Immigrant Connection has 18 offices within The Wesleyan Church (TWC) with eight more locations actively engaged in the application process. The newest Immigrant Connection offices in Spartanburg, South Carolina (extension site), Carney’s Point, New Jersey, and Wesley Chapel, Florida, are building their client base. Expansion processes (active and pending) include sites in Michigan, Indiana, California, Arizona, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, Kansas and Iowa.
Every TWC Immigrant Connection office is recognized by the United States Department of Justice. TWC has 25 accredited immigration legal representatives serving in these offices transforming lives, churches and communities. Four more individuals are seeking to be accredited.
TWC National Director Zach Szmara defines Immigrant Connection as, “a network of Wesleyans envisioning the Spirit of God bringing immigrants and churches together to cultivate relationships, share resources and provide legal services.” Szmara also pastors The Bridge Community Church in Logansport, Indiana, home to the first TWC Immigrant Connection site launched in May 2014.
According to Szmara, Immigrant Connection serves all categories of people: undocumented individuals, those with green cards (legal, permanent residents) who want to renew them or apply for citizenship, refugees needing assistance in adjusting their status. Sometimes Immigrant Connection representatives help U.S. citizens apply for an immigrant spouse, children or other family members.
“We become beacons of hope and guides of truth helping and serving U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, immigrants, refugees, their families, their employers and all within our communities,” said Szmara. “Each person needs a guide to move through the journey of potential next steps along the labyrinth that is the current immigration system.”
One TWC family story is that of a Haitian woman employed at a local pork processing plant in Logansport. Some of the plant employees have temporary protective status, and The Bridge was asked to assist their Haitian co-worker. The woman, who didn’t speak much English and had a relative with her to interpret in Creole, picked up a copy of a Wesleyan Life magazine while she waited to be seen.
“Do you know the Wesleyans?” she asked Szmara through the translator. Szmara replied that The Bridge is a Wesleyan church. The woman exclaimed, “This is my church!” Szmara learned in that moment that this woman’s father was a Wesleyan pastor in Haiti.
“She was so excited and happy and has been attending our church,” said Szmara.
Immigrant Connection is a movement that has brought transformation to churches (many of which were extremely small but now have a voice in their communities) and cities in various ZIP codes through partnerships and platform.
“Immigrant Connection allows our denomination to lean into its roots of promoting justice and being a prophetic example regardless of the cost,” said Szmara.