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

Free Dominican Festival & Independence Day Celebration

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Rey del Carnaval del BoulevardIvan Dominguez is “maestro” in every way, a distinguished musician and a respected teacher.

And tonight, Thursday, February 26 at 7 p.m., this Maestro and Director of Catholic Charities Alianza La Plaza Beacon will be honored at the Dominican festival of dance and song, the Camerata Washington Heights & Conjunto Folklorico Dominicano, at City College’s Aaron Davis Hall.

Eight of the evening’s performers began studying Dominican dance with Mr. Dominguez as young children at Alianza La Plaza Beacon, a division of Catholic Charities that provides cultural activities, recreation and homework help for neighborhood youth.  Now, after more than a decade training with this “maestro” they have performed up and down the East coast, from Washington DC to Providence, from Boston and tonight to Aaron Davis Hall at the City College of New York.

“It’s important for children in this multicultural country to know about our cultures, to know where we came from so we can understand ourselves and show respect to others,” Mr. Rodriguez says.

Catholic Charities along with key elected officials and organizations is sponsoring the evening’s free event in commemoration of Dominican Independence Day.

Spider-Man Reaches Out to Boy with Autism

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

By Alice Kenny

Spider-Man swung in for his first fantasy appearance in the Forest Hill, Queens home of this fictional boy-turned-insect’s  aunt in 1962.

Now, more than 50 years later, the superhero made his latest appearance last week in the dilapidated East Harlem apartment of Jamel Hunter, a Spider-Man-obsessed boy trapped inside his thoughts by autism.

Spider-Man’s author, Stan Lee, learned about Jamel and his obsession with the comic strip hero from a New York Times Neediest Cases profile written about this eight-year old who receives help from Catholic Charities affiliate Kennedy Child Study Center.

In an effort to reach through the autism, Mr. Lee sketched a personalized comic with a special bubble, “Hi, Jamel,” and had it hand delivered to the young boy in the housing project where he lives.

Read the full New York Times “Crime Scene” story now.

Pick Up a Basketball, Not a Gun

Monday, February 16th, 2015

basketkenn2011mothers 019By Alice Kenny

Put the guns down.
Pick up the ball.
And let’s recreate.

That’s the plea for the third year straight of Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E., an empowered group begun by five broken-hearted Harlem mothers who lost their sons to gun violence.

Their goal is to provide positive alternatives, specifically basketball, to keep teenage boys away from the street’s vices.

To support them, Catholic Charities will once again host a basketball tournament at our Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Memorial Center during the mid-winter school recess, starting today, February 16, and ending Friday, February, 20, 2015.  The tournament this year will be offered exclusively to teens detained in local juvenile facilities.

“Together,” they say, “we can silence the violence.”

Catholic Charities Lobbies Albany in the Front Rooms, Face to Face

Friday, February 13th, 2015

albanyselfiesBy Alice Kenny

Battling nearly a foot of snow, Catholic Charities New York representatives organized a show of force in Albany on February 9 – 10 to persuade state leaders to expand Governor Cuomo’s proposed plan to combat poverty.

They joined local Catholic Charities affiliated agencies along with the New York State Council of Catholic Charities Directors that represent all eight dioceses across the state.

The troops maximized their strength on these two frigid days by meeting with every human services chair person in both houses of the legislature and with representatives from the governor’s office.

Their goal, to battle back inequality, was overwhelming.  But their plan to fund it was simple.

New York State received more than $5 billion in recent settlements with banks accused of misconduct.  Surely, they reasoned, a significant percentage of this windfall should be earmarked for the one out of five impoverished families in New York State.

Catholic Charities requests included:

  • Amplify the Governor’s proposed program to target investments in capital projects to improve the quality, efficiency, accessibility and reach of nonprofits serving New Yorkers
  • Provide adequate funding for vulnerable populations including foster children served by Medicaid Managed Care
  • Increase funding for post adoption services and child welfare agencies
  • Address soaring rates of homelessness and hunger by increasing funds for supportive housing, homeless prevention services, emergency food and outreach programs
  • Raise the minimum wage and expand the Unemployment Strikeforce to help the unemployed find work
  • Push back recent cutbacks in services for the physically and emotionally challenged by providing significant funds for permanent and supported housing
  • Help undocumented immigrants become taxpaying members of society by enabling them to apply for state college tuition and education tax credits; expand the Office of New American Opportunity Centers that provide immigrant services and increase funds to help unaccompanied minor children seeking to reunify with family members.

“Thank you for assisting all of us to give voice to the needs of those who are poor and most vulnerable,” Catholic Charities Diocese of Buffalo Director Sr. Mary McCarrick said to Luz Tavarez-Salazar, Catholic Charities NY’s Director of Government and Community Relations who helped organize the event.  “Now we pray those voices will be heard by our New York State government.”

Check out these event photos on FaceBook.

