A decade of pro bono immigration legal services
Disciples Immigration Legal Counsel strives to provide reliable and responsible legal advice, services, and information to Disciples immigrants, congregations, and communities throughout the United States. We do this through diligent and zealous full representation of Disciples pastors and seminarians, advice only consultations and referrals to all members, and timely legal updates and self-help legal materials.
In July 2017, the General Board passed General Assembly Resolution 1723, “On Becoming Immigrant Welcoming Congregations.” Specifically, the resolution culminated in this call:
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that churches of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada seek to:
build solidarity between immigrant and non-immigrant congregations;
consider becoming or assisting congregations offering sanctuary protections to immigrants;
develop community protection and response models for families facing separation due to detention or deportation;
educate themselves and others about those immigration policies that support the rights of immigrant families;
offer support for current Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, border communities, and victims of hate crimes, fraudulent activity, and sex trafficking; and
FINALLY, BE IT RESOLVED that congregations, ministries, organizations, and institutions of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) will continue to strive to respect and affirm the dignity of every child of God and to advocate for the fair and just treatment of immigrants and immigrant families in the United States and Canada.
Since 2011, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has put these words into action by hosting a Bilingual Immigration Attorney to provide pro bono legal services to Disciples pastors, seminarians, congregations, and members at large. From 2011-2020, Tana Liu-Beers served as the first staff attorney and truly created and developed this ministry. In the first week of the Covid-19 global pandemic in 2020, Natalie Teague gratefully accepted the call and continues Tana’s legacy of diligence and dedication. Natalie continues joyfully as Immigration Legal Counsel: working remotely with clients throughout the United States and all over the world from Central North Carolina.
Disciples Immigration Legal Counsel is deployed remotely within Disciples Home Missions. Our work is possible through the funding by several General Ministries, Racial/Ethnic Ministries, Regions, and your Week of Compassion offerings. We are grateful for any and all gifts to enable us to continue to provide exceptional pro bono legal services to Disciples throughout the United States and beyond. Thank you in advance!
Who We Are
Natalie Teague. Esq.
After growing up on a certified organic dairy farm in Central North Carolina – and learning to play her blues scales by age 9, Natalie studied jazz piano in New York City until her career interests shifted to public service after witnessing 9/11 from Brooklyn. Natalie spent a summer volunteering and backpacking throughout Guatemala to learn Spanish before eventually completing a B.A. in Latin American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While at UNC, she was awarded a Burch Fellowship to collaborate with a worker-owned, women’s sewing cooperative near Managua, Nicaragua. Natalie also studied social change initiatives in Oaxaca and Chiapas, Mexico with the School for International Training. All in all, Natalie has traveled, studied, and volunteered extensively in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica and is fluent in Spanish.
Natalie worked as a bilingual health care worker and a community college literacy center coordinator before joining the Charter Class of Elon University School of Law to earn her J.D. with a concentration in Public Interest Law. Throughout law school, she worked as a research and teaching assistant on humanitarian law issues, interned at a refugee resettlement agency, and completed human rights coursework at the University for Peace in Costa Rica. Upon graduation, Natalie received the N.C. State Bar Pro Bono Award for Elon Law, logging over 675 hours of pro bono service while a law student.
As a mission driven attorney, Natalie’s career has revolved around advocating for immigrants and women. Natalie previously practiced immigration law in a faith-based nonprofit and as a solo practitioner in private practice in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Due to her continued commitment to service as an immigration attorney, Natalie has been recognized as a Michael Maggio Memorial Pro Bono Co-Honoree by the American Immigration Lawyers Association. She has also been awarded the Leary Davis Service and Leadership in the Community Award for Elon Law Alumni and the Latino/a Alumni Award from the Carolina Latino/a Initiative at UNC Chapel Hill. Additionally, she has worked on both sides of the criminal justice system in a federal public defender office and as a state prosecutor of cases involving domestic and sexual violence, stalking, and human trafficking. Natalie has taught undergraduate courses – and will speak to anyone who will listen – about immigration policy, the dynamics of domestic violence, and trauma-informed advocacy.
To balance work and life, Natalie finds solace and resilience in yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practices, which she also teaches. In her spare time, she walks in the woods, cooks with reckless abandon, and is returning to playing the piano. Natalie has returned “home” and now lives in Central North Carolina with her husband and rescue border collie. Natalie is a licensed attorney in the State of North Carolina, and her practice is limited to U.S. immigration and nationality law.
Kali is a middle-aged Border Collie mix who was rescued from Carolina Border Collie Rescue years ago after she was found sick and wandering the streets of a small South Carolina town. Kali specializes in fetch as well as "Zoom bark-bombing” in client and work conferences. Typical of her breed, she is quite OCD, so she assists with self-care regimens (i.e. daily walks) and with quality control “horizontal management” from her bed beside Natalie’s desk.
