Archive for the ‘What We Do at Catholic Charities’ Category

Catholic Charities Honored for Defending Defenseless Children

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

awardCatholic Charities Community Services’ participation in the Immigrant Children’s Advocate’s Relief Effort (ICARE) was honored by the American Immigration Council on December 1, 2014 with the Public Service Award for “invaluable service and enduring dedication to immigrant children in need of legal representation.”

The American Immigration Council bestowed this honor on Catholic Charities and its ICARE partners at its Immigrant Achievement Awards event held during the 17th Annual American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) New York Chapter Symposium at the New York Marriott Marquis in midtown Manhattan.

Jodi Ziesemer, the attorney who leads the CCCS team responsible for representing newly arrived unaccompanied immigrant minors on the New York Immigration Court’s so-called “surge dockets” and Elvis Garcia Callejas, who provides “Know Your Rights” presentations to these minors and to their custodians before they attend court, accepted the award on behalf of Catholic Charities.

Their goal and that of Catholic Charities is to provide every child in immigration court with due process and a fair opportunity to explain why return to their country of origin would be harmful and dangerous.

“Jodi and Elvis, assisted by many other members of our staff, have been working tirelessly to provide information and legal screening to minors who have been appearing on the ‘surge dockets’ since August 13, 2014, ” said Raluca Oncioiu, Director of the Immigration Legal Services Department at CCCS.

“This award recognizes the importance of their work, which has touched hundreds of minors over the past three and a half months. We are immensely grateful to the New York City Council and the New York Community Trust, for funding – together with the Robin Hood Foundation – the work of ICARE with minors who live in New York City, and to the Executive Office for Immigration Review for funding the ‘Know Your Rights” presentations we provide to unaccompanied minors and their custodians who reside in New York State.”

Find out more.

Pope Francis Calls Us to Sow Hope

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

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We have Thanksgiving, a day for giving thanks.  We have Black Friday and Cyber Monday, days for getting deals.

And today, we have #Giving Tuesday, a global day for giving back.

“Poverty calls us to sow hope,” Pope Francis tells us. “Poverty is the flesh of the poor Jesus, in that child who is hungry, in the one who is sick.”

Celebrate #Giving Tuesday with Catholic Charities.

Help us sow hope.

Focusing on Education for Family’s Success

Monday, December 1st, 2014

photo 5By John Otis

“It is seldom easy to achieve one’s dreams, but Naomi Bradshaw, 43, wishes it had not been quite so difficult,” writes New York Times Reporter John Otis in this recently published profile in The New York Times Neediest Cases series.

She married and the couple had sons. But marital bliss was short-lived.

“’Things got crazy,’ Ms. Bradshaw said. “He told me that I couldn’t go to work or to school.” She recalled numerous instances of abuse and…said her husband repeatedly threatened to harm her with a cricket bat and large kitchen knives…

“In 2005, she left her husband and took her sons to a shelter…

“As a single parent, Ms. Bradshaw pressed on. She took a job at a printing factory and was adamant that her children focus on their academic success

“’My main thing was for them to stay on top in school,’ she said. All three of her sons are A students and on the high honor roll at their schools. Shaun, (her oldest), is a contender for class valedictorian at the Law, Government and Community Service High School in Jamaica, Queens. He is set to graduate in 2016, and is already enrolled in classes at Queens College, with ambitions to pursue a career in law.

There was time now for Ms. Bradshaw to focus on her own career.  So she turned to Grace Institute, a Catholic Charities affiliate that provides free business training for women in need.

“I wanted a start, a real start,” Ms. Bradshaw said.

“I’m going to keep pushing like I always do,” Ms. Bradshaw said (after graduating the program in October.) “I’m not afraid.”

Daring to Hope

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

President Obama’s recent executive action on immigration reform leaves many searching for answers to this complicated and controversial topic.

 Put your questions in context:  Read this third in a series of El Diario editorials.

Will the President Act on Immigration? Daring to Hope; Preparing for Change.

