Posts Tagged ‘refugee services’

With Deportations, a Single Day Can Make All the Difference

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

Photo: Getty Images

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.

In this latest issue of El Diario, learn  how a single day can make all the difference.

By C. Mario Russell

One day can make a big difference. For many long-time resident immigrants who are facing a small misdemeanor criminal charges or who have served their time for a crime such as shoplifting, one day can mean the difference between staying with their families or being separated from them forever.

New York should consider following California’s example when, last year, its governor, Jerry Brown, signed a new law reducing the maximum sentence for lesser crimes–called misdemeanors–from 365 days to 364 days.

While a one-day reduction may not sound like much, it can be very important for immigration purposes.  In New York, a mother who shoplifts diapers for her baby or a teen-ager who shoplifts food from a convenience store could be being sent to jail for up to one year. This fact, alone, can make both the mother and the boy permanently barred from staying in the United States, regardless of how much jail time they got.

Immigration law lists two types of convictions that make an immigrant deportable. The first is called a “crime involving moral turpitude”, which is a certain type of crime punishable by a year or more or in jail.  Long-time residents convicted of shoplifting could not remain in the United States because their jail sentence could have been up to a year, that is 365 days. If the law were changed to make the maximum penalty 364 days, just one day less, they would not be barred from staying.

The second impact of a law such as California’s is that it reduces the risk a misdemeanor will be an “aggravated felony” under immigration law. Aggravated felonies carry especially serious immigration consequences. Not only are aggravated felonies offenses that require someone to be detained and deported, they eliminate nearly any possible defense to deportation.

But how do you know if you were convicted of an “aggravated felony”? You have to look at the long list of crimes in the immigration law, which includes non-violent crimes such as fraud and other crimes that are not a felony—yes, that’s correct—including misdemeanors with a “term of imprisonment” of a year (365 days) or more.

So, if the shoplifting mother and boy were given a term of imprisonment of a year for their shoplifting misdemeanors they will be considered aggravated felons. Yes, aggravated felons who would have to be detained and deported by immigration. Had they been given a term of 364 days, they would not.

Read this now in El Diario.

Mario Russell is Director of Immigrant and Refugee Services at Catholic Charities, 80 Maiden Lane NYC. He also teaches immigration law at St. John’s University School of Law.

More Immigration Reform Questions

Saturday, November 29th, 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 second in a series of El Diario editorials.

Deferred Action Intake Session-48_editChildren Looking for a Chance at a New Life

By C. Mario Russell

For El Diario

For many months, now, we have seen the pictures and read the stories of the thousands of children fleeing gang violence, severe poverty, and persecution in Central America. After a long and dangerous journey to the border, many are resettling with a relative in the New York area, each looking for a chance at a new life.

But to keep this chance alive, they must present themselves before immigration judges who have been assigned to decide their cases, whether they are 7 or 17 years old. This can be an overwhelming and sometimes scary experience for children; a long and confusing process for parents.  And while each child’s case and situation is unique, in this installment I will present a few, basic points about procedure and law that may help families manage expectations:

Going to court is important, even if without a lawyer. Judges will give new appointments to allow children time to find a lawyer. The may enter an order of deportation if no one appears.

A responsible adult should accompany the child to court. Some adults say they are afraid to go because they are undocumented themselves or because they have an old deportation order. In such a case they should contact the Catholic Charities Children’s Call Center at 1-888-996-3848 for the latest information about enforcement policies or for when to attend a live Legal Orientation Presentation.

Judges will not decide the child’s case at the first court appointment. Most cases will take months to prepare and to be decided.

Develop a strong defense. While the process will demand patience it also will be an opportunity to present as full a legal defense against deportation as possible. There are several common defenses. Some children will qualify for asylum, which means proving that they suffered or will suffer persecution if returned to their home country. While not all cases of violence or deprivation qualify for asylum, some victims of gang violence have been able to succeed in their asylum case.

Some children may be eligible for special immigrant juvenile status. This is available to unmarried children under 21 who were abandoned or abused by at least one parent. Children who are living with one parent or have a guardian in the United States may therefore be eligible under this law.

