Since 2005, MCC has been engaged in direct services immigration work in Florida helping people find a legal pathway to remain in the U.S. Over the past few years these services centered around the Miami area, but thanks to a new partnership with College Hill Mennonite Church, these services also expanded to the Tampa area in 2017. Estimates show that half of the anabaptist churches in Florida could have around 50-70% undocumented church members.
When approached by College Hill, MCC was able to offer a one-year grant with an extension for another year supporting the church’s plans to help their community. Cindy Cumberbatch, an attorney and member of the church, works part-time at the church seeing clients who seek permanent residency or who apply for citizenship but are unsure of the process. “They usually just need guidance and assurance that I will do my best to help them,” states Cumberbatch.
Cumberbatch enjoys helping her clients come up with legal solutions to meet their unique needs. “My greatest joy in my immigration work is seeing the excitement and relief on my clients’ faces when we’ve come up with a plan of action and they know there is a positive solution to their problem.”
Without Cumberbatch’s work at College Hill, many of her clients would not have the means to hire an attorney or know where to turn for low cost immigration services. However, it is not always easy attracting clients to the program. Due to the current treatment of immigrants in the U.S., many are fearful and believe that seeking help will risk increased visibility of their legal status.
Still, because of the high immigrant population surrounding the church, this program has been a blessing to the community. Around the world, MCC works in partnership with local churches, recognizing their knowledge of the local context and their work to make a difference in their communities. MCC is honored to walk alongside and support College Hill’s immigration program as it positively impacts Tampa.
“I believe churches engage in immigration work because it is simply the right thing to do. Even throughout biblical history, there have been countless stories of foreigners in a strange land who were there for a purpose. It is no different in this day and age,” states Cumberbatch.
In Tampa, Miami and New York City, MCC East Coast works with Anabaptist churches to provide services, education and advocacy related to immigration. This includes face-to-face and phone consultations, court representation, application assistance and education and immigration law updates to churches. Click here for more information on MCC's work in immigration.