Posts Tagged ‘unaccompanied minors’

Without a Lawyer in Immigration Court, Children Are Lost

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

 

 

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. 

By C. Mario Russell

Catholic Charities New York

Isabel, 16 years old and 4 months pregnant, fled Honduras with her aunt last April. They were on the run because Isabel’s boyfriend’s brother, a notorious gang leader, had assassinated Isabel’s mother weeks before and they feared retribution for having reported the murder to the police.

U.S. Immigration apprehended Isabel at the border and transferred her to the Bronx for deportation proceedings. Six months later, in October, I met Isabel, who was a very young, new mother. She had not yet seen an immigration judge and her asylum-filing deadline was about to pass. She had no lawyer.

Had Isabel crossed the border alone—like the 51,000 children who did so last year—she would have been placed in temporary shelter care with the Office of Refugee Resettlement. She would also have been given a legal orientation and consultation. She would have immediately seen a judge. And she might have been assigned a free lawyer through a federal program or through a collaborative legal defense program for Unaccompanied Minors in New York City. By some estimates, almost 50-percent of Unaccompanied Minors have a lawyer.

But Isabel is not an Unaccompanied Minor. She crossed the border with her aunt so the Department of Homeland Security labeled her an “accompanied” child. This means Isabel’s deportation case was put indefinitely on hold. She was not entitled to shelter care or to a legal orientation and she was not eligible for a free lawyer. Last year, over 68,000 children like Isabel—accompanied by family—were apprehended at the border. Little has been reported about these children.

But the consequences for children facing the court system alone are staggering. Unable to mount a case in their own defense—whether for asylum or special immigrant juvenile protection—they might permanently be disqualified because of missed filing deadlines and, as a result, ordered deported in absentia. A 2011 report from a panel headed by a federal judge found that immigrants with lawyers are five times more likely to win their cases than those who represent themselves. A recent analysis shows that 90-percent of children who have a lawyer appear in court. But without a lawyer, only 10-percent, most lacking the courage, knowledge or understanding of English and U.S. law, attend these key proceedings. This should not come as a surprise. What 16 year old facing deportation to a violence-filled country would show up in court without a lawyer to defend her?

Children facing life or death consequences in immigration court shouldn’t suffer because there is not enough legal assistance. While not every child may have a legal right to remain here, each deserves due process and legal representation in court. The U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause and the Immigration and Nationality Act’s provisions requiring a “full and fair hearing” before an immigration judge should require the government to provide all children with legal representation in their deportation hearings. Isabel and children like her deserve defense.

* Names have been changed

 

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

Read this in Spanish now in El Diario.

Unpacking Tons of Food to Feed the Hungry

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

goya fonFox News Latino spotlighted the massive collective effort kicked off yesterday by Catholic Charities staff, volunteers and Goya Foods to feed our hungry neighbors.  Working together, they unloaded a total of 35,000 pounds of food from Goya trucks, heaving it out box by box to pack, restock inventory and prepare bags for distribution to support a vast network of food pantries and emergency food programs throughout the archdiocese.

The colossal event included staff and volunteers simultaneously unloading tons of food at five Catholic Charities sites in Harlem, Washington Heights, the South Bronx, Staten Island and Kingston and a UJA Federation site in Brooklyn.  Thanks to Catholic Charities NY support and Goya donations, food is also being trucked to other areas across the country including Miami, Texas and California to feed unaccompanied minors arriving from Latin America.

“Unfortunately, we have to just look in the media to see that we have tension (around the world),” Catholic Charities Executive Director Msgr. Kevin Sullivan tells Fox News. “This project is an opportunity to bridge gaps.”

Read the full story in Fox News Latino

Watch this slideshow of the volunteer effort. 

Share your comments here.

Feeding Our Neighbors is an archdiocesan-wide effort to raise food and funds to replenish food pantries and soup kitchens that feed hungry neighbors during the most critical time of year when need is high and giving is low.  Together, Catholic Charities in partnership with Goya aims to maximize impact to realize a goal of collecting 1 million meals to feed the hungry across New York. 

