Have we met yet? I hope so. If you read no further, hear this: I want to meet you. Sooner rather than later. Please be in touch.
Why? Because I believe you are the future of the Church, if not also its present. As the Church’s immigration lawyer I get to work with Disciples like you–church planters, young leaders, ministers from all over the world following God’s call to surprising places like Texas, Hawaii, and Alabama. You are busting open the bounds of ministry. You are bold and sometimes crazy. See, God is doing a new thing.
Long before I came around, leaders of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) decided that you matter to the Church. They decided to take your legal needs seriously and to spare you the attorney’s fees that might prevent you from getting help. You already know that immigration law is a tricky obstacle course between reality and your dreams. That’s where I come in: I get to help you navigate that course. And if you don’t yet know where God is calling you, I want to help you keep the doors open in case you need them later.
Here’s what that might look like:
You call me while you’re still in school on your student visa. You check in to see if you’re headed in the right direction. We talk about your internships and your studies. We make a plan for your future. It’s open-ended. We wait and see.
You email me about some wild idea you have. I research the heck out of the law for you. I say yes if I can. I say no, with real regret, if the law won’t support it. I think about your future, about the visas you might need down the road, the green card you may apply for in the future, the citizenship you may want. But it is your life and not mine. I advise you, but I do not make the decisions for you.
Another time you’re afraid that you’ve broken the law. Maybe you worked off visa. You don’t want to tell me about it. You think maybe if I don’t know, it won’t affect you. But I tell you if I don’t know about it, I can’t help you work through it. I figure out how to minimize the damage. I talk about your options. It’s hard to shock me. I don’t judge.
The dream is starting to take shape. Your future ministry has a place and a people. I work with your church or region to apply for a worker’s visa for you. I walk you through the process. It takes many months. I drive you nuts asking for one more document to put forward the strongest case for you, to urge the government to look with favor on your petition. We plan for when immigration agents visit without warning. We file. We hope and pray.
We wait. And we wait. During this time I know that any email from me puts your heart in your throat, so I try to calm you in the subject line. Your future is being decided by a massive government bureaucracy. It is nerve-wracking.
When the news is good, I tell you about an approval and the next steps. Actually I am jumping up and down.
You begin your ministry, but you are not rid of me yet. You would rather not have to have an immigration lawyer. You may not want anyone to know, and I keep that secret for you. It is called client confidentiality. You would rather not have to call me every time something significant happens in your life. I know this. But still I rejoice when you are ordained, when your children are born, or when you succeed. I grieve when you travel to say goodbye to a sick relative or when I tell you it will jeopardize your case if you go. I worry for you, and I update your case accordingly.
Years down the road perhaps we begin the green card process for you. It is arduous. It is expensive. Your employer does not understand how there can possibly be so many steps. You feel awkward asking them for yet another signature, another document, another government fee. I try my best to explain what the law requires. I ask you intrusive questions. I guide you through interviews, petitions, fingerprints, medical exams, applications, and trips to the consulate.
If all goes well, one day there is a green card in the mail. The relief is immense. You secretly didn’t believe it would ever come. You feel your breath coming easier. You see the potential of your ministry stretching before you. It is a good day.
Your life might not look exactly like this. Chances are it won’t. Everyone’s situation is different. Immigration law is complex and ever-changing. That’s exactly why I want to walk with you on this journey to wherever God leads you. Please be in touch. I very much look forward to working with you.
Disciples Immigration Legal Counsel