After nearly six months of carefully preparing and organizing the application and supporting documents, the New York Mennonite Immigration Program (NYMIP), a partner of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), is celebrating their recently-earned recognition and accreditation from the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).
NYMIP is an independent 501c3 non-profit organization that began in 1998 as the result of a partnership between MCC and the New York City Council of Mennonite Churches (NYCCMC). The program assists immigrants in the city as they work with local churches and organizations to address the complexity of immigration issues through legal consultation and representation, community outreach, advocacy, referrals and education. Much of the work of NYMIP is done at low or no cost to individuals who seek legal assistance.
BIA recognition means that the U.S. Department of Justice formally recognizes NYMIP as an immigration legal services program. BIA accreditation grants permission for a particular representative of the organization to practice immigration law in front of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Applications for recognition and accreditation must be submitted in tandem. (To learn more about BIA recognition and accreditation, visit justice.gov.)
Prior to receiving BIA recognition and accreditation, MCC and NYMIP staff relied heavily on attorneys from Lutheran Social Services and other partner organizations to complete forms and approve applications. Now Maria Aponte, direct services immigration associate for MCC East Coast, is accredited to fill out, sign and approve forms and applications for clients and submit documents directly to DHS for services that include naturalization, green card renewals and adjustment of status.
Aponte says, “The high quality of service that NYMIP has been providing to clients will continue. This added certification will allow a quicker turnaround time and a more streamlined process which will benefit clients.”
Carmen Benedith, immigration intake specialist and community liaison for MCC East Coast adds, “The impact will be above and beyond what [clients] would think. It means a lot to the program.” Benedith is the first person that potential clients contact to see if NYMIP can help them with their legal case. Her experience as an immigrant and a victim of immigration fraud means that she speaks from the heart when she speaks to people about NYMIP. “I know what they’re thinking because I’ve been there. We’re not a big law firm, but we’re transparent and genuine. Our service is from the heart and we want to make sure we’re keeping you up to date on your case.”
Hyacinth Stevens is the New York City program coordinator for MCC East Coast. She says, “We’re small enough that we can take the time to make each person feel like an individual and celebrate their value and their worth. We can commit to walking alongside them and not make them feel like they’re one person on a long list of numbers.”
This partnership with NYMIP and NYCCMC is one way that MCC walks alongside uprooted people in New York City and across the U.S. Stevens says, “Immigration has been a priority of MCC’s for a long time. The majority of congregations in the New York City Council of Mennonite Churches have a migration story among their members.”
MCC photo/Frederick Yocum
Thanks to NYMIP’s newly earned BIA recognition and accreditation, Aponte says, “It allows us to work more fully with the community, congregations and homeless shelters. It means that we’re now able to make a greater impact on churches and immigrant communities in NYC.”
She continues, “It will open many other doors for NYMIP to make a deeper impact on the immigrant community that so many times feels like they have to hide or be in the shadows because of fear.”
With this new certification, NYMIP and MCC are looking forward to the future. Stevens reflects, “NYMIP is excited about what’s next and keeping clear about their mission while having fluidity. We ask, What’s the need of immigrants in our community?, and even if we can’t meet the need, we begin a conversation about how we can be a part of it. We can’t solve everything, but we can stay in conversation with our neighbors to stay relevant in what we offer.”
Learn more about the impact of NYMIP on the immigrant community in New York City:
In New York City, Miami and other places around the U.S., MCC works with Anabaptist churches to provide direct services, education and advocacy related to immigration. Counselors meet with clients by appointment only. Please contact our offices to schedule an appointment.
New York City
- Maria Aponte, direct services immigration associate for MCC East Coast
- (347) 608-1925
- Jorge Vielman, Florida program coordinator for MCC East Coast
- (305) 249-3477
For more information on MCC’s immigration work, visit mcc.org/immigration.