Kids Facing Deportation to Get Extra Help from NYC

September 17th, 2014

By Michael Gartland

New York Post

Mayor de Blasio announced Tuesday that he is dispatching health and school workers to immigration court to help children facing deportation — the first time the city has provided such direct services, reports Michael Gartland today, September 17, 2014, in the New York Post.

These children have come here because they have families or sponsors in New York City, and it is our responsibility to assist them,” he said.

Under his plan, the Department of Education would help kids sign up for English language classes and enroll in school, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene would enroll them in a state-funded health insurance, and the Health and Hospital Corp. would offer medical and mental-health treatment…

Advocacy groups testifying Tuesday at an Assembly hearing on the influx of immigrant children from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala said they’re buckling under a flood of cases.

In many cases, the children are fleeing threats of violence in their home countries…

(Catholic Charities Executive Director) Monsignor Kevin Sullivan suggested the state lay out $24 million for caseworkers to follow up with kids once they’ve left immigration detention centers…

About 4,244 children have arrived statewide, making New York second only to Texas in the number of recent unaccompanied arrivals.

 

Read the full New York Post coverage.

Find out more in Syracuse.com

Msgr. Sullivan Testifies Before State Assembly About Migrant Youth

September 16th, 2014

photoResponding to the sudden influx of youth fleeing Central America and now residing in New York State, Catholic Charities Executive Director Msgr. Kevin Sullivan testified today, September 16, 2014, at a public hearing in downtown Manhattan to determine what the State should be doing to better serve them and New York State residents.

Michele Titus, Chair of the New York State Assembly Committee on Social Services, requested testimony from Msgr. Sullivan and fellow leaders that provide residential, health care, and legal services for these youth.

Nearly one out of 10  migrant youth fleeing Central America due to the violence and extreme poverty –  approximately 8,000 of the 90,000 youth arriving this year alone — are expected to be detained and face lengthy deportation proceedings in New York State, second only to Texas. Many come in search of parents or other relatives residing here.  While immigration and deportation proceedings are federal issues, many youth must go before family courts and some become charges of the State.

Catholic Charities is one of the largest providers of services to unaccompanied children in the United States, with the capacity to marshal a significant response that helps the maximum number of children in the broadest geographic zone.

Yet, despite Catholic Charities’ nearly 100-year history of helping immigrants and refugees, “our collective witness of children fleeing their home country to find refuge and reunification in the United States is a first-of-its kind in our nation’s history,” Msgr. Sullivan told the Assembly.

Below are more excerpts from Msgr. Sullivan’s testimony:

The unaccompanied minors, and their families, are among the most vulnerable and needy migrants and refugees that we have ever encountered… For this very reason, it calls for special care and attention, for a set of new legal and human services responses…

This year, Catholic Charities will assist over 4,000 children in sixteen shelters, covering about 1,200 beds in the Lower Hudson Valley, New York City, and Long Island. This is where 95% of children in federal custody in New York State are sheltered.

But in addition to breadth, Catholic Charities also is the only New York agency that can provide a comprehensive range of services to unaccompanied children on a large scale. This includes know-your-rights presentations, consultations, and legal representation to kids in detention, legal representation at the “surge” juvenile dockets, in-person and telephonic orientations to parents and custodians in communities throughout the New York region, post-release case management follow-up, coordinated medical-legal clinical support, and English instruction and cultural orientation.

Stated summarily, we call for:
 

  • Support for deportation defense legal resources for children who live outside New York City (to the extent private and public funders may cover children residing in New York City).
  • Support for expanded legal orientation community-based programs for children and parents/custodians who may not meet the “Unaccompanied Alien Child” definition (children who entered with a parent).
  • Developing and supporting legal-medical partnerships and clinics
  • Comprehensive case management and transitional support follow-up for children and with their parents at home (and their families) for five years
  • Expansion of Refugee Social Services Program and Targeted Assistance Grant programs to allow for enrollment of children under 16 years old and children over 16 who are in school (both groups are presently not covered).
  • Statewide coordination of school registration/enrollment protocols by the Department of Education (ensuring state-wide compliance with documentation protocols).