What We Do
There are three key parts to our work:
Full Legal Representation of Disciples Pastors, Seminarians, & Congregations
First, Immigration Legal Counsel provides full representation for Disciples pastors and seminarians throughout the United State. This means that we advise, prepare for, and file petitions and applications with USCIS and other immigration agencies. Most of this work is employment based only, but it may include family based, citizenship, and humanitarian cases on a case-by-case basis and as capacity allows. Cases begin with a consultation appointment to determine the issues, check for any conflicts of interest, and to assess whether there is capacity to assist. After a case is accepted, when we have both signed a representation agreement, there are no legal fees. (A congregation and/or client are still responsible for paying government filing fees.) We walk together, through the dark and deep forest of the U.S. immigration system, until we reach a conclusion.
Limited Advice-only Legal Consultations by Phone or Video Conference
Second, Immigration Legal Counsel provides pro bono (free), advice-only consultations for members of Disciples congregations. (Unfortunately, I am currently only able to provide U.S. based immigration legal services because I am only licensed in North Carolina, and my practice is limited to immigration and nationality law within the United States.) The best way to schedule a consultation appointment is to submit the contact form or to send an email so that we can respond directly with a link to a confidential online questionnaire. We will look for a good time when we can sit together and have plenty of time to discuss your matter in detail and without interruption. A consultation could include issue spotting for potential immigration options, answering some brief questions, or providing information and/or a referral to qualified and responsible local counsel.
Legal Updates & Pro Se (Self-Help) Materials
Finally, Immigration Legal Counsel provides legal updates and self-help (pro se) materials on the U.S. immigration system. These resources are generally available on the Legal Updates section of the website, which is like a blog, and on social media platforms. Sometimes webinars and/or videos are also available, so please check the resources section as well. Kindly note that the U.S. immigration system and its policies change constantly, so all materials are dated and effective only as of their publication date unless otherwise notated.
How We Work
The Immigration Legal Counsel position is remote and virtual, meaning that I often work irregular schedules and hours to accommodate clients across different time zones. If you call, text, or send a message, please know that I will be back in touch just as soon as possible (usually within one business day).
The legal profession is a self-governing profession, and all attorneys are bound by the ethics rules for each state in which they are licensed. I am a North Carolina licensed attorney, which means that I am bound by the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct. Any issue that comes up with my work must comport with these rules, which may lead to lengthy disclaimers and other limitations that a non-attorney might not consider. I take these rules, and my responsibilities under them, very seriously, so I appreciate your understanding of how and when these limitations may arise.
For example, ethically I cannot advise a potential client if they are currently represented by another immigration attorney. (Sometimes there are exceptions, such as when one is seeking a second opinion and expresses that explicitly in any inquiry.)
Additionally, I cannot advise or represent anyone on legal matters that fall outside of immigration law and which are generally governed by state law or outside of my practice area. For example, I am unable to give advice on tax issues, employment law, family law, etc. Immigration is all federal law based, which is an exception to the rule that an attorney must be licensed in each state in which they practice.
Finally, as much as I wish I had the capacity to assist with immigration court cases, such representation would be impractical as these cases often move in accordance with local practice and “knowing one’s judge” becomes an imperative, not a luxury. With this said, I do my best to assist with detention and bond issues, as practical through an initial consultation, but ultimately these cases must be referred to a local attorney. This referral is important as the applicable case law differs between the eleven different federal circuit courts of appeals depending on where one lives. (Being licensed in North Carolina, I am only admitted to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.)
Where We Work
Though Disciples Home Missions is based in Indianapolis, Indiana, I am deployed staff and work from Gibsonville, a small town near Greensboro, North Carolina. My hours generally follow the Eastern Time zone, but I routinely work odd schedules and hours to accommodate clients in other time zones.
In meeting with clients, there are options to meet by phone or encrypted video conference. If we meet online, please be sure that you have strong and steady internet as well as a private place to meet without others hearing our conversation. I recommend using headphones to increase privacy and to avoid unknowingly waiving confidentiality or attorney-client privilege.
If you have an upcoming event for the Disciples community and would like for me to speak or participate, please contact me. Though we are not currently traveling due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, I look forward to when we will have this option down the road – and happily video conference in the meantime.
Why We Do the Work
In 2017, the General Assembly passed a resolution on “Becoming Immigrant Welcoming Congregations.” Additionally, there are many faith-based reasons behind this work.
As one of the four priorities of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is to become an anti-racist, pro-reconciliation church, direct immigration services help to achieve greater diversity in current and new Disciples churches and communities. As race has long played a historical role in U.S. immigration policy, this ministry also allows the church to learn, reflect, and contemplate how race and immigration intersect and interact in the United States, communities, and congregations.
Ultimately, Immigration Legal Counsel brings people together! It may be to facilitate the call for a pastor, to unite (or reunite) families, to create a new citizen, or to seek humanitarian relief. Regardless of the case, our work aims to transform the fear, anxiety, and frustration with the immigration system into the joy, connection, and community of human beings who can be together -- no matter their immigration status.
Interested in learning more?