By C. Mario Russell

For El Diario

Time is running out for Mr. Obama.  He must deliver soon on his promise to change the lives of immigrants in America. The President’s promise restored hope, for which immigrants gave him support and their votes. But it also was made at great cost, in exchange for hundreds of thousands of deportations.

We find ourselves halfway into the President’s second term, and we ask again: will Mr. Obama act on immigration? Many in the nation are more frustrated than ever before, their chorus calls for bold legalization having become pleas for modest and temporary documentation.  Millions of immigrants, whether resident or undocumented, whether living in the open or under cover day-by-day, whether waiting to reunify with family or avoid deportation, are yearning for something new.

No comprehensive legalization law has been enacted for almost 30 years. Washington lawmakers have allowed a generation of workers to continue to work, a generation of children to grow into adults, and a generation of families and faithful to set roots in their communities. Yet, those same lawmakers in Washington have shown social neglect and moral indifference, and, as a direct result, have stalled the lives of millions from full participation in America.

For some time now we have heard Mr. Obama signal his intent to use his presidential power to do “something about immigration”–perhaps before the end of 2014 or soon after 2015 begins.  We have heard this before, and we know better than to rely on words only; the ground in politics has the quality of quicksand, changing and dangerous.  But there is time, and the window of opportunity is open. We must dare to hope.

And if we hope, we must also prepare.

So, permit me to offer practical tips for how to prepare now for any rules that might come from the White House in the future. These are steps that make for good citizenship and for good stewardship. They will be the essential components of any an immigration benefit, whatever form it takes:

First, begin to collect documents:

  • All personal and family identity documents
  • Evidence of arrival to the US and evidence of residency (utility bills, leases, medical records, etc.)
  • Evidence of any trips outside the US
  • Evidence of work (especially undocumented workers)
  • Evidence of education in the US
  • Copies of any immigration applications made to INS/USCIS
  • If ever arrested, criminal Certificates of Disposition (originals from the court), because certain convictions may be disqualifying

Second, consider English classes. It is probable that English proficiency of some kind will be required.

Third, begin setting money aside for filing and (possibly) penalty fees and other legal fees.

Fourth, review tax payments for years worked, to make sure taxes were submitted (even if late) and were accurate and complete.

And, finally, no one should give money to notaries, agencies, or lawyers to prepare an application or help them gather documents at this time. If and when there is a new rule there will be reliable agencies to help people at low cost or for free. There is no need to pay thousands of dollars now. 
To check on the status of any immigration law or rule, call the New York State Hotline at 1-800-566-7636.

Mario Russell is Senior Attorney and Director of Immigrant and Refugee Services at Catholic Charities, 80 Maiden Lane, NY, NY 10038; he also teaches immigration law at St. John’s University School of Law.

Read the full El Diario editorial in Spanish here.

Questions About Immigration Reform?

Friday, November 28th, 2014

President Obama’s recent executive action on immigration reform leaves many searching for answers to this complicated and controversial topic.

To put it in context we are running throughout this Thanksgiving holiday a series of recently published El Diario editorials written by C. Mario Russell, Catholic Charities Senior Attorney and Director of Immigrant and Refugee Services.

marioeldiarioWelcoming and Integrating Immigrants and Refugees

By C. Mario Russell

For El Diario

For over 30 years, Catholic Charities Community Services (CCCS) has welcomed immigrants and refugees to the United States and has helped them integrate in New York. CCCS helps newcomers of all races, nationality, and religion to reunite legally with their families, obtain work authorization, learn English and civics, and prepare to pass citizenship exams. We help immigrants avoid legal exploitation by providing good information and realistic advice about immigration status.  We also help immigrants who are victims of persecution, violence, and abuse in their home countries to find safety here; today, this especially involves the thousands of unaccompanied children who have made their way to New York to be with their families.

With this bi-weekly column, CCCS will report important news and developments on immigration and will try to give you the best information and tools to assist you on your path to citizenship and legalization. We will also share stories of people just like you who have struggled and have achieved their dreams.

