Neighbors helping neighbors

By Posted on Nov 13 2020 | By

Immigrant support group Just Neighbors opens Warrenton office

On November 9, a branch of the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area Just Neighbors opened its doors at 34 Beckham Street. The office is part of Saint James’ Episcopal Church who donated space to the nonprofit organization.

Founded in 1996 by pastors and attorneys of the United Methodist Church, Just Neighbors provides immigration legal services to low-income immigrants, asylees, and refugees in Virginia, D.C., and Maryland.

Heading up the new office is Tori Andrea Babington, an experienced nonprofit immigration attorney. Babington spent 11 years at Northern Virginia Family Service, most recently as its director of legal services. She joined Just Neighbors in October.

Andrea Babington,37, has represented clients in all forms of humanitarian and family-based immigration cases, as well as defending them against removal in immigration court. Her work includes assisting hundreds of refugees, domestic violence survivors, reuniting families, and helping new American citizens who have made the United States their home.

Under her guidance at Just Neighbors, she will assume responsibility for cases in Fauquier County and the Northern Piedmont, and eventually, the entirety of rural Virginia. She resides in Warrenton with her family.

“I am really excited to be able to practice in my community,” said Andrea Babington. “Folks who are living in the Piedmont region will now be able to have access to a nonprofit immigration attorney to help them apply for immigration benefits, without having to travel into Northern Virginia.”

Expressly, assistance is provided for cases such as protection for domestic violence survivors, victims of violent crimes, human trafficking, Dreamers (children brought to the U.S. and identify as Americans), immigrants afraid to return to their home country, and similar legal issues.

Just Neighbors has a one-time $100 consult fee. After that, all services are provided free. There is an income limit of under $50,000 for a family of four to be eligible for its services.

The organization has three funding sources. A third comes from its foundation, a third from individual donations, and the remaining from grants. Tax dollars do not support the institution.

Initially, the new office will focus on five different areas: Fauquier County, Harrisonburg, Staunton, Lynchburg, and the Eastern Shore. Changes in immigration law and policy can influence the level of activity in the office.

“There could be a chance a new Dream Act is enacted that would make the current temporary protections a permanent status. If that were to happen, we would prioritize our efforts to people who are eligible and assist them with their applications,” said Andrea Babington.

Some people question if undocumented persons should receive services to support their efforts to reside in the U.S.

Dominique Poirier is the director of legal services at Just Neighbors’ main office in Annandale. She has a unique way of helping understand why such support is essential.

Poirier cites as an example her children who studied for their driver’s license but never followed through with obtaining the actual permit. Mom was taking them everywhere, so the incentive was not there.

“I like to compare my kids with undocumented folks because they often have already qualified themselves for immigration benefits, but they don’t know how or can’t afford to pay the attorney fees to complete the application process,” said Poirier.

“When we work with the undocumented, we are allowing them to obtain the benefits for which they are already eligible. They have just not gone through the process of making it legal.

“Of course, there are a certain group of people who don’t qualify for anything, and we can’t help them.”

Initial activity in the Warrenton office of Just Neighbors will be reaching out to other nonprofits in the area, social services agencies, and other organizations that see immigrants in a different capacity.

“We want to make sure those groups know we are here, and they can refer their clients to us when needed, said Andrea Babington. “This helps us become part of the local nonprofit community. Also, as people use our services, there will be a lot of word of mouth promotion.”

Currently, the Beckham Street office is not seeing clients in person because of Covid-19. Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but most client work is done by phone, Zoom, WhatApps, or whatever offsite format a client is comfortable using.

There are unique times when Andrea Babington may meet with a client in-person to review personal documents or sign paperwork. And in cases where a client has had a traumatic experience and it may not be feasible to work with them remotely.

“We are very excited to have Tori onboard in Warrenton because we needed somebody to reach out to people in rural Virginia that are not well served today. It’s also great to have somebody that is part of the local community,” said Poirier.

For information on the broad list of services available at Just Neighbors, visit


Published in a November 2020 edition of the Fauquier Times.

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