Archive for the ‘Welcoming and Integrating Immigrants and Refugees’ Category

Msgr. Sullivan Testifies Before State Assembly About Migrant Youth

Tuesday, 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

Monday, 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

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

Tuesday, 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.

Attorneys Jump In to Help Children in Immigration Court

Friday, 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

Real Internships: Refugees and the American Melting Pot

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

An outreach trip to the Brooklyn Grange– Urban rooftop farming merges with refugee resettlement, providing them with workplace acclimation in a more familiar farm setting.

Catholic Charities intern Franchesca Verendia wrote for her Boston College “Career Edge” website about her eye-opening summer internship with Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Department.  Her post includes photos of outreach trips she took and events she helped arrange.  Highlights include the Brooklyn Grange where urban rooftop farming merges with refugee resettlement to provide new arrivals with workplace acclimation in a more familiar farm setting.  It also includes a World Refugee Day Banner themed “Laying Roots” where clients painted a tree with their hand prints to symbolize leaves as well as the different countries they come from. And it includes insightful quotes from this perceptive college student such as:

“I have come to admire the resiliency of our clients who do not want pity… but rather just someone to point them in the right direction.”

Let’s find out what else Franchesca has to say:

This summer I had the incredible opportunity of working in the Refugee Resettlement Office of the Catholic Charities located in downtown Manhattan. As an intern, I worked mostly on an appointment-based system with clients in order to improve their English as well as explain American workplace customs. Additionally, I accompanied some clients to different government offices around the city in order to advocate on their behalf in the case that their English was limited…

 Given our focus on employment, I worked primarily with adults. While many of the jobs we help our clients get are entry-level jobs, these jobs help clients get the US work experience they need to professionally advance in the future, or help support them while they pursue higher education…The education levels and English proficiency found in our clientele is a wide spectrum, with some possessing PhDs and others not completing high school. Some clients may possess English that is grammatically better than my own, while others require a translator…

Clients come from a variety of backgrounds. Thus, each client is different and should be treated much like how one would treat anyone else—as an individual.

Throughout my time at the RRO, I have come to admire the resiliency of our clients who do not want pity, much like anyone who has grown up in the comfort of the US, but rather just someone to point them in the right direction.

I truly believe that any success a client achieves is one that is entirely their own. Clients rarely mention the reasons they fled their homes and instead focus on the future and what they must do to achieve whatever they believe to be the American dream.

Read Francesca’s full blog post.

 

Be Sure to Catch Larry and Friends

Monday, August 25th, 2014

Larry and Friends Event Flyer FINALBy Alice Kenny

Nearly two dozen immigrants, refugees, children and staff listened spellbound last week at Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement department in downtown Manhattan as an illustrator and writer, each New York based but bred in another land, shared their just-published story, Larry and Friends, an ode to immigration, diversity, friendship and acceptance.

The reading served as the kick off for a conversation about challenges immigrants face, some as obvious as learning a new language, others as surprising as getting used to the way Americans coddle their pets.

“Events like this help to create community with the clients we serve,” Catholic Charities Director of Refugee Resettlement Kelly Agnew-Barjas said after the event.

The book, filled with illustrations reminiscent of Maurice Sendak’s famed Where the Wild Things Are, was illustrated by Ecuadorian-born Carla Torres and written by Belgian-born, Venezuelan-raised Nat Jasper. Its silly yet sensitive story features a drum-beating African zebra, a tight-rope artist Polish pig, a Colombian street musician alligator and fellow ambitious animals relocated to New York City from around the world.

“We work so hard to help clients and we engage in very serious issues every day,” Ms. Agnew-Barajas added. “It’s important to step back and remember that we are part of a larger immigrant experience in New York City.”

Potential Pope Visit ‘a Blessing’ for New Yorkers

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

By Mike Vlensky

Wall Street Journal

“Catholic New Yorkers expressed high hopes after Pope Francis said Monday he might visit New York City, which would mark the first papal visit since 2008,” reports Mike Vilensky on August 20, 2014 in the Wall Street Journal.

Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, an umbrella organization that encompasses 90 agencies serving people throughout the New York Archdiocese, said the new pope’s messages on peace and inequality have spurred a renewed enthusiasm and commitment among donors and charity workers alike.

‘There are no plans yet,’ said Msgr. Sullivan of the possible New York trip, but the tradition has been that if a pope comes to address the United Nations, he usually also makes side trips into the community.

Among the projects on Msgr. Sullivan’s wish list: taking the pope to see children who have fled desperate situations in Central America, visits to homeless shelters and to meet ‘New Yorkers who struggle to have a decent meal at the end of the day.’

