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Studying Immigration Law for Life-Changing Impact

The attendees gathered together for a week at Manassas Baptist Church.

Posted: 10/26/16 at 8:00am. Post by Greg Smith.

What do you get when a national organization dedicated to standing with the world’s most vulnerable partners together with a state Baptist body committed to justice and mercy to train non-profit and faith-based leaders in immigration law in a venue hosted by a dynamic, kingdom-focused congregation?

You get the makings of a powerful and life-changing impact on the lives of millions of immigrants throughout our country.

From October 10-14, 27 students from 12 states and the District of Columbia gathered at Manassas Baptist Church in Manassas, Virginia for an intensive week poring over all aspects of immigration law and practice.

Sponsored by World Relief and the Baptist General Association of Virginia, the Basic Immigration Law and Practice training is a 40-hour intensive course designed to give participants the tools they need to engage in the authorized practice of immigration law under the guidance of immigration attorneys.

“The training was a great partnership between two organizations desiring to expand the mission of Christ through equipping local churches and organizations to provide low-cost immigration legal services to the foreign born,” commented Kathleen Leslie, general counsel and director of World Relief’s Immigration Legal Services division. “The training provided an opportunity to understand the moral, ethical and legal issues that churches and non-profits face in providing low cost immigration legal services to their communities.”

Manassas Baptist Church Senior Pastor David Donahue leads a devotional for immigration law training attendees.
Manassas Baptist Church Senior Pastor David Donahue leads a devotional for immigration law training attendees.

Senior pastor David Donahue challenged participants by recounting the Bible’s many stories about immigrants, stating that “when we throw away our mandate to care for the stranger, we throw away the Bible.” As for her own morning devotional, World Relief’s capacity building specialist Sarah Bankard noted that immigration is not merely a political or social issue, but fundamentally is a congregational and missional issue which God calls the church to address.

Leslie praised the BGAV for being a “fantastic, collaborative partner” in securing “top-notch presenters from the local legal community” to train participants. Topics covered during the week included family-based immigration, naturalization and citizenship, special visas for victims of crime and human trafficking, and various forms of humanitarian relief.

One of the week’s most anticipated topics was the US government’s “recognition and accreditation” program for non-profits and churches wishing to start their own immigration legal services. Under this Department of Justice program, staff and volunteers from recognized religious, charitable or social service organizations – including local congregations – may become accredited Board of Immigration Appeals, or BIA, representatives authorized to practice immigration law in a limited capacity under the watchful eye of immigration attorneys. The Manassas training served as an important step in pursuing recognition and accreditation.

Click here for more information on the BIA recognition and accreditation program, click on https://www.justice.gov/eoir/recognition-and-accreditation-program. Additional information on World Relief’s immigration law trainings schedule may be found at here.