Bullet in His Calf, Carlos Barely Made It

September 15th, 2014

By Alexandra Starr

New York Magazine

Carlos, a soon-to-be-19-year-old from Honduras, is most fond of pastimes and people who bring on temporary amnesia. His former girlfriend, Maria, was one such happy distraction. He plays soccer every Saturday in the Bronx at Mullally Park, just a few blocks from Yankee Stadium. That helps, too. “I concentrate so much,” he says, “that I forget about everything else.”

Most of the memories Carlos would like to lose come from the trip he made from Honduras to the United States as an unaccompanied migrant two years ago. He fled because it was his best chance of having an adulthood. His hometown San Pedro de Sula has the highest homicide rate in the Americas. Once, gang members on motorcycles arrived at a park where he had been playing soccer and opened fire. A mushy white scar on his right calf records where a bullet pierced his skin. At 15, he saw a close friend shot in front of him. As a witness, Carlos would either have to join the gang responsible or be murdered. He went to live at an aunt’s house, an uncle’s, another aunt’s — at each, gang members arrived, threatening him. “I told my mother that if I was going to die, it would be trying to get out,” he says. She gave him $150 and he boarded a bus to Guatemala…

More than 10,000 unaccompanied child migrants were apprehended at the border in June 2014 alone. A public relations campaign warning Central Americans against the journey, combined with a Mexican crackdown on migrants boarding la Bestia, helped reduce the number of arrivals by two thirds by the end of the summer. Nonetheless, advocates estimate that some 74,000 children and teenagers will cross into the United States this year. That’s almost double the figure from 2013. Aside from Texas, New York has taken in more of these kids than any other state.

In part because of geography, Carlos stands a better chance than most of being permitted to stay. As a Central American, he is entitled to a court hearing to determine if he will be deported. (Mexican children, in contrast, can be screened and sent back by border patrol agents.) And, in a break with the past, the Office of Refuge Resettlement — the part of the Department of Health and Human Services that is responsible for the unaccompanied migrants — is picking up the tab for legal representation of children who are housed in their juvenile shelters in New York.

Because Carlos was released to his grandmother in New York City, it also meant he could access a medical and legal clinic operated by Catholic Charities, the Children’s Health Fund, and Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. Every other Wednesday evening at the hospital, he and other unaccompanied teenage migrants in the city can receive medical check-ups, attend a group counseling session, and meet with an attorney.

Read the full story in New York Magazine

First-Day-of-School Giggles

September 12th, 2014

139_KenChildStudyCtr_06.19.14_TinaBuckman

By Alice Kenny

There is nothing like the first day of school.

And for these little preschoolers that attended Kennedy Child Study Center for the first time this past Monday — some developing typically, others with special needs and most from financially struggling families  — September 8 was a fantasy come true.

Dressed in their first-day finest of sleeveless shirts and shorts on this warm, sunny morning, they giggled as they herded into their primary-colored classrooms.

“Kennedy Child Study Center (KCSC), a Catholic Charities affiliated organization with locations in Manhattan and the Bronx, was thrilled to welcome over 300 students today for the 2014-2015 school year,” said Jeanne Alter, the agency’s Executive Director.

11For over 50 years, New York preschoolers have come to KCSC for evaluation; special education preschool; speech, occupational, and physical therapy; family support services; and much more, including the center’s recently added Universal Pre-K program for typically developing four-year-olds at its Bronx site.

“Students also benefit from our focus on healthy eating, exercise, technology-aided learning, and other initiatives that mark KCSC as a leader in early childhood special education,” Ms. Alter added.

Learn more about the Kennedy Child Study Center and the children at the heart of its work by visiting the website and following on Facebook.​

Honoring Those We Lost on 9/11

September 11th, 2014

By Alice Kenny

Thirteen years later we remember clearly loved ones lost and heroes who risked their lives trying to save them during the overwhelming tragedy we now refer to simply as “9/11.”

We all feel it.  And like most, we at Catholic Charities wish there were no tragedies, no children left alone to grieve, no communal catastrophes we mourn together.  But whether a crisis is personal or communal we stand in the forefront of response.

After 9/11, Catholic Charities helped found the 9/11 United Services Group, a consortium of 13 major human services agencies coordinating aid to World Trade Center victims.  Msgr. Kevin Sullivan served as its first chairperson.

Thanks to the generosity of so many, Catholic Charities helped nearly 10,000 individuals, providing counseling, scholarships, employment assistance, service coordination and crucial financial aid.