Read the full story in the Wall Street Journal.

In Court, Immigrant Children Moved to Head of the Line

Monday, August 18th, 2014

Yovany’s first opportunity to face the United States justice system came late on Thursday morning, more than a month after his journey from Guatemala ended in an American detention center near the Southwest border, reports Kirk Semple in The New York Times on August 14, 2014…

Yovany was among 55 children who have come before the judge this week as part of a new accelerated court process, a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s strategy to deal with the surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America…

Before the surge of unaccompanied minors became a crisis for the Obama administration, the immigration courts in New York, among the nation’s busiest, held four special juvenile dockets every month for children facing deportation. In coordination with court officials, a coalition of groups — including the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Catholic Charities Community Services, Legal Aid, Safe Passage Project and the Door — provided screening and free legal representation to the children…

Immigrants’ advocates in New York learned only at the end of July that the Justice Department had scheduled the new juvenile dockets starting this week. The groups, already overstretched, rushed to develop a plan of action…

The special dockets unfolded this week on the 12th floor of 26 Federal Plaza, a hulking federal office building near City Hall. The children, most accompanied by relatives, began to gather in the hallway outside Courtroom 31 by 8 a.m., an hour before the hearings were to begin…

On both days, Elvis Garcia Callejas, a representative from Catholic Charities, used a white board to present the families with a primer, in Spanish, on how the court works and on possible avenues of relief they might pursue to avoid a deportation order.

Most of the defendants appeared to be teenagers, although there were children as young as 4. Two young sisters wore matching striped dresses.

“The judge is not going to rule today,” Mr. Garcia Callejas clarified…

Justice Department officials said they had a mandate to ensure that children went before an immigration judge within 21 days of being placed in deportation proceedings. They plan to hold the special dockets as often as necessary to reach that goal.

Read the full story in The New York Times.

Catholic Charities Orange County Aces Golf Outing

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

timesheraldrecordgolf
The eighth annual golf outing held by Catholic Charities Community Services of Orange County net $27,000, announced the agency’s Executive Director Dr. Dean Scher and the event’s Chairman Tom Larsen, Esq. Funds raised go directly toward supporting Catholic Charities’ programs and services in Orange County.

The outing, held at West Hills Country Club, a part of the Bonura Hospitality Group, in Middletown, brought in 109 golfers. Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York was the event’s lead sponsor.

“The annual Catholic Charities outing is more than just a fun day on the golf course with friends and colleagues. It’s a way to lend a helping hand to the neediest in our community – the more than 24,000 people who access Catholic Charities’ programs each year,” said Larsen. “We are grateful for the support from our sponsors, golfers, raffle donors, committee members, and volunteers who generously donated time, talent, and funds to make our 2014 annual golf outing a success.”

Catholic Charities Community Services of Orange County, one of the human service agencies of Catholic Charities of The Archdiocese of New York, is committed to building a compassionate and just society, serving the homeless, the hungry, the emotionally and physically handicapped, immigrants, the marginalized and vulnerable of Orange County. It collaborates with parishes and non-Catholic and Catholic partners and helps people of all religions who are in need.

For more information, visit www.catholiccharitiesoc.org.

Summer Retreat for Scholars — If You Call Volunteering a Retreat

Monday, August 11th, 2014

“It’s summer time when thoughts of most college-age students turn to kicking back at the beach,” reports Catholic New York in this recent article. But the archdiocese’s Pierre Toussaint Scholars decided instead to have a retreat the last weekend in June.

Photo by Leah T. Dixon

Pierre Toussaint scholars are graduating seniors from various schools in the Archdiocese of New York who demonstrate active involvement in a church or faith community. They also score high on academic achievement. And they demonstrate a commitment to serving others, similar to the scholars’ namesake, the Venerable Pierre Toussaint.

Mr. Toussaint was born a slave in Haiti in 1766 and died a freeman in New York City in 1853. He touched the hearts of many by living his life, he said, “to be an apostle of goodness to everyone he met.” He was instrumental in raising funds for the first Catholic orphanage, starting the city’s first school for black children, providing funds for the Oblate Sisters of Providence, (a religious community of black nuns), and raising funds to build the Old Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. With money he earned as successful entrepreneur he purchased the freedom of others instead of his own.

The retreat included a service component, in which the scholars decorated backpacks for Catholic Charities. The backpacks will be distributed to the children of refugees.

‘This is part of what makes me proud of this program,’ said Brother Tyrone Davis, C.F.C., executive director of the archdiocese’s Office of Black Ministry, ‘that we have some of our college students-leaders involved in Church and ministry and that they might continue to do so even after graduating.’

Read the full story in Catholic New York.