NVFS’ Immigration Legal Services department, comprising just four full-time attorneys, is more than meets the eye. In the past year, the legal team accepted more than 1,800 immigration, refugee and asylum cases. And of those cases, 99 percent were approved in NVFS’ clients’ favor.
NVFS’ legal team prides itself on being part of NVFS’ wraparound service model. Legal clients who have experienced trauma are connected with not only an NVFS immigration attorney but also a case manager, mental health therapist and psychiatrist. And it’s been effective. Mental health services enable clients to have the stability and clarity to provide the foundation for a strong legal case.
One client in particular can attest to the quality of those services and how NVFS enabled her to transform her life. Judith went from profound fear and uncertainty to having a secure life plan and support network.
After fleeing home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo out of fear for her safety, Judith felt as if she had no one to turn to upon moving to the United States. Isolated and lonely, she wasn’t sure where to look for help.
“I was insecure, scared and I didn’t trust anyone,” Judith replied when asked how she fared her first moments in the United States.
It wasn’t until a friend recommended NVFS that Judith began her path to emotional freedom and new opportunities. At her first consultation, her NVFS case manager identified that Judith also needed legal representation for her asylum case.
“The kindness, the trust and the safety [provided by NVFS] made me comfortable and made me the person that I am today.”
“When I met [my NVFS case manager], everything changed for me. She showed me that it was OK to say how you feel. Through her [guidance], I was able to trust other people and feel comfortable around other people.”
Moving to a new country can be overwhelming and confusing, especially in applying for citizenship, work permits and other legal statuses. NVFS prides itself on being accessible for people of all walks of life, on providing the services they need, and being an agency that clients can trust.
“At any other organization in Northern Virginia, I would have spent a lot of time trying to connect [Judith] to another agency, hoping that their wait lists weren’t too long and that she met their eligibility requirements,” Tori Andrea Babington, NVFS director of Immigration Legal Services, explains. “This is where NVFS is different. In addition to legal help, my client had a built-in case manager, mental health therapist and psychiatrist. She would come for an appointment, and saw all of us on the same day under the same roof. And we worked together to make sure her asylum case was strong.”
NVFS provides clients with the services they need – and also ensures that each person who walks through our doors has the means to thrive in our country’s society. In Judith’s case, that assistance ranged from clothes and food to ESL (English as a Second Language) classes.
Judith describes her experience with NVFS as life-changing.
She attributes her current personal and career success to the care and expertise of NVFS staff. Their work allowed Judith to access what she needed as she strove to build a better life for herself: one with opportunity and safety.
“[Without NVFS], I don’t know where I would be, but I wouldn’t be pursuing the career I am now. I would be lost. [NVFS] really helped me a lot and changed my life a lot, and they made me understand that someone like me who lost everything can have a second chance to become the person they’re meant to be. I’m very grateful.”
Judith is now pursuing a bachelor’s in social work at George Mason University. To complement her studies, she will be an intern this coming semester at NVFS’ Multicultural Center. She will also be applying for citizenship this year. Judith plans to serve others in the U.S. searching for a second chance to become the people they’re meant to be.
Not only do NVFS’ wraparound services strengthen our clients’ legal cases: Those services are also the resources from which our clients can begin to build healthy well-being and contribute to their new communities.