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

Isolated by Speaking only an Indigenous Language

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Today marks another in our Summer Agency Series.  The series spotlights some of the 90 agencies in our Catholic Charities federation that, day in and day out, provide help and create hope for New Yorkers in need.

Today, let’s take a look at Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service and a recent story written about this Catholic Charities affiliate in The New York Times.

Laura is a Mexican immigrant who lives in East Harlem, a neighborhood with one of the largest Latino populations in New York City, reports Kirk Semple in this recent New York Times article. Yet she understands so little of what others are saying around her that she might just as well be living in Siberia.

Laura, 27, speaks Mixtec, a language indigenous to Mexico. But she knows little Spanish and no English. She is so scared of getting lost on the subway and not being able to find her way home that she tends to spend her days within walking distance of her apartment.

After arriving in New York, most indigenous Latin Americans will learn Spanish before they learn English — if they ever learn English at all. The need has driven demand for Spanish language classes around the city. About a decade ago, the staff at Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service, an organization in East Harlem that provides services to the poor, noticed that an increasing number of the students enrolling in its English as a second language classes were not only indigenous language speakers from Latin America but were also illiterate.

Reasoning that it would be easier to teach the newcomers Spanish, which they were beginning to pick up at home and on the street, the organization turned the English classes into Spanish classes.

Beyond the critical language and literacy instruction the classes provided, they also helped the newcomers build “a much-needed social support network,” said Rosemary Siciliano, head of communications for Little Sisters of the Assumption. In 2012, however, the organization had to cut the program because of budget shortfalls.

Little Sisters of the Assumption nurses, social workers and aides began working intensively in East Harlem in 1958 and incorporated Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service, Inc. ten years later.  This neighborhood-based nonprofit organization delivers a holistic model of human services to the underserved, marginalized and poorest families in East Harlem through a variety of means.  These include home visits, onsite services and support groups to help people achieve the wellness and strength they need to thrive.

 

Find out more about Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service

Read the full story in The New York Times.

Pope Francis: Child Migrants to U.S. Must Be ‘Welcomed and Protected’

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

The Pope has called for tens of thousands of unaccompanied child migrants to be “welcomed and protected” as they attempt to enter the U.S. from Central America and Mexico, reports Elizabeth Dias in Time magazine.

In a letter read Monday at a Vatican conference in Mexico City on human migration and development, Pope Francis said migration “has now become a hallmark of our society and a challenge.”

The Vatican Radio translation continues with the Pope noting: “Many people forced to emigrate suffer, and often die, tragically; many of their rights are violated, they are obliged to separate from their families and, unfortunately, continue to be the subject of racist and xenophobic attitudes.”

The pontiff calls on nations to become more welcoming towards migrants, singling out the increasing numbers of children who migrate alone as deserving special care and attention.

“They are increasing day by day,” the Pope said, in a reference to the rising number of unaccompanied child migrants attempting to cross the U.S. border. “The humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected.”

Pope Francis ended the letter by suggesting that the international community should inform migrants about the dangers of their journey and instead promote development in their home countries.

Hear more on Vatican Radio.

Find out about the host of immigrant and refugee services Catholic Charities provides.

Are you looking for immigration help?

Call the New Americans Hotline run by Catholic Charities at 800-566-7636.

Confronting Dramatic Increase of Unaccompanied Children, Catholic Charities Takes Charge

Monday, July 14th, 2014

The dramatic increase in unaccompanied minor children fleeing their homelands for safety in the United States has sparked political and humanitarian concerns. Best information indicates more than half of these children are seeking reunification with family members. Two-thirds are escaping violence and other threatening situations that are grounds for relief under standard immigration rules.

This current situation requires a multi-faceted approach: a humanitarian response to the plight of threatened children in the best tradition of our country; sound policies that respect individual rights and ensure a safe and secure border; and an effective system to adjudicate claims in a timely, humane and fair manner.
Providing humanitarian help stands among the finest traditions of our nation. It is a requirement of the human trafficking law reauthorized and expanded by Congress in 2008 that enables vulnerable children to receive immigration support and care in their best interest.

At Catholic Charities we have longstanding, comprehensive knowledge of the humanitarian plight faced by immigrants including unaccompanied minor children. For more than a century we have served newcomers from more than 100 countries of all religions with legal, educational and social services.

Now, every week in residences for unaccompanied youth in the New York area, Catholic Charities’ team of lawyers and paralegals provides legal and social services to unaccompanied children. We have met with nearly 2,000 children in the last year alone, work with more than 70 sponsors of released children each month and also provide individual legal representation to children released from New York area shelters, a central step in their integration into their communities.

Catholic Charities New York also recently helped found Terra Firma, an innovative medical-legal partnership designed to meet the complex medical, psycho-social, and legal needs of unaccompanied minors.

This gives us first-hand knowledge of the trauma these vulnerable children face. Catholic Charities has witnessed how deportation can be a far worse punishment than most criminal penalties, one that can mean the loss of family, home and security. It is imperative to determine the rights U.S. immigration affords these children and ensure their claims receive a fair hearing. Proposals to establish processing systems to review claims in Central American countries merit serious consideration to reduce risks faced by unaccompanied minors and other aspects of this humanitarian crisis.

