Posts Tagged ‘immigrants’

Daring to Hope

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

President Obama’s recent executive action on immigration reform leaves many searching for answers to this complicated and controversial topic.

 Put your questions in context:  Read this third in a series of El Diario editorials.

Will the President Act on Immigration? Daring to Hope; Preparing for Change.

By C. Mario Russell

For El Diario

Time is running out for Mr. Obama.  He must deliver soon on his promise to change the lives of immigrants in America. The President’s promise restored hope, for which immigrants gave him support and their votes. But it also was made at great cost, in exchange for hundreds of thousands of deportations.

We find ourselves halfway into the President’s second term, and we ask again: will Mr. Obama act on immigration? Many in the nation are more frustrated than ever before, their chorus calls for bold legalization having become pleas for modest and temporary documentation.  Millions of immigrants, whether resident or undocumented, whether living in the open or under cover day-by-day, whether waiting to reunify with family or avoid deportation, are yearning for something new.

No comprehensive legalization law has been enacted for almost 30 years. Washington lawmakers have allowed a generation of workers to continue to work, a generation of children to grow into adults, and a generation of families and faithful to set roots in their communities. Yet, those same lawmakers in Washington have shown social neglect and moral indifference, and, as a direct result, have stalled the lives of millions from full participation in America.

For some time now we have heard Mr. Obama signal his intent to use his presidential power to do “something about immigration”–perhaps before the end of 2014 or soon after 2015 begins.  We have heard this before, and we know better than to rely on words only; the ground in politics has the quality of quicksand, changing and dangerous.  But there is time, and the window of opportunity is open. We must dare to hope.

And if we hope, we must also prepare.

So, permit me to offer practical tips for how to prepare now for any rules that might come from the White House in the future. These are steps that make for good citizenship and for good stewardship. They will be the essential components of any an immigration benefit, whatever form it takes:

First, begin to collect documents:

  • All personal and family identity documents
  • Evidence of arrival to the US and evidence of residency (utility bills, leases, medical records, etc.)
  • Evidence of any trips outside the US
  • Evidence of work (especially undocumented workers)
  • Evidence of education in the US
  • Copies of any immigration applications made to INS/USCIS
  • If ever arrested, criminal Certificates of Disposition (originals from the court), because certain convictions may be disqualifying

Second, consider English classes. It is probable that English proficiency of some kind will be required.

Third, begin setting money aside for filing and (possibly) penalty fees and other legal fees.

Fourth, review tax payments for years worked, to make sure taxes were submitted (even if late) and were accurate and complete.

And, finally, no one should give money to notaries, agencies, or lawyers to prepare an application or help them gather documents at this time. If and when there is a new rule there will be reliable agencies to help people at low cost or for free. There is no need to pay thousands of dollars now. 
To check on the status of any immigration law or rule, call the New York State Hotline at 1-800-566-7636.

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

Read the full El Diario editorial in Spanish here.

Questions About Immigration Reform?

Friday, November 28th, 2014

President Obama’s recent executive action on immigration reform leaves many searching for answers to this complicated and controversial topic.

To put it in context we are running throughout this Thanksgiving holiday a series of recently published El Diario editorials written by C. Mario Russell, Catholic Charities Senior Attorney and Director of Immigrant and Refugee Services.

marioeldiarioWelcoming and Integrating Immigrants and Refugees

By C. Mario Russell

For El Diario

For over 30 years, Catholic Charities Community Services (CCCS) has welcomed immigrants and refugees to the United States and has helped them integrate in New York. CCCS helps newcomers of all races, nationality, and religion to reunite legally with their families, obtain work authorization, learn English and civics, and prepare to pass citizenship exams. We help immigrants avoid legal exploitation by providing good information and realistic advice about immigration status.  We also help immigrants who are victims of persecution, violence, and abuse in their home countries to find safety here; today, this especially involves the thousands of unaccompanied children who have made their way to New York to be with their families.

With this bi-weekly column, CCCS will report important news and developments on immigration and will try to give you the best information and tools to assist you on your path to citizenship and legalization. We will also share stories of people just like you who have struggled and have achieved their dreams.

