Archive for the ‘Protecting and Nurturing Children and Youth’ Category

Without a Lawyer in Immigration Court, Children Are Lost

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

 

 

The premier Spanish-language newspaper, El Diario, turns to Catholic Charities Director of Immigrant and Refugee Services C. Mario Russell for regular updates on immigration reform. 

By C. Mario Russell

Catholic Charities New York

Isabel, 16 years old and 4 months pregnant, fled Honduras with her aunt last April. They were on the run because Isabel’s boyfriend’s brother, a notorious gang leader, had assassinated Isabel’s mother weeks before and they feared retribution for having reported the murder to the police.

U.S. Immigration apprehended Isabel at the border and transferred her to the Bronx for deportation proceedings. Six months later, in October, I met Isabel, who was a very young, new mother. She had not yet seen an immigration judge and her asylum-filing deadline was about to pass. She had no lawyer.

Had Isabel crossed the border alone—like the 51,000 children who did so last year—she would have been placed in temporary shelter care with the Office of Refugee Resettlement. She would also have been given a legal orientation and consultation. She would have immediately seen a judge. And she might have been assigned a free lawyer through a federal program or through a collaborative legal defense program for Unaccompanied Minors in New York City. By some estimates, almost 50-percent of Unaccompanied Minors have a lawyer.

But Isabel is not an Unaccompanied Minor. She crossed the border with her aunt so the Department of Homeland Security labeled her an “accompanied” child. This means Isabel’s deportation case was put indefinitely on hold. She was not entitled to shelter care or to a legal orientation and she was not eligible for a free lawyer. Last year, over 68,000 children like Isabel—accompanied by family—were apprehended at the border. Little has been reported about these children.

But the consequences for children facing the court system alone are staggering. Unable to mount a case in their own defense—whether for asylum or special immigrant juvenile protection—they might permanently be disqualified because of missed filing deadlines and, as a result, ordered deported in absentia. A 2011 report from a panel headed by a federal judge found that immigrants with lawyers are five times more likely to win their cases than those who represent themselves. A recent analysis shows that 90-percent of children who have a lawyer appear in court. But without a lawyer, only 10-percent, most lacking the courage, knowledge or understanding of English and U.S. law, attend these key proceedings. This should not come as a surprise. What 16 year old facing deportation to a violence-filled country would show up in court without a lawyer to defend her?

Children facing life or death consequences in immigration court shouldn’t suffer because there is not enough legal assistance. While not every child may have a legal right to remain here, each deserves due process and legal representation in court. The U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause and the Immigration and Nationality Act’s provisions requiring a “full and fair hearing” before an immigration judge should require the government to provide all children with legal representation in their deportation hearings. Isabel and children like her deserve defense.

* Names have been changed

 

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

Read this in Spanish now in El Diario.

Pope Francis May Visit NYC Soup Kitchens

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Breaking news.  Pope Francis, during his trip to New York City confirmed this week and scheduled for September 2015, may spend time in soup kitchens, food pantries and centers that help immigrants.

The notoriously unpretentious pope, appointed in 2013, has quickly risen as a crusader for the world’s poor and disadvantaged, reports Metro New York

“When a pope comes to visit in New York, there’s excitement. But with Pope Francis, it will be excitement on steroids,” said Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities. “I think this pope has created such excitement because of what he’s done to enable the world to understand the basic goodness of the message of Jesus … the world is taken by his ability to communicate this.” 

Sullivan said soup kitchens, as well as centers that help immigrants and refugees acclimate to life in New York would be the best place for the pope to visit to “get a good understanding of some of the hurting.”  

“Some of the most vulnerable people do have to go to food pantries for a basic nutritious meal, and it’s one of the better places to see how the church is reaching out to the poorest,” Sullivan said. 

Read Metro New York’s full interview with Msgr. Sullivan to learn more about Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to NYC.

Disabled Son & Abused Mom on Path to Self Sufficiency

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

 

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Wheelchair bound from the severe brittle bone disease he was born with, Edwin Zabala, 10, shares a single room with his mother and younger brother in a shelter for domestic violence survivors.  Edwin is about three feet tall with a round head nearly the size of his torso; his arms and legs are bent inward from frequent breakage.

His younger brother, Jorge, 6, acts as his protector during the rare times, other than school, that their mother feels it is safe to walk with them on the streets outside their shelter.  It is not that she is an overly-cautious mother.  It is that she knows, after witnessing Edwin’s bones crack again and again when they experience the slightest pressure, after seeing criminals hanging out on the tough streets outside and after enduring 11 years of abuse from their father, that the world outside their room for them is a dangerous place.

Thankfully, Dominican Sisters Family Health Services, a Catholic Charities affiliate, has made it safer.

Read their New York Times Neediest Case now.

 

Impoverished Children Act Out Cinderella Tale

Friday, January 9th, 2015

alianza-cornerstoneBy Alice Kenny

Impoverished children, many with a good idea of what Cinderella’s life was like, recently acted out a version of this well-known tale in “A Native American Cinderella.” The actors, ages 5-12, participate in Catholic Charities Highbridge Gardens Cornerstone Alianza Division after-school program.  Their older teen peers designed the children’s costumes as well as the play’s sets.  Off-Broadway Actress Mariel Ryes, who tutors at the after-school program, directed the play.

The play tells the tale of a brave in search of a wife and a chief’s daughter abused by her older sisters in the wigwam they share.  You know what happens next.

Check out these photos and share the fun.

Polar Vortex Strikes; Cold Children Get Coats

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
Catholic Charities coat distribution

Catholic Charities coat distribution

By Alice Kenny

Brrr — It’s cold out!