We invite you to share your memories to honor those loved and lost here in the comments section below and on Facebook.

Haircuts, Pizza and Socks: Back-to-School Basics for These Bronx Boys

September 10th, 2014

haircutBy Alice Kenny

Led by Catholic Charities staff, boys from the low-income Highbridge Gardens neighborhood in the Bronx crossed the East River, hiking over the Madison Avenue bridge that separates them by income, race and expectations from affluent Manhattan.

Their back-to-school adventure included free haircuts — high tops, Mohawks and zigzag parts, whatever they wanted — at the All Star Barbershop in Washington Heights.  It also included pizza and ice cream, t-shirts and socks and tips from barbers who remember what it’s like to struggle.

For many of their Manhattan peers, this may seem like only the basics for expensive back-to-school prep that extends to designer clothing, tutors and college-planning consultants.  But for these Bronx boys, ages 10-18 who mostly hail from single-parent families in a local housing project, it was essential.

The day’s adventure was one of many children participating in Catholic Charities Highbridge Gardens Cornerstone Alianza Division took part in during its free, seven-day-per week summer program. Catholic Charities Alianza Division provides a variety of services for youth ages 5 to 21 years old, promoting a world view that extends far beyond the streets where they live.

Immigrant Daughter’s Tearful Journey from Guatemala to N.J. Ends with Dad’s Hug

September 9th, 2014

Tyson Trish/Staff Photographer

BY MONSY ALVARADO

STAFF WRITER

THE RECORD

The last time she saw her father was more than four years ago when he bid her farewell for better job opportunities in the United States. On Thursday, 14-year-old Elizita hugged her father tight at Newark Liberty International Airport as tears rolled down both their cheeks…

Whether Elizita will be allowed to stay in the country, and for how long, will depend on the immigration courts and what sort of relief she will pursue to stay. For example, some children seek asylum and must prove why they would be eligible for that status.

The reunion is one of thousands that have occurred in airports across the country since a surge of unaccompanied minors have entered the country illegally through the southwest border.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, more than 57,000 unaccompanied children who crossed the border were apprehended by authorities from October 2013 through June 2014. The influx of illegal crossers who are minors has led to a debate as to what the country should do with them and whether they should be sent back home, or be allowed to stay.

Meanwhile, in Newark on Thursday several leaders of community organizations that work with immigrants and members of local churches gathered to figure out ways they can help the newly arrived children being held in temporary shelters who don’t have family in the country and are in need sponsors.

Many of the children, mostly from Central America, are fleeing their countries due to violence, poverty and to join a parent in the United States.

“These kids are really fleeing very real violence,” said Morgan Alen-Schouten, a guest speaker at the event who is a staff attorney in the Unaccompanied Minors Program at Catholic Charities Community Services of the Archdiocese of New York and who said she had met with more than 15 children in the last week. “These kids are fleeing the equivalent of war zones, some very violent places.”

Read the full story in The Record.

College Student Takes Time Off to Feed the Hungry

September 8th, 2014

DSC_7288By Alice Kenny

Danica Brown, a recent graduate of George Washington University and current student at Howard University Law School, shares her life-changing experiences from working this past summer at the Catholic Charities Feeding Our Neighbors emergency food program.

Check out excerpts from her first-person account:

Supervising teenagers this summer gave me a reality check on the real issues my peers face every day. It taught me responsibility: I realized that, within the connection we formed, they are looking to me for guidance and what I say could possibly impact their decision making so I need to heed my responsibilities and lead by example.

I cannot reiterate how thankful I am for this summer opportunity. The importance of food pantries in the fabric of middle class America is not the typical image that comes to mind when we think about food assistance programs, but this summer it was a reality. Yes we served a great amount of low-income families but also working moms and dads, who although are putting out their greatest efforts, do not make enough to place a balanced meal on the table.

With Danica’s eyes now opened to the very real need around us, she has become determined, she says, to extend what she learned beyond this summer and beyond New York.

The lessons I learned this summer didn’t stop with me returning back to college. This semester I am taking a Special Topics class: Sociology of Food: School Lunch Policy. Now that I am President of the Black Student Union at George Washington University we are doing several community service projects at local soup kitchens and food banks around DC.

Read her full article and more in the PTS Newsletter.