Each year, CCCS provides legal advice and representation to thousands of documented and undocumented immigrants in New York City and the Lower Hudson Valley. Our staff of lawyers and paralegals handles matters that include family reunification visa petitions, work authorization, naturalization/citizenship, special juvenile petitions, asylum, and deportation defense in the immigration court. Migration counselors with our New York State Hotline (1-800-566-7636 from 9AM to 8PM weekdays) each year answer 23,000 calls and give referrals on immigration in 9 languages and can cover up to 200 languages if necessary.  All calls are anonymous and confidential.

To help respond to the needs of recently arrived unaccompanied children, CCCS’s legal team has created the Children’s Call Center (1-800-996-3848, 9AM to 8PM weekdays) which gives parents and custodians of children basic information about law and gives them a referral for an in-person group orientation. We also offer group presentations to parents at the immigration court every morning, which we encourage you to attend if your child has a court appointment–they are safe and confidential. Our legal team also gives orientations and consultations to children in a dozen shelters in the New York City region and provides many of them with deportation defense assistance.

CCCS also helps vulnerable people with their basic resettlement needs in the United States.  Those who have refugee status—from any country in the world—can receive help to prepare them for the workplace, help with learning English, help finding a job, and help navigating new needs, such as Social Security, school enrollment, driver’s license. Others, such as children or victims of trafficking or abuse, who are still applying for status, can receive family reunification assistance and other case-management follow-up services.

More recently, CCCS brought into its family the International Center, which offers dynamic classes on English instruction and pairs learners with a “conversation partner”–one of over 200 volunteers at the Center. The Center’s yearlong Immigrant Support Program for low-income immigrants, refugees, and asylees offers access to all Center programs, including classes, conversation partnerships and consultations without charge.

Since its beginning, the United States has been built and shaped by immigrants. Our city, our state, and our nation are enriched and made stronger by the work, the families, and the faith of immigrants. Catholic Charities believes that immigrants are to be welcomed with dignity and care, and it is our mission to provide help and create hope wherever possible and whenever possible to each individual. And so we invite you to contact us and see how we can be of assistance.
Mario Russell is Senior Attorney and Director of Immigrant and Refugee Services at Catholic Charities, 80 Maiden Lane, NY, NY 10038; he also teaches immigration law at St. John’s University School of Law.

 

Read the full editorial in Spanish in El Diario.

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

Friday, July 11th, 2014
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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.

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.

He Knows How Bad It Can Get: Former Undocumented Minor Reaches Out to Others

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

By Alice Kenny

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Photo credit: Naperville Sun – Elvis Garcia (L) as forward for Naperville North High School, Naperville, Illinois.

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

His native Honduras had turned into a wasteland where teenage gangs held shootouts on village streets. Nearly half the nation’s full-time workers earn less than the minimum wage. Many work full time yet earn just $5 per day. Children have little to do but play pick-up soccer games with deflated balls. Many parents are MIA, some raped and killed, others fleeing in search of better lives.

Now, after nine years that included 49 days in a stifling El Paso, Texas detention center, helping hands from strangers and success in school and on the soccer field, Elvis counts himself among the lucky. Once an unaccompanied, undocumented minor, Elvis today is a U.S. citizen. He graduated from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. And he now works as a Catholic Charities Immigration and Refugee Services case manager and part-time soccer coach for a team of U.S. citizens and undocumented teens.

Elvis’ experience as a former unaccompanied minor and now a mentor to them offers a rare glimpse into challenges faced, possibilities for life-transforming success or abject failure and how help as small as a soccer ball or as big as legal team can make all the difference.

“In a nation that prides itself on the fact that everyone accused of a crime – murderers, rapists – has a right to a lawyer, undocumented immigrants, even when they are unaccompanied children, are not entitled to a public defender,” writes reporter Sonia Nazario in The New York Times. “These children – some as young as 2 years old – have no one to help them.”

Well, not no one. Fortunately for Elvis, a family he met agreed to sponsor him towards citizenship. And fortunately for a growing group of a young New Yorkers, Catholic Charities is stepping in to offer comprehensive support. Its immigration and refugee services staff helps apprehended unaccompanied children. They provide free legal representation. They offer case management support. And now, through a growing medical-legal partnership, they look out for the whole child, from giving needed immunizations to offering sports and a social life that help children stay in school and out of trouble.

