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

Immigrants Defrauding Fellow Immigrants

Monday, October 20th, 2014

tiempo

Tune in to Tiempo on ABC7 for its round-table discussion with Catholic Charities Executive Director Msgr. Kevin Sullivan and New York Immigration Coalition Associate Oriana Sanchez about New York State’s comprehensive effort to fight growing fraud perpetrated against immigrants.

The fraud takes place most often, they say, between established immigrants against the recently arrived. Frequently “notarios,” Spanish-speaking immigrants certified to serve as notary publics, pretend to be attorneys, charge recent immigrants thousands of dollars to help them obtain legal status and then disappear with the money.

Catholic Charities New Americans Hotline helps fight against fraud along with answering more than 20,000 other immigration calls for help each year in more than 20 languages.

“Since July we’ve gotten 31 calls (from defrauded immigrants) that we’ve turned over to authority,” Msgr. Sullivan says.

“All the things we’ve talked about in terms of fraud just point out how much we have to reform the immigration laws in our country comprehensively so that immigrants get a good deal; so that we can have a place which is welcoming but which is law abiding and in which people can make a contribution to making this a better place.”

Watch the full Tiempo show aired Sunday, October 19, 2014, on ABC7.

Need help? Call the New York State Immigration Hotline administered by Catholic Charities at 800-566-7636.

A Day on a New York City “Rocket Docket”

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

“The minors and their guardians sit in the fluorescent-lit room and stare at the sketch on the whiteboard,” reports the Latin America News Dispatch.

The image represents a map of Mexico and the U.S. separated by a line: the border. Elvis Garcia Callejas, a case manager with Catholic Charities, presides over the information session.

“So, you all crossed that line and that’s why you’re sitting here, right?” Callejas asks the group. A few sheepishly smile while others are busy texting on their phones.

A native of Honduras, Callejas was an undocumented minor himself before gaining citizenship. He understands the trauma many of the people in front of him experienced as well as the legal options available. In his rapid-fire Spanish presentation peppered with plenty of jokes, Callejas aims to provide the minors with necessary information while also putting them at ease before their impending deportation hearings.

At one point Callejas likens immigration officers to iguanas because of their green uniforms. At another, he explains how the inside of a courtroom looks like a church and is “just as boring.” By the end of the session minors and their guardians are chuckling along. Not only does Callejas speak the vernacular, but he is well rehearsed: he holds an identical session weekly at 26 Federal Plaza — the building that houses New York City’s immigration court — just one hour before minors are to appear before a judge.

 

Catholic Charities is just one of the organizations in New York City that has taken advantage of so-called “rocket docket” days, in which judges hold initial hearings for many minors simultaneously, on multiple days each week. The expedited court process is just one of President Barack Obama’s strategies to handle the surge of unaccompanied minors in the country and the subsequent backlog of immigration cases.

Read the full story in Latin America News Dispatch.

Do you need immigration help?  Call our New Americans Hotline at 800-566-7636.

Scam Artists Are Target of Immigration Initiative

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

(L-R) State Secretary of State Cesar Perales, Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, Assemblyman Marcos A. Crespo, NY Immigration Coation Executive Director Steven Choi and Catholic Charities Community Services Director Beatriz Diaz Taveras

“Unethical lawyers and other scam artists that prey on New York’s immigrant community have been put on notice. The state has the means to keep tabs on them and will come down hard on anyone attempting to defraud or exploit this particularly vulnerable population,” writes Ron Lajoie in a recent Catholic New York article.

New York State’s Office for New Americans, in cooperation with a coalition of partners, including Catholic Charities, rolled out a new comprehensive initiative at a press conference at the new headquarters of Catholic Charities’ Division of Immigration and Refugee Services in Lower Manhattan Sept. 18 to combat fraud against immigrants across New York State. The initiative follows legislation recently signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo mandating stricter requirements for immigration assistance providers and tougher penalties for those who scam the system.

‘We’ve got to deliver the message that if you take advantage of immigrants it’s a crime. It’s a serious crime and we are going to prosecute you,’said New York Secretary of State Cesar Perales. ‘We’re taking proactive steps and empowering our immigrant communities through legitimate services to create a safe and fair economic landscape that will benefit every New Yorker.’