Children who were victims of a crime in the United States may gain status under the “U Visa.” To qualify, the person must have suffered physical or mental abuse because of criminal activity and must have cooperated with law enforcement. Consider how many children were victimized by their smugglers in the United States… Similarly, victims of human trafficking may qualify for “T Visa” status if they were brought illegally to the United States to engage in sex work or in other forms of labor or servitude against their will.

Finally, every parent, custodian and child must know that any child in the United States, regardless of legal status, has a right to public elementary and secondary education, and, in New York State, to certain basic medical care coverage, called Child Health Plus (CHP). (Call the New York State Hotline at 1-800-566-7636 for further information).

Ensuring that these new young immigrants are healthy and in school is as important as making sure that they are guided well in their court proceedings. This is what gives them a real chance at a new life and makes possible all of their promise.

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 story in Spanish.

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.

 

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.

Facts About World Refugee Day

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

“No one wants to become a refugee. No one should have to endure this humiliating and arduous ordeal. Yet, millions do. Even one refugee forced to flee, one refugee forced to return to danger is one too many.” – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on World Refugee Day, when it was first officially marked on June 20, 2001.

  • World Refugee Day, held each year on June 20, was first marked in 2001, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. The annual event is recognized in more than 100 countries, involving government officials, aid workers, celebrities, civilians and the forcibly displaced. Learn more at the UN Refugee Agency.
  • The theme of World Refugee Day 2012 is Refugees have no choice. You do.” It is part of the United Nations “Dilemmas” campaign, which highlights the difficult decisions refugees must make for survival.
  • There are currently 264,574 refugees and 6,285 asylum seekers in the United States, according to UNHCR. Globally, there are 10.5 million “refugees of concern” at the beginning of 2011.
  • Angelina Jolie, appointed Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, has helped promote World Refugee Day
  • In New York, UNHCR will be commemorating World Refugee Day during an evening event at the UN Secretariat Building in Manhattan. The event will launch a photo and text exhibit on the UNHCR publication, “The State of the World’s Refugees.”Learn about World Refugee Day events taking place worldwide.
  • In Washington, D.C., Khaled Hosseini, Afghan-born author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, as well as UNHCR supporter and former refugee, will be involved in several events featuring international artists. Hosseini will introduce a live performance of “No Place Called Home,” written and performed by Kim Schultz. The play tells the story of an American woman who accidentally falls in love with an Iraqi man while interviewing refugees.
  • Looking for more World Refugee Day events throughout the country? Explore the full list of official World Refugee Day 2012 events in the United States.
  • Looking for World Refugee Day events elsewhere in New York State? There are events taking place today in Utica, Syracuse, and Albany.

Top content on refugee services at Catholic Charities:

  • JustLove on SiriusXM: On a special World Refugee Day broadcast, Monsignor Kevin Sullivan speaks with guests who work and volunteer in the field of refugee resettlement and employment.
  • A New, Safer Life. “Manaf Hashim did not know who was threatening to kill him in the note left on the front door of his Baghdad home or in a message left on his cellphone two days later. He suspected he was being targeted because his fiancée, Farah, was Sunni, and he was Shia. He knew only that it was best to heed such warnings…”
  • Burmese Couple Build Life in the Bronx. “Bae Reh and his wife, Moo Pro, were raised on a five-mile-long patch of land they were not permitted to leave, except to gather leaves to fortify the bamboo huts in which they slept. They are refugees from Myanmar whose parents fled to a camp in Thailand to escape a government that drafted citizens at random and forced them to commit atrocities against their own ethnic tribes.
  • On the Road with the Neediest Cases: On the Anniversary of Haiti’s Earthquake. “Jovins told me he feels lucky despite losing half his leg.  The massive earthquake that struck Haiti just over a year ago tore a beam from his home, pinned him down and crushed his leg...”
  • Saving a Refuge, With Help from Our Volunteers. Volunteers help restore St. Rita’s Center for Immigrant and Refugee Services.
  • Learn more about what Catholic Charities does to help refugees and immigrants in New York.