Attorneys Jump In to Help Children in Immigration Court

September 5th, 2014

By Tania Karas
New York Law Journal

Alberth, a shy 10-year-old who made his way alone from his native El Salvador to the United States, appeared last week in a tiny Manhattan courtroom thousands of miles from his homeland.

Apprehended at the southwestern border, the dark-haired, freckled boy was sent to New York to be reunited with his mother. Alberth was one of 36 children appearing at Immigration Court as part of a “rocket docket” to expedite deportations of the tens of thousands of Central American children who have entered the United States illegally in the past year.

Immigration Judge Virna Wright asked Alberth through a Spanish-language interpreter whether he was enrolled to start school. And was he excited?

Alberth only nodded.

Wright then turned to the boy’s mother, who was seated beside him, and asked if they had an attorney.

‘Not yet,’ she said…

The Door, along with four other legal services providers—the Legal Aid Society, Catholic Charities Community Services, the Safe Passage Project at New York Law School and the New York chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association—has volunteered daily since Aug. 13 to guide the influx of children, along with their adult sponsors, through their first court appearances…

Volunteer lawyers said many of the children have suffered domestic abuse, gang violence, abject poverty and human trafficking in their native countries.

At least 4,200 have been sent to New York since January, according to ORR data. More than half are in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Those without family are sent to shelters, such as The Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry and Lincoln Hall Boys’ Haven in Somers.

Rocket docket sessions start at 9 a.m. with a “Know Your Rights” presentation in Spanish by Elvis Garcia Callejas, a case manager for Catholic Charities’ unaccompanied minors program.

Children and their sponsors fill the court’s 12th floor pro bono room. Some of the boys sport suits and ties, and some girls wear flowered dresses. A few teenage girls hold babies in their laps. They seek legal status for themselves and their own children.

Everyone clutches folders with their names and “alien number” scrawled across the front.

Adults take notes as Garcia Callejas writes a list of “los remedios legales” on a whiteboard. Based on their situations, the children may qualify for special immigrant juvenile status, asylum or visas for victims of serious crimes or trafficking.

‘It’s very important to come to court. Because if you don’t, the judge can order your deportation,’Garcia Callejas told his audience last week…

Catholic Charities recently received a “substantial” grant from the Office of Refugee Resettlement to hire attorneys, paralegals and support staff, said Mario Russell, director of Catholic Charities’ Immigrant and Refugee Services division. Catholic Charities focuses on children living in or just released from temporary shelters.

With the new hires, it expects to handle 300 to 600 such cases and host “Know Your Rights” trainings at 16 shelters in New York City, the Hudson Valley and Long Island.
“Our plan is to take as many of these as we can,” Russell said. “Specifically we’re looking to partner with nonprofits who have worked on these issues. We expect each case to take 12 to 36 months.”

Read the full story online

Crazy Enough to Run

September 3rd, 2014

By Lauren Liberatore

 I first learned about Catholic Charities and their efforts by working at the Archdiocese of New York in the Office of Superintendent of Schools and receiving e-Newsletters about their events and current work.   I am excited to join Catholic Charities and their mission in helping New Yorkers in need.

I always said I would never be crazy enough to run 26.2 miles, unless it was in the New York City Marathon.  I started getting into half-marathons in 2012, since then I have successfully finished three half-marathons, including the Diva Half Marathon in October 2012, the New Jersey Half-Marathon in May 2013 and the Rutgers United Half-Marathon in April 2014! Each half-marathon I have improved my time and form!

I stumbled upon the Team Catholic Charities homepage by accident after visiting CrossStreets, the Catholic Charities blog.  By being a part of this team, not only do I get to accomplish a dream I never thought I had, but I also get to support and represent such a giving organization.  Growing up in a Catholic family and attending Catholic school since kindergarten, I always learned to support great charities and to give back to my communities.  Running for Team Catholic Charities has been a huge honor and I am excited to help raise money for the organization!

I found the best place to train with the summer heat is at the Jersey Shore, where I spend most of my weekends.  The breeze off the ocean in the early morning is extremely refreshing and so is the option to jump right in!  During the week, I mix up my workouts between Crossfit, Running and teaching Zumba!

My family and friends are constantly supporting me by keeping me company during runs or attending my Zumba classes.  They are even kind enough to listen to me complaining about being sore and/or bragging about my achievements!

Help Lauren as she runs for Team Catholic Charities.