A main component of the new initiative will be the expansion of the New York State New Americans Hotline—800-566-7636—operated by Catholic Charities to serve as a resource to coordinate immigration fraud complaints as well as to offer service referrals…

Beatriz Diaz Taveras, executive director of Catholic Charities Community Services, told CNY as many as 10 percent of the calls coming into the hotline deal with fraud issues…

‘Now that we have this campaign and people are seeing it on the subways and in newspapers, we have over 200 calls a month,’ Ms. Diaz Taveras said. ‘And folks are calling about attorneys who have taken their money, who have not provided services, notarios that they have gone to that have given incorrect information. And they are asking how can they be helped and what recourse do they have?’

Judge Sheds Robes to Comfort Traumatized, Unaccompanied Children

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

“A federal immigration judge says his priority when dealing with traumatized children facing deportation is to create a kinder, gentler courtroom,” reports Verena Dobnik from the Associated Press.

 New York’s assistant chief immigrant judge, Robert Weisel, told a City Council hearing Monday that he takes off his black robes and speaks to young children from the bench in a more casual tone.

‘Our objective is to lower the level of anxiety, lower the level of fear, because after all, when you see someone in a black robe, it’s very scary,’ the judge said.

Weisel testified before the council’s Committee on Immigration, which is assessing the needs of children smuggled into the United States from Central America. The cases of more than 1,100 of them are pending before New York City immigration judges. Some face deportation.

The City Council recently allocated nearly $2 million to Catholic Charities Community Services and its coalition of service providers to cover the children’s legal expenses.

Read the full AP story.

Agency Retreat Prepares for Catholic Charities Centennial

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

DSC_1704As an early step in preparation for the upcoming centennial celebration of The Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York – just three years from now in 2017 — executive directors from our 90 affiliated agencies convened last week at the Met Life building.  They participated in breakout sessions that focused on and collaborating and networking with fellow affiliated agencies.

“As we approach the Centennial of The Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, we reinforce and make clear our fundamental understanding of this federation of agencies,” Msgr. Sullivan said, “independent in governance and management, yet united by a common Catholic vision.  A vision which affirms the dignity of each person, of every religion or no religion, made in the image and likeness of God and the priority of our services and resources toward the poor and vulnerable.”

Check out photos from the event

Advocates: NY Is Leader for Migrant Children

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

10669085_10154586624835494_235170907021392108_oBy VERENA DOBNIK

The Associated Press

“New York state is a national leader in helping thousands of unaccompanied migrant children who have fled Central America for the United States, but more funding is needed to give them a normal life, advocates told state legislators during a hearing last week,” writes Verena Dobnik this week for the Associated Press.

Organizations that provide shelter, legal, medical and social services urged lawmakers at a state Assembly hearing in Manhattan to bolster aid for these children. The Rev. Kevin Sullivan, who heads Catholic Charities in the New York diocese, said the state should invest about $24 million.

‘By investing under $4,000 in each of these kids, we think you can build a future and create thousands of new, productive New Yorkers who are going to be contributing taxpayers to New York state,’ he said.

Read the full story.

City Council Chooses Catholic Charities & Its Coalition to Represent Unaccompanied Minors

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Unaccompanied2Catholic Charities Executive Director Msgr. Kevin Sullivan attended a New York City Council meeting today, September 23, 2014, as it earmarked a $1.9 million grant for Catholic Charities Community Services and its coalition of established service providers to give legal representation and other services to approximately 1,000 unaccompanied immigrant children facing possible deportation under a new accelerated court process.

The New York Times reported that:

The Council is to earmark $1 million,; the Robin Hood Foundation is committing $550,000, and the New York Community Trust, $360,000…

‘It’s a groundbreaking public-private partnership,’  said Melissa Mark-Viverito, the City Council speaker.

The accelerated process at the New York Immigration Court, informally known as the “surge docket” or “rocket docket,” began in August under a Justice Department mandate. The number of youth deportation cases has since swelled to 30 per day from fewer than 100 per month, overwhelming the legal groups that provide free screenings and legal representation to immigrant children in coordination with court officials.