Elvis is part of the team of Catholic Charities immigration specialists that provide this support. And while he values the key case management services he offers these lonely unaccompanied teens, some of his favorite, most valuable hours, he says, are the ones he spends volunteering each week coaching Saturday Soccer with teens from the Medical-Legal Partnership Immigrant Youth Clinic.

A joint partnership between Catholic Charities and Montefiore Hospital Community Pediatrics Children’s Health Programs, the clinic provides free medical, legal and mental health services to unaccompanied immigrant youth in the Bronx, regardless of immigration status. The program has now expanded to include Saturday Soccer through a partnership with South Bronx United, a non-profit in the South Bronx dedicated to fostering social change and academic achievement on and off the soccer field.

“Like me, a lot of these kids came to this country with no knowledge of the language and culture,” Elvis says as he kicks a ball on the team’s soccer field near Yankee Stadium in the South Bronx. “Soccer is something we know, something we did every day. Soccer is something we can relate to where everything else is new and different.”

Learn more about Catholic Charities Immigrant and Refugee Services.

Catholic Charities Joins Fellow Immigration Leaders for Day of Action in Albany

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

SJ Jung, board president of MinKwon Center for Community Action, speaks about need for increased funding for immigrant services. Left to right: Assemblyman Ron Kim; Claire Sylvan, president of the Internationals Network For Public Schools; Judy Wessler, Health Care Advocate, former director, CPHS; SJ Jung, president of Minkwon Center for Community Action; and Mario Russell, senior attorney for Catholic Charities, New York.

Catholic Charities joined 250 immigrants, community leaders, elected officials, and advocates in Albany earlier this month for the New York Immigration Coalition’s 17th Annual Albany Immigrants’ Day of Action. Delegation members including families, farm workers and “DREAMers” shared with nearly three dozen state legislators their experiences on issues faced by the four million immigrant New Yorkers.

The event offered an opportunity for one-on-one conversations about the value of the New York State DREAM Act – which was defeated in the New York State Senate by two votes on Monday, thus likely put on hold, at least for this year – and the need for increased funding for legal and social services for immigrants. Together the group presented NYIC’s Immigrant Equality Agenda.

Assembly members Marcos CrespoRon KimFrancisco P. MoyaFélix Ortiz, Luis Sepulveda and Senator José Peralta supported the group and joined a series of panel discussions on the priorities laid out by local communities.

Do you need immigration or resettlement assistance, hope to go to college, or have been defrauded by an immigration practitioner?

Call our New York State New Americans Hotline  at 800-566-7636.

New York State Office for New Americans Touts Free Immigrant Assistance and Referral Hotline

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

The New York State New Americans Hotline –1-800-566-7636 – provides general information and referrals on immigration and naturalization questions in more than 200 languages; also helps combat fraud against immigrants.

ALBANY – The New York State Office for New Americans (ONA) announced that its New York State New Americans Hotline (800-566-7636) has fielded more than 25,000 calls from immigrants and made more than 42,000 referrals to not-for-profit service providers in response to requests for assistance in 2013.  ONA was launched by Governor Andrew Cuomo in March as the first statewide office dedicated to helping our state’s immigrants contribute to our economy and become part of the family of New York.

Detailed data about the hotline will be released in the winter of 2014.

The New York State New Americans Hotline is a multi-lingual information center providing live assistance on general questions about immigration and naturalization. The hotline provides assistance in more than 200 languages, including Spanish, French, Haitian-Creole, Arabic and Chinese. The hotline operates from 9AM to 8PM (ET), Monday through Friday (excluding Federal holidays), and offers referrals to ONA Opportunity Centers and information on all New York State programs serving refugees and immigrants, other immigrant-related public and private programs, and not-for-profit immigrant service providers throughout the state.

“We are pleased that the New York State New Americans Hotline is helping so many immigrants as they transition to fully participating in New York State’s civic and economic life,” said New York Secretary of State Cesar A. Perales, who oversees ONA for Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. “The hotline is an important source of information for immigrants and others who seek immigration and naturalization assistance. It also refers New Americans to their nearest ONA Opportunity Center, where they can meet with a staff member to begin the process of learning English, becoming naturalized or starting a new business.”

