STEP THREE: Justice for Our Neighbors Michigan, one of 19 JFON affiliates, announces a new name—Immigration Law & Justice Michigan—coupled with an enduring passion for mission.
On July 18, 2023, Justice for Our Neighbors Michigan (JFON-MI) announced that their name has changed to Immigration Law & Justice Michigan (ILJ-MI). Along with this news came the launch of a new website and a new logo coupled with an enduring passion for mission.
Following the lead of the national organization with which they are affiliated, formerly National Justice for Our Neighbors and now the Immigration Law & Justice Network, JFON-MI has changed its name to clearly define its work and better describe the people they serve.
Immigration Law & Justice Michigan is fully committed to the same mission: welcoming and supporting low-income immigrants with free legal services and public advocacy. Their new name explicitly names that now. And their new logo, depicting a sun emitting colorful rays, reflects the hope, optimism, and opportunity immigrants bring to Michigan communities.
The national organization’s decision to rebrand was an intentional focus that led them to rethink their name and the implicit messaging the words within that name convey. Previously, the words “for” and “our” in their name implied power imbalances in the organization’s relationship with its clients. The words described a transactional interaction where they were doing work for clients rather than being in partnership with them on their journey to justice.
Becky Beauchamp, ILJ-MI’s Executive Director, notes that the board and her staff took this renaming to heart as they determined if and when they would implement the changes. The national organization does not require each of its 19 affiliate sites to change its name.
After a period of discernment, the JFON-MI Board of Directors agreed with the national organization’s rationale and moved forward to change their nonprofit’s name to Immigration Law & Justice Michigan. “We approach our work with respect, collaboration, and dignity,” says Beauchamp, “and seek to provide a humane climate for immigrant communities. As such, it is important that our name and logo reflect this so that we may embody these values every day.”
ILM-MI is not only recommitting to its crucial mission of supporting immigrants in Michigan but also to its long-standing relationship with the Michigan Conference, which was instrumental in launching JFON-MI as an independent nonprofit in 2018, and The United Methodist Church, which established National Justice for Our Neighbors in 1999 through UMCOR (read the history here). ILJ-MI is also continuing to remain a Step 4 Ministry Partner of EngageMI, the mission program of the Michigan Conference.
ILJ-MI has four offices hosted at no cost by four United Methodist churches: Grand Rapids: First UMC, Dearborn: First UMC, Kalamazoo: First UMC, and Traverse City: Central UMC. Originally local ministries founded by those congregations, the four sites were merged into a statewide, independent, tax-exempt nonprofit in 2018. Doing so gave them administrative and fundraising support to meet ever-growing client caseloads.
Even now, grants from the Michigan Conference and several districts, congregational endowment funds, and gifts from United Methodist churches, individuals, and other faith communities will provide almost 10 percent of ILJ-MI’s donated income in 2023.
Last year, grants from the Michigan Conference helped ILJ-MI hire its fifth attorney and fund the implementation of a centralized intake phone line for potential new clients.
Beauchamp is grateful for the deep history ILJ-MI has had with the Michigan Conference and continues to have today: “The United Methodist Church throughout Michigan has always been our lifeblood and remains essential to our continued ability to serve increasing numbers of low-income immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.”
In 2022, the organization’s five attorneys and six legal assistants handled 1,032 cases for 680 clients from 74 different countries. And the need increases each year as the immigration landscape gets more complicated with each passing year.
So, how can Michigan United Methodists recommit to supporting ILJ-MI’s vital mission? There are several ways, says Floyd Smith III, ILJ-MI’s new Communications Director.
He invites Michigan United Methodists to explore the new website, which gives information about their new centralized intake process and phone number (616-320-2734). Churches that wish to have an ILJ-MI representative come and give a presentation about its work and how churches can become advocates for immigration justice themselves can use this same central intake line to inquire more.
Smith also encourages people to read the growing number of inspirational stories of hope and resilience from clients on the website and via their newsletters. The Michigan Conference will share some of these stories in the coming months as part of their ongoing support.
If churches have questions about ILJ-MI’s website, social media, newsletter, or their commitment to storytelling, contact Smith directly at 313-548-2399 or [email protected].
In conclusion, ILJ-MI staff wants to remind Michigan United Methodists that the donation process to give financially to ensure the good work continues has remained unchanged. Donations can be made to their annual fund or directly to one of their four offices.