Fortunately, just as the Polar Vortex slams through New York, Catholic Charities is distributing 3,000 coats to children and families in need who would otherwise be shivering without them.

We’re able to keep them warm thanks to our corporate, media and agency partnerships.

ABC Good Morning America Warm Coats and Warm Hearts Drive with Burlington Coat Factory in partnership with K-I-D-S and Fashion Delivers donated the coats. And Catholic Charities, in turn, is sharing them with 50 of our affiliated agencies across our New York archdiocese.

By working together we’re spreading the warmth from Staten Island, throughout New York City, on both sides of the freezing Hudson River and all the way to up to Sullivan County.

Our coat distribution is, as they say, just the tip of the iceberg. We’re also working with our affiliated agencies to distribute hundreds of donated books along with bookshelves to homeless shelters, 38,000 toys to disabled and needy children and so much more.

So now, during this winter season, stay in and stay safe.

And thank you for your help sharing the warmth.

Pope Francis’ Christmas Message Focuses on Children in Peril

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015
View image | gettyimages.com

Pope Francis used a traditional Christmas address to emphasize the plight of children in areas of conflict, pointing out their “impotent silence” that “cries out under the spade of many Herods,” a reference to the ancient king who slaughtered all the young boys of Bethlehem, according to the New Testament, reports Elisabetha Poveledo in The New York Times.

Vast numbers of children today are victims of violence, objects of trade and trafficking, or forced to become soldiers, and they need to be saved, he said.

The pope spoke of ‘children displaced due to war and persecution, abused and taken advantage of before our very eyes and our complicit silence.’

Catholic Charities is lead provider of humanitarian help  including legal, social and financial support for the abused children Pope Francis spoke about who flee their native lands and seek protection in the United States.

Do you or does someone you know need help?

Call Catholic Charities-administered New York State New Americans Hotline at 800-566-7636.

Read the full story in The New York Times.

Mother Gives Autistic Son Special Party

Monday, January 5th, 2015

andrewsEvery available surface of what, an hour earlier, had been an empty housing project community room had been decorated in the colors and likeness of Jamel Hunter’s favorite superhero, Spider-Man. There were Spider-Man balloons, cupcakes, a spider made of frosting on the birthday cake, even a homemade pin-the-tail-on-Spider-Man game.

The night was part party and part prayer, for it was a first for Jamel, 8, and his mother, Phyllis Atwood, 46, wanted it to be perfect.

Jamel has autism, and slight variations from his routines can be jarring, sending him into screaming fits or silent retreats to his own thoughts. The party was a huge leap. The volume of the music, the rows and rows of trays of barbecue and soft drinks and desserts, the brightly colored balloons — it was as if Ms. Atwood were making up for lost time, throwing him three or four parties at the same time.

Ms. Atwood, a single mother, is disabled from Blount’s disease, a condition in which the upper shin bone stops producing bone tissue; and failing kidneys that require she undergo dialysis three times a week. She had loaded her wheelchair with party supplies before making her way from their apartment to the party.

The family receives support and services from Kennedy Child Study Center, a Catholic Charities sponsored agency acknowledged as a leader in educating and supporting children with intellectual disabilities.

Read their full story published Christmas Day in The New York Times.

Time to Give Hope

Monday, December 29th, 2014

timetogivehopeIt’s time to give hope for the New Year.

Your tax-deductible donation by Dec. 31st will help us keep families together.

 

Today’s economy squeezes working-class families, leaving many holding two jobs yet still unable to pay rent, put food on the table and makes ends meet. With donations like yours, we can strengthen these families.

Last year, we helped nearly 100,000 individuals and families with financial assistance, resources, counseling, job placement and more so they could stay together and thrive.

Please consider an end-of-year donation of $100. Together we can provide help and create hope.

Help New Yorkers In Need Stay Warm This Christmas

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

warmcoatpostA warm coat isn’t too much to ask for this Christmas.

When hard-working people fall on hard times, Catholic Charities is there.

The Rivera family lost almost everything when the economic climate caused their day care business to shut down. As winter approaches, families like the Riveras are facing a tough climate of another kind. Last year, our St. Nicholas Project provided warm coats, hats, sweaters and blankets to nearly 4,000 people. Every year, because of caring people like you, the St. Nicholas Project is able to provide winter necessities to those in need.

This Christmas, you can help by donating $65 to help one individual, or $260 to help a family of four.

Coats & Toys for Children in Need

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

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Impoverished children and their families will be warmer and happier this holiday season thanks to Catholic Charities’ Christmas Spirit Toy and Coat Drive partnership with Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway President and CEO Timothy J. Rooney.  Now in its eighth year, the drive was the most successful on record, collecting and distributing hundreds of coats and more than 600 toys to those in need.

“There are no greater deeds than charity and service,” Mr. Rooney said

Empire City patrons donated the toys and gifts that Mr. Rooney presented to Msgr. Sullivan last week at the Empire City Yonkers location.

Joining Mr. Rooney and Monsignor Sullivan were Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, Mayor Mike Spano, City Council Member Corazon Pineda from the City of Yonkers, and Assembly member Shelley Mayer.

Sister Christine Hennessy of Catholic Charities Community Services and Órla Kelleher, Executive Director of the Aisling Irish Community Center were also on present and will ensure the toys and coats get into the hands of families most in need.

The group heralded the generosity of Josh Blake, President of California-based family-owned company, Jams, who for the past three consecutive years delivered some West Coast warmth to New York families with his donation of 500 toys.

John Lennon, owner of Yonkers-based Smart Move & Storage, also generously donated services to transport and store of all donations while they are distributed by local community organizations.

Empire City Casino has a long history of working with Catholic Charities to help New Yorkers in need, non-Catholics and Catholics alike.