Each year, CCCS provides legal advice and representation to thousands of documented and undocumented immigrants in New York City and the Lower Hudson Valley. Our staff of lawyers and paralegals handles matters that include family reunification visa petitions, work authorization, naturalization/citizenship, special juvenile petitions, asylum, and deportation defense in the immigration court. Migration counselors with our New York State Hotline (1-800-566-7636 from 9AM to 8PM weekdays) each year answer 23,000 calls and give referrals on immigration in 9 languages and can cover up to 200 languages if necessary.  All calls are anonymous and confidential.

To help respond to the needs of recently arrived unaccompanied children, CCCS’s legal team has created the Children’s Call Center (1-800-996-3848, 9AM to 8PM weekdays) which gives parents and custodians of children basic information about law and gives them a referral for an in-person group orientation. We also offer group presentations to parents at the immigration court every morning, which we encourage you to attend if your child has a court appointment–they are safe and confidential. Our legal team also gives orientations and consultations to children in a dozen shelters in the New York City region and provides many of them with deportation defense assistance.

CCCS also helps vulnerable people with their basic resettlement needs in the United States.  Those who have refugee status—from any country in the world—can receive help to prepare them for the workplace, help with learning English, help finding a job, and help navigating new needs, such as Social Security, school enrollment, driver’s license. Others, such as children or victims of trafficking or abuse, who are still applying for status, can receive family reunification assistance and other case-management follow-up services.

More recently, CCCS brought into its family the International Center, which offers dynamic classes on English instruction and pairs learners with a “conversation partner”–one of over 200 volunteers at the Center. The Center’s yearlong Immigrant Support Program for low-income immigrants, refugees, and asylees offers access to all Center programs, including classes, conversation partnerships and consultations without charge.

Since its beginning, the United States has been built and shaped by immigrants. Our city, our state, and our nation are enriched and made stronger by the work, the families, and the faith of immigrants. Catholic Charities believes that immigrants are to be welcomed with dignity and care, and it is our mission to provide help and create hope wherever possible and whenever possible to each individual. And so we invite you to contact us and see how we can be of assistance.
Mario Russell is Senior Attorney and Director of Immigrant and Refugee Services at Catholic Charities, 80 Maiden Lane, NY, NY 10038; he also teaches immigration law at St. John’s University School of Law.

 

Read the full editorial in Spanish in El Diario.

This Thanksgiving, Help Put a Meal on the Table for a Family in Need

Thursday, November 27th, 2014

Paul Food KitchenDuring last year’s holiday season, Catholic Charities served 48% more meals than the year before – and this year we’re on track to feed even more. From soup kitchens in the Bronx to food pantries in Manhattan and mobile food pantries on Staten Island and upstate, the story is the same. Lines of our hungry neighbors in need are stretching longer.

Your donation of $50 could feed a family of four from now through Thanksgiving. That’s 12 meals for $50. Please share your bounty with hungry families.

This Thanksgiving, help families in need with a donation of $50 or more.

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Meet a Few Faces of Hunger

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

By Andrew Burton (GETTY)

By Alice Kenny

Timothy Cardinal Dolan joined a small army of Catholic Charities staff, board members and volunteers mobilized to hand out turkey and all the trimmings at the Catholic Charities annual Thanksgiving distribution to more than 400 needy New Yorkers on November 25 at the Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Community Center in Harlem.

Recipients filling their shopping carts with everything from sweet potatoes to stuffing and fruit included Brenda Hugee, 53, a mother of four and former bank teller who is now disabled by Lupus, arthritis and three strokes.  They included Minerva Vega, 58, a widow who lost her job as a sanitation collector when she broke her neck lifting a garbage whose bottom, it turned out, had been filled with cement. They included Jose Costillo, 51, a former warehouse worker who lost his job last year.  And they included Elizabeth Vargas, who waitresses and babysits to support her three children, ages seven, one-and-a-half and six months old.