Raluca Oncioiu, Director of the New York State New Americans Hotline at Catholic Charities Community Services added: “The hotline has an important role to play in educating immigrants about their rights and referring them to reliable service providers in order to prevent anti-immigrant fraud. In particular, the hotline is always ready to educate the public about new programs, such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals announced in the summer of 2012, when hotline counselors fielded thousands of calls and made appropriate referrals to agencies providing free legal services.”

The New York State New Americans Hotline supports the network of 27 neighborhood-based ONA Opportunity Centers. Hosted within existing culturally-competent, language-accessible community-based organizations throughout the State, each ONA Opportunity Center helps immigrants learn English, prepare naturalization applications, study for the U.S. citizenship exam, and start and grow businesses.

New York State has the second largest immigrant population in the nation, which includes more than 1.2 million immigrants who reside outside the New York City area. More than one in four New York State residents of working age is foreign-born, which presents a major opportunity for economic growth in our state, where 29 percent of all small businesses are owned by immigrants.

“We look forward to serving more immigrants across New York State and urge them to tap into the hotline,” Perales continued.

For more information on the New York State Office for New Americans, go to www.newamericans.ny.gov

Typhoon Haiyan: Help The Philippines Survive and Recover

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

By Monsignor Kevin Sullivan

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the millions impacted by the devastating typhoon in the Philippines and their families in the United States.

Catholic Charities knows the strong bonds between immigrants in the United States and their families and friends in their native country and so our support is also for them. Lack of information about their family members is very upsetting. The Catholic Church is always among the first to respond to help because our organizations like Catholic Relief Services (CRS) are already on the ground helping communities.

Learn about CRS’ work in the Philippines

Welcoming Newcomers From Cardinal Dolan

Friday, October 18th, 2013

Cardinal Dolan hits the mark in the WSJ piece today on immigrants in the United States and the concern and role of the Catholic Church. Read it here: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303918804579107131431541914?mod=djemEditorialPage_h

Cardinal Dolan points out three important ways that Catholic Charities works with immigrants: the dissemination of good information to thousands of immigrants each year through the New Americans Hotline, English and civic classes at the new International Center and support to day laborers in Yonkers. Right now, prayer combined with hard work is needed ensure that those rumblings in Washington, D.C. about possible immigration reform and a good Farm Bill will happen. This Farm Bill addresses the need for supplemental meals that so many families rely on. The immigration bill must address a broken immigration system with fair policies that address family unity, a pathway out of the shadows, border security and a legal option for businesses to hire the workers they need. For the individuals and families that Catholic Charities serves, both of these are critical.

Congress Debates Immigration Reform; Catholic Charities Focuses on Dignity of Work

Friday, July 12th, 2013

By Alice Kenny

Catholic Charities has long helped victims who have undergone the horrendous humiliation of human trafficking regain their dignity through one of the most basic of human activities, work.

We now extend our Dignity of Work program to those waiting to be certified as victims of human trafficking as well as certain crime victims who hold U-Visas.

Those eligible receive:

  • Employment preparation services, including employment readiness classes
  • Resume assistance
  • Mock interviews
  • Financial resources for employment training
  • Social services

Finding work in the U.S. can be hard, and many immigrants and refugees are drawn to America for the opportunity to better themselves. Catholic Charities helps those who want to be employed, but find it difficult to know where to start.

Catholic Charities agencies can help refugees, asylees, Cuban/Haitian entrants and victims of trafficking develop a resume, learn a skill, practice interview skills, and learn how to search for a job. They can also set up job interviews through a wide network of employers who have come to rely on the good judgment of our staff in matching employment needs with qualified workers.

At Catholic Charities NY, in any given year:

  • 2,176 families provided with expert counsel and safeguarded from exploitation
  • 28,332      calls for help answered promptly with accurate information in 18 languages
  • 478   breadwinners helped to obtain authorization to work
  • 324   immigrants reunited with their families
  • 457   individual refugees resettled
  • 72    immigrants taught English and civics
  • 42    asylum seekers provided with legal representation

Dignity of Work is an initiative of the Anti-Trafficking Program of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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).