The current crisis is another example of the need for Comprehensive Immigration Reform that addresses a fair and humane legal immigration system; secures the border; prioritizes reunification of families and provides for those living in the shadows a system to earn their way toward legalization.

Catholic Charities Supports Mayor de Blasio as He Signs Municipal ID Card Into Law

Friday, July 11th, 2014
photo 2

Msgr. Sullivan with Mayor de Blasio, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Councilmen Daniel Dromm, Carlos Menchaca, Antonio Reynoso and HRA Commissioner Steven Banks

Catholic Charities Executive Director Msgr. Kevin Sullivan joined with City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and others on Thursday, July 10, to support Mayor Bill de Blasio as he signed into law a plan to offer municipal identification cards to New York City residents regardless of their immigration status.

The program, signed into law yesterday at the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza, is designed largely to help the estimated 500,000 immigrants living without legal status in the city.  The card, dubbed the New York City Identity Card, will be available to anyone who can prove their identity and residency in the city. It is particularly aimed at groups that are currently unable to show a form of government identification required to do things such as cashing a check, signing a lease or even entering office buildings for job interviews or public schools for parent-teacher conferences.

The cards will be available starting in 2015.

Listen to this clip on CBS News to learn more.

Children Need High-Quality Health Care Regardless of Citizenship

Monday, July 7th, 2014

By Irwin Redlener

June 25, 2014

The justified outrage over detained minors in California, Oklahoma and Texas has focused the nation’s attention on what is only the tip of the iceberg. While the number of apprehended, unaccompanied Central American children could reach 90,000 this year, an estimated 1 million undocumented children already live among us.

But this is not just a Southwestern story. In New York and other cities with large immigrant communities, newly arrived children are desperate for medical attention, legal services, and help finding family members.

Ask pediatrician Alan Shapiro, medical director of Children’s Health Fund’s Montefiore-based medical programs for highly disadvantaged kids in New York City. In cooperation with Catholic Charities New York, he recently co-founded Terra Firma, an innovative medical-legal partnership designed to meet the complex medical, psycho-social, and legal needs of unaccompanied minors. “Their life experience is marked by multiple traumas in their home countries, on their journey north and here in the U.S.,” Shapiro explains. “As a society, it is our responsibility to heal them, not to compound the trauma.”

“Tomás,” a teenage boy participating in a support group at Terra Firma’s South Bronx clinic, recently showed Shapiro a photo of a relative who had been killed as punishment for not joining a Central American gang. When the pediatrician asked who else has seen anyone killed, all hands were raised. Needless to say, this is part of a humanitarian crisis rooted in severe international poverty.

Predictably, Tomás suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, which in his case manifested as depression, frequent nightmares and insomnia. But thanks to the care he (and the other kids lucky enough to have found Terra Firma) is receiving, Tomas is now going to school, learning English, and working.

Read the full story in USA Today.

Do you or someone you know need immigration help?

Call the Catholic Charities–managed New York State New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636.

Click here to learn more.

Child Migrants in NY Find Harrowing Journeys Continue

Friday, July 4th, 2014

The Department of Homeland Security reports that an estimated 47,000 unaccompanied children, some as young as seven, entered the United States illegally from the southwestern border region from October 2013 through the end of May 2014. That represents a greater than 100 percent increase over the entire previous year. Most of those kids were hoping to reunite with their parents in the U.S. while fleeing the epidemic of gang violence and civil unrest in Central America and Mexico. Many reported being assaulted or raped on their journey north.

Once these kids arrive in the United States, their psychological, emotional and physical wounds can be severe, said Mario Russell of Catholic Charities, which helps run a one-stop clinic that includes group therapy.

“Ten or 12 boys will get in a room together and they will talk about their experiences. And it’s amazing to see how they are finding solidarity, comfort, understanding and sense of peace. They get medical screening. They get dental assistance. They get food. They get this kind of totality of services. We keep them in the game,” said Russell.

Read the full story in Voice of America (VOA) News.

Do you or someone you know need immigration help?

Call the Catholic Charities–managed New York State New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636.

Click here for more information.

New Immigrant ID Bill – A Door Opener for Immigrants

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

immmigrationidcardThe Municipal ID Bill  designed to help immigrants that was just passed by the New York City Council will become law as soon as it is signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The bill allows NYC residents who can prove residency and identity to obtain a municipal ID card that would permit them to access governmental services such as entering public buildings, obtain a library card, open a bank account and gain access to hospitals to visit patients and to schools to meet with their children’s teachers.

The bill is designed to primarily benefit NYC’s immigrants who face barriers to accessing a government issued form of identification. Similar programs have been implemented in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New Haven.

The Municipal ID program will probably be administered by the Human Resources Administration.  The plan is to have at least one site in each borough where applications will be made available for pick-up and submission. Documents will be required to prove identity and NYC residency.

The law should take effect soon –  six months after it is signed into law by the Mayor.  The administrating agency is permitted to establish a fee for applications for the ID card but will adopt rules permitting residents who cannot afford to pay such a fee to receive a full or partial waiver.