The speedy deportation hearings are part of the Obama administration’s efforts to deter the illegal migration of young people from Central America. The federal goal is for children to go before an immigration judge within 21 days of being placed in the deportation process. Children could be deported within a few months, instead of years…

The $1.9 million will go to a coalition of established service providers, such as the Door, the Legal Aid Society, Catholic Charities Community Services and the Safe Passage Project. Mr. Weingartner said the Robin Hood Foundation would evaluate the program’s performance after 18 months.

Read more in The New York Times.

Wisconsin Parishioners Heed Pope Francis’ Call; Team with Catholic Charities to Comfort Lonely Children

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

blanketsBy Alice Kenny

With so much coverage of children fleeing their homelands to escape rape, gangs and abuse and arriving here in New York for help, sometimes we wonder with such overwhelming circumstances, how can we possibly make a difference.

Thanks to parishioners across the nation at St. Mary’s Visitation Parish in Elm Grove, Wisconsin, we have a simple answer.

It all comes down, they remind us, to comforting a child. And what better way than to wrap them snugly in a blanket made just for them?

The Wisconsin parishioners say they were inspired by a recent Catholic Charities NY blog post about a mass said by Cardinal Dolan and Msgr. Sullivan at Lincoln Hall, a Catholic Charities affiliated agency in Northern Westchester that shelters and provides social and legal services to some of the distraught unaccompanied minors who reach New York.  So children, teens and adults from the parish got together to design and make over 100 soft fleece blankets covered with children’s favorites — cartoon characters, Mickey Mouse and volleyballs —  to comfort lonely unaccompanied children arriving New York.  The parish is sending these handmade blankets to Catholic Charities for distribution.

The words that inspired these folks in America’s Dairyland to help came from Cardinal Dolan as he paraphrased our pope.

“Pope Francis said it so well,” Cardinal Dolan wrote on his blog, “when he reminded us that ‘this humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected.’

“And that is just what Catholic Charities, parishes, professionals and volunteers throughout the country are doing.”

Catholic Charities Partners with State Leaders to Fight Immigration Fraud

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Watch this slide show of the event.

Catholic Charities Executive Director Monsignor Kevin Sullivan joined New York Secretary of State Cesar A. Perales, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. and others to showcase a comprehensive initiative launched by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo to protect immigrants from fraud and exploitation on September 18, 2014 at the headquarters of Catholic Charities’ Division of Immigration and Refugee Services in Lower Manhattan.

Con artists posing as immigration attorneys or authorized immigration representatives victimize thousands of New Yorkers in our state each year by charging fees for immigration assistance services that are never provided. Commonly recognized forms of immigration scams include: false promises of permanent U.S. residency and citizenship; preparation of applications for immigration benefits by unqualified individuals or those engaged in the unauthorized practice of law; sale of immigration forms that are available for free; false impersonation of immigration officials; and unwarranted threats of deportation. At times, victims are so negatively impacted by these scammers that they permanently lose out on important immigration opportunities.

Governor Cuomo recently signed legislation to better protect immigrants living in New York from potential fraud or wrongdoing as they seek immigration-related assistance.

This comprehensive effort to fight immigrant fraud includes:

  • Launching a multilingual public service campaign warning immigrants against fraud
  • Signing legislation making it a felony to commit immigrant assistance services fraud 
  • Expanding the New York State New Americans Hotline (800-566-7636) operated by Catholic Charities to serve as a resource to coordinate immigration assistance fraud complaints, as well as offer service referrals
  • Helping local immigrant-serving not-for-profit agencies become federally accredited to provide certain immigration services by expanding free immigration law training
  • Strengthening enforcement against the unauthorized practice of immigration law by enhancing coordination between the Attorney General, District Attorneys’ offices, local government consumer affairs departments and federal agencies through complaint referrals

“Catholic Charities has long welcomed and protected the newcomer,” said Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director, Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of New York. “Through the New Americans Hotline, we continue to provide timely information and referrals for those needing a range of help: legal representation, family reunification and unfortunately, protection from exploitation.  This new law provides an enhanced opportunity for Catholic Charities in partnership with New York State to protect immigrants – always with dignity and compassion.”

Read more in the Village Voice.

 

Kids Facing Deportation to Get Extra Help from NYC

Wednesday, 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