Posts Tagged ‘unaccompanied children’

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

Immigrant Public Defender System Pays for Itself

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

Celine and Refugee Family 002“Every year, tens of thousands of people appear in immigration court to fight deportation orders without a lawyer to assist them,” writes Reporter Kirk Semple in a recent article published in The New York Times. “Many are poor and adrift, unable to speak English or understand the laws determining their fate.”

Yet according to a study just released by the New York Bar Association that Mr. Semple describes, a system that provided legal counsel for every poor immigrant facing deportation would pay for itself through decreased government expenditures and other savings.

“It makes the argument for the first time that appointed counsel is cost-effective, as well as being fair and just,” said Mark Noferi, a fellow at the Center for Migration Studies, who advised National Economic Research Associates (NERA) on the report.

Catholic Charities knows firsthand the value of providing free or affordable legal counsel. For over thirty years, Catholic Charities has stood with New York’s immigrants—low-income and indigent, non-Catholics and Catholics alike—who face deportation in the courts, in local detention facilities, and, most recently, in custodial shelters for unaccompanied children where we serve almost 2,000 children each year.

We understand that deportation can be a far worse punishment than most criminal penalties, one that might mean the loss of family, home and security. Every week, in shelter facilities for unaccompanied youth across the New York area, our team of lawyers and paralegals encounter many of the thousands of children in the United States who have fled alone, from abuse and violence in their homelands and who seek the comfort of a parent or loved one here.

Every month at our offices downtown, we meet and defend newcomers and long-time residents against unjust deportation proceedings. Some had all their money taken by unscrupulous or unlawful practitioners.  Some have been tangled for years in a legal system that is among the most complex and under-resourced in the nation. Some are profoundly disoriented from just arriving to the United States after fleeing persecution or violence. Almost all are exhausted and without hope.

The legal consultation, representation, and assistance Catholic Charities provides  each day is what immigrants need to rebuild their lives. It is what creates hope and a just and compassionate society.

Services are provided in English, Spanish, French, Romanian, Polish, Albanian, Japanese, and Arabic.

All matters are treated professionally and confidentially.

If you have a question about an immigration matter, please call us at the New Americans Hotline at 800-566-7636.

For help finding other services, please call our Catholic Charities Help line at 888-744-7900.

Read the full cost-analysis study.

Read the full story in The New York Times.