clinics. This chapter that is being brought to Ellensburg will be the first site in Washington state.

JFON is being brought to Ellensburg through Jen Stuart, pastor at the Ellensburg United Methodist Church, who, in her own words, is “the instigator and head cheerleader” of the process.

Stuart was a key figure in bringing Mela Daily to CWU to play a concert, which will help fund the Ellensburg chapter of JFON.

Stuart met Dailey when they started a church together back in Texas. The focus of this church was to bring the high arts to the public, according to Stuart.

Stuart first heard of JFON from friends in her hometown of Austin, Texas. She decided to bring a chapter of JFON to Ellensburg after consulting with community members. She said that since then, the idea is getting a lot of support and interest from community members.

“We’re excited to be doing something solid to help people in our community who often not in the limelight, who stay in the shadows because of their status,” Stuart said. “Our hope is that our entire community can come together to help people in need.”

CWU Professor Chuck Reasons is one of the community members that is in support of the JFON program. Reasons is a professor of CWU’s law and justice department, and is currently a volunteer who is also chair of the board for Central Washington (JFON).

Reasons said that he didn’t know Stuart before then, but he volunteered and was eventually made chair of the board, which is made up of community and university members.The board has been working since last summer to prepare the clinic that will be located at the United First Methodist Church in Ellensburg, which should be ready by April.  

“Our goal is to provide either free or inexpensive immigration law counseling. We have no such service right now in the Ellensburg or Kittitas County area for immigration law, and there is a real need for it,” Reasons said.

According to Reasons, JFON has been able to get volunteer immigration lawyers to come to Ellensburg for one day a month to help residents. These lawyers, who will be coming from outside of Ellensburg, will be working for free or lowered rates, which will provide people with the legal services that they need.

“If things work out in the next year or two, we would like to hire a full-time attorney,” Reasons said. “Some of the other JFONs in the Midwest and East Coast have full time attorneys.”

According to Reasons, the program in Ellensburg is just getting started and is still small, but they are growing fast. Services in this clinic will be provided in both English and Spanish, and there will be plenty of rooms for attorneys to work with their clients.