These are just a few of the faces of hunger who turn to Catholic Charities for help.  They include the unemployed and underemployed, families with children, seniors and the disabled.

During this historic time of need, more than 3 million people in New York State now turn to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to meet their family’s basic needs.

“I try not to ask for help and to make it on my own,” Ms. Hugee said. “If it weren’t for this we’d have rice and beans for Thanksgiving.”

Meet these faces of hunger in this powerful video:

 

 

 

Hungry. Homeless But Not Hopeless.

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

photo 1When people have nowhere to go, they turn to Catholic Charities for help. Amina, a college student and her two-year old child had to sleep on the subway – hungry and homeless – after her mother threw them out.

Fortunately, she found her way to a residence in Catholic Charities network of agencies that provides shelter for homeless mothers and children. The college senior said, “When they told me I could have whatever I want for my child, from diapers to toiletries to food in the pantry, I started to cry.”

This Thanksgiving, please consider a donation of $25, $50 or more.

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Opening Her Home to Disabled Children: A True Thanksgiving

Monday, November 24th, 2014

rodriguezLucky for the 40 abandoned New York City children that Josefina Rodriguez took in during recent decades and raised as foster children, this now 61-year-old woman loves children.  This is also lucky for Ms. Rodriguez’ oldest daughter, Hanny Casado, 40, who was born brain damaged and still lives at home.  It is lucky for Mia Rodriguez, 8, who Ms. Rodriguez took in as a foster child and later adopted.  And it is lucky for Natasha Rodriguez, 12, who Ms. Rodriguez also took in as a foster child and adopted regardless of the autism and mental retardation that make Natasha a more challenging child to raise.

Thanks to a wide array of support provided by Kennedy Child Study Center, an affiliate of Catholic Charities that assists children with developmental delays, this financially and emotionally stressed family continues to thrive.

“These are not real problems,” Ms. Rodriguez says when questioned about pressures she navigates every day.  “Problems are grave illnesses, when someone you love dies.  I have commitments, not problems, commitments to take care of my children.”

Read their story in The New York Times.

Catholic Charities Statement on President Obama’s Executive Action on Immigration

Friday, November 21st, 2014
07_StCatholic Charities, along with Catholic parishes and schools has long welcomed immigrants to our country and most especially to New York. We have helped new Americans adapt to their new home with a sense of dignity and respect. Given this experience, we have been at the forefront of advocating for legislation that  comprehensively reforms a broken immigration system to create fair and humane resettlement and integration for those coming to our country. Because of this, we have been saddened again and again by the failure of Congress to pass such critically needed legislation.In light of this failure, we are encouraged by President Obama’s executive action that deals with one part of immigration reform that is at the heart of Catholic Charities advocacy – the unity of the family.  By this order, millions of children who are citizens or permanent legal residents of the United States will be protected from suddenly having their parents taken from them and deported. Vulnerability and fear is reduced for millions by this action.  Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York highlighted this point from his own personal experience:

“Let me tell you a tale of two Sundays that I personally witnessed. The first Sunday a family of four was praying in my parish church. The next Sunday it was a family of three. The father and breadwinner was deported for a minor infraction that occurred almost a decade earlier.  The wife and mother was alone and the children now without their father.  No one benefited – not the family and not the nation.”  An executive action might have protected the unity and ensured the stability of this family.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York stands ready to help eligible immigrants respond to this new opportunity.  We will provide accurate and timely information through our New Americans Hotline.  We will also assist immigrants to comply with the provisions of this executive order so they can obtain the new protections and authorizations it affords.

While we are positive about the protections afforded vulnerable families by this executive order, there is undoubtedly more work to be done.  We continue to maintain that comprehensive immigration reform is necessary and thus advocating for such will be an ongoing part of Catholic Charities’ efforts.

Looking for immigration assistance?  Call us at the New York State (NYS) New Americans Hotline: 1-800-566-7636 (Toll-free in NYS)