New York City’s Municipal ID Is a Good for New Yorkers and Good for the City

Thursday, February 12th, 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

The week before last, New York City joined with the growing number of cities and communities–like Hartford, Connecticut, San Francisco, California, and, as just announced this week in Newark, New Jersey —a plan that will explore offering all their citizens, residents, and members a municipal identity card. This is something to celebrate as good for city residents and good for our city.

There are about 500,000 undocumented mothers, fathers, and children who live, work, and go to school in New York City. Each day they seek the basics: steady employment, a stable family, hope for the future, and security. For the most part they are unseen and unheard. But, like silent generations of immigrants before them, each day they bring new life to this city whose economic and cultural achievements we take such pride in. Each day they contribute to its magnificent legacy.

The new ID will give these New Yorkers a chance to run their day-to-day lives a little more easily. This is good for everyone. With these IDs people will be able to cash checks, open a bank or credit account, sign a lease, and enter public buildings. Parents will be able to access public schools for parent-teacher conferences. They won’t have to worry about being turned away from visiting their child in a hospital. These are not extravagant rights for the undocumented. Moreover, these municipal IDs make work easier for everyone else including teachers, merchants, and professionals.

One of the most important life-improvements that comes with the ID is legal identification in case of a law enforcement stop, such as an arrest.  When someone is questioned by the police, an officer will often ask to know who the person is. The card makes it easier for that identity check to happen in real-time and the encounter terminates there. Again, not an extravagant right, but it makes work easier for the police and protects people.

As was said by one long-time undocumented resident, “I’m basically invisible in this city without proper identification. My husband and I work hard every day; we have children and the security that something as simple as an ID card will give us cannot be overstated.” This is not an extravagant request; just a basic wish we all share and will benefit from.

Read this recent post in Spanish in “El Diario” now.

 

C. 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.

Migrant Children: A Four Part Series

Monday, February 9th, 2015

By Alice Kenny

Fifteen years old, hungry and alone, Elvis Garcia hitched rides, scrambled atop freight trains and dragged himself through 1,200 miles of deserts to reach his promised land, the United States.

Now this former unaccompanied minor works for Catholic Charities, helping fellow young immigrants survive  and thrive.

Catch this powerful 4-part News 12 series when it airs its first program today, Monday, February 9, 2015.

Human Trafficking: Don’t Look the Other Way

Friday, February 6th, 2015

By Alice Kenny

Join us this Sunday, February 8, as we raise awareness to this horror during the first International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking.

Where is the brother and sister whom you are killing each day in clandestine warehouses, in rings of prostitution, in children used for begging, in exploiting undocumented labor,” says Pope Francis.  “Let us not look the other way.  There is greater complicity than we think.  The issue involves everyone!”

Catholic Charities helps victims who have undergone the horrendous humiliation of human trafficking regain their dignity.  We provide legal and social services.  And we run Dignity of Work, an initiative of the Anti-Trafficking Program of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, that helps new arrivals train for and land jobs to support themselves and their families.

Do you need help?  Call our New York State (NYS) New Americans Hotline: 1-212-419-3737 or 1-800-566-7636 (Toll-free in NYS).

Learn more and join us.

From Sleeping on Subways to Hollywood Success

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

Covenant House Alumnus Moves To Next Round of American Idol! from CovenantHouse on Vimeo.

By Alice Kenny

A big guy with a big name but short on luck most of his life, formerly homeless Hollywood Anderson just won a ticket to his namesake, Hollywood, CA. 

It’s all thanks, he says, to Catholic Charities affiliate/homeless shelter Covenant House and his powerful performance on American Idol.

Mr. Anderson, 22, found safety from the city streets along with the security and support he needed to thrive at Covenant House.  His transformation from sleeping on subways to success began when Norm Lotz, a Covenant House executive, noted the then-homeless young man’s talent and passion for music.  In addition to the home, food and counseling that Covenant House provided the young man, Mr. Lotz also gave him his first guitar. 

The rest is American Idol history.

Watch the video that inspired millions of viewers.

Whiz Kid Immigrant Works with FB’s Mark Zuckerberg but Still Can’t Get Permanent Legal Status

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

photo 2By Alice Kenny

Similar to many New Yorkers, Carlos Vargas attended kindergarten through college in New York City.

Similar to very few, he worked on a mobile app with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

And similar to a small percentage, he relies on temporary, two-year government immigration renewals to  remain in the nation where he has lived since he was five years old.

In this land of opportunity, Carlos has come a long way.  His widowed mother cleaned houses, babysat and collected cans to support him and his four siblings.  To help out, Carlos began at age 13 washing dishes daily at an Italian restaurant near his home while discovering his passion for computers and eventually putting himself through college.

He qualified for DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals available to some children brought to the United States by parents who lacked legal immigration status.  After receiving DACA legal immigration status two years ago that includes two years of work authorization in the U.S., he came to Catholic Charities to apply for mandatory renewal to avoid  to Mexico, a land he barely remembers.

Read his full New York Times Neediest Case story now.

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.