For information about the Municipal ID application process – once it becomes available – or if you have a question about an immigration matter, call the Catholic Charities–managed New York State New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636, Monday through Friday, from 9am to 8pm. Hotline operators can answer questions in up to 200 languages.

 

Through Monopoly, Clue and Scrabble, Immigrants Learn How to Spell “SUCCESS”

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

DDAY Monopoly International CenterBy Alice Kenny

On June 6, 160 volunteers from the national consulting firm Deloitte fanned out to more than a dozen separate site locations affiliated with Catholic Charities. Below is the third installment in a series about their adventures and a glimpse at the large amount that together we can accomplish.

Who was the murderer, Professor Plum or Colonel Mustard? And who was the winner, the guy who kept passing “Go” to collect $200 or the luckless fellow sent straight to jail?

Thirty recently arrived immigrants faced off against 14 Deloitte volunteers with Monopoly, Clue, and fellow board games favorites to find out. They played for four hours straight — barely breaking for their catered lunch — motivated as much by winning as by the chance to polish their English and learn about American culture.

For just $250 — the cost of six board games and lunch — plus invaluable time donated by Deloitte staff, Deloitte underwrote a day of play at Catholic Charities New International Center, a day that broke down barriers and a day that few who were there will forget.
Located at 80 Maiden Lane in downtown Manhattan, the International Center offers job readiness, English language and educational enrichment opportunities.

Surge in Child Migrants Reaches New York, Overwhelming Advocates

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

By Kirk Semple
The New York Times

“For more than a month, 16-year-old Cristian threaded his way from his home in rural Guatemala to the United States, hoping to reunite with his father, whom he had not seen in nearly four years. Guided by smugglers, he rode in cars, buses and trains, walked countless miles, dodged the authorities in three countries, hid out in dreary safe houses and went days at a time without food.

But Cristian’s trip came to an abrupt halt in March, when he was corralled on a patch of Texas ranchland by American law enforcements agents,” writes Kirk Semple today, June 18, 2014, in The New York Times.

Read more of The New York Times story below.  Learn the key role Catholic Charities holds helping young immigrants in need.

Now the daunting trials of his migration have been replaced by a new set of difficulties. Though he was released to his father, a kitchen worker in a restaurant in Ulster County, N.Y., Cristian has been ordered to appear in immigration court for a deportation hearing and is trying to find a low-cost lawyer to take his case while he also struggles to learn English, fit into a new high school and reacquaint himself with his father.

…Beyond legal help, the immigrants have other urgent needs that are not necessarily being met, including health care, psychological counseling and educational support, advocates said.

Mario Russell, director of the Immigrant and Refugee Services Division for Catholic Charities Community Services in New York, said a lot of the children had suffered trauma, either in their home countries or en route to the United States.

‘Over time, how do these kids receive the care that they need?’ Mr. Russell asked. ‘How many will be lost into their communities? How many are going to be sent to work? How many will not go to school? How many are going to be sick?’

Service providers have begun discussing among themselves how to deal with the surge at this end of the pipeline, and wondering where they might get much-needed funding to provide additional help for the growing population of distressed immigrant children.

As he considered the challenge, Mr. Russell remembered a case he had several years ago. He had been working with a girl, an unauthorized immigrant, to legalize her status. Her deportation was dismissed and she was finally approved to receive a green card. But before she received it, she dropped off Mr. Russell’s radar.

‘She just disappeared,’ he recalled. ‘She could’ve been trafficked, working in an apple orchard. I have no idea.’

Mr. Russell was never able to locate her.

‘Her card is still in my desk,’ he said.

Read the full story in The New York Times.

Do you or someone you know need immigration help?

Call the Catholic Charities–managed New York State New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636.

Click here for more information.

Homeland Security Announces Big Opportunity for Undocumented Immigrant Youth

Monday, June 16th, 2014

Deferred Action Intake Session-48_editThe Secretary of Homeland Security recently announced that undocumented immigrant youth who have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status (DACA) can renew that status for another  two years.

For the past two years, immigrant youth who met specific criteria* including coming to the United States before age 16 and residing continuously in the US since June 15, 2007 have been eligible for DACA status. This allowed them to receive work permits for two years, as well as driver licenses and social security numbers. In some states, they would also be eligible for in-state tuition.

The big news is that those who have already been granted DACA can now apply to extend their DACA status and work permits for an additional two years. Those who qualify but have never applied for DACA before, can continue to apply on a rolling basis. There is no deadline for initial applications.

Sounds complicated?  Call the Catholic Charities–managed New York State New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636 for more information and referral to an agency that can help.

Here at Catholic Charities we are prepared to help with the renewal process as well as with enrolling first-time applicants.

 

Contact us to:

  • Avoid scams.
  • Understand eligibility.
  • Obtain correct information about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

*Click here to learn more about DACA eligibility.

“It is crucial to get the correct information about DACA and the renewal or initial application process and, for those who need legal assistance, to obtain referrals to reliable not-for-profit programs that provide free services,” said Raluca Oncioiu, director of Immigration Legal Services for Catholic Charities Community Services.