Cardinal Dolan Gives Thanks for Feeding Our Neighbors

Friday, December 5th, 2014

“You’ve heard the good news,” says Cardinal Timothy Dolan in this new video, “that thanks to Goya Foods’ generous donation of 300,000 pounds of food to Catholic Charities Feeding Our Neighbors Campaign we’ll be able to help feed thousands of hungry New Yorkers and the unaccompanied minors from Latin America throughout the holiday season and well into the new year.

“I hope this inspires others to generously help feed our neighbors.”

Read more in Catholic New York.

Help us feed our hungry neighbors.

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.”

In Court, Immigrant Children Moved to Head of the Line

Monday, August 18th, 2014

Yovany’s first opportunity to face the United States justice system came late on Thursday morning, more than a month after his journey from Guatemala ended in an American detention center near the Southwest border, reports Kirk Semple in The New York Times on August 14, 2014…

Yovany was among 55 children who have come before the judge this week as part of a new accelerated court process, a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s strategy to deal with the surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America…

Before the surge of unaccompanied minors became a crisis for the Obama administration, the immigration courts in New York, among the nation’s busiest, held four special juvenile dockets every month for children facing deportation. In coordination with court officials, a coalition of groups — including the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Catholic Charities Community Services, Legal Aid, Safe Passage Project and the Door — provided screening and free legal representation to the children…

Immigrants’ advocates in New York learned only at the end of July that the Justice Department had scheduled the new juvenile dockets starting this week. The groups, already overstretched, rushed to develop a plan of action…

The special dockets unfolded this week on the 12th floor of 26 Federal Plaza, a hulking federal office building near City Hall. The children, most accompanied by relatives, began to gather in the hallway outside Courtroom 31 by 8 a.m., an hour before the hearings were to begin…

On both days, Elvis Garcia Callejas, a representative from Catholic Charities, used a white board to present the families with a primer, in Spanish, on how the court works and on possible avenues of relief they might pursue to avoid a deportation order.

Most of the defendants appeared to be teenagers, although there were children as young as 4. Two young sisters wore matching striped dresses.

“The judge is not going to rule today,” Mr. Garcia Callejas clarified…

Justice Department officials said they had a mandate to ensure that children went before an immigration judge within 21 days of being placed in deportation proceedings. They plan to hold the special dockets as often as necessary to reach that goal.

Read the full story in The New York Times.

Catholic Charities Welcomes Unaccompanied Minors While Upholding Law

Friday, August 8th, 2014

NOTE: All photos require the written permission of copyright holder Maria R. Bastone for usage. NO MODEL RELEASES; NO SALES; NO TRANSFER OF RIGHTS TO THIRD PARTYCatholic Charities Executive Director Msgr. Kevin Sullivan stressed in a Catholic New York  front page story that the Church’s stance on helping unaccompanied minors seeking asylum is “entirely in keeping with the law, specifically a law passed by Congress in 2008 and signed by President George W. Bush to curb child trafficking.”

That law requires that the government allow minors from Central America time to seek protection in the United States, and not be subject to immediate deportation as is the case with illegal immigrants from Mexico.

‘The current situation of the surge of children arriving at the southern border is one in which in the tradition of this country, those who are fleeing violence, fear of persecution or abuse in their own countries are given refuge in this country for a humanitarian purpose,” he explained . “What we are doing now as a country and what Catholic Charities is doing is providing that safe haven for those seeking to flee from abuse and violence in their native countries.’

‘Where this relates to the overall immigration question is, and this needs to be said very clearly, the Catholic Church is not in favor of illegal immigration. It is for that reason that we believe the laws of this country need to be reformed and a comprehensive approach needs to be taken, which provides for a fair and humane legal immigration system that doesn’t precipitate illegal immigration.’

Read the full interview in Catholic New York.

Cardinal Dolan Says Mass with Immigrant Children

Monday, August 4th, 2014

By Alice Kenny


Check out this slide show

With unaccompanied minors serving as acolytes and filling the chapel, Cardinal Dolan celebrated mass on Sunday, August 3, at Catholic Charities affiliate Lincoln Hall.

These children who recently fled their homelands to escape violence and seek reunification with family members are finding safety at Lincoln Hall, a 19th-century mountain fortress whose history of protecting children alone and in need dates back to the orphans it took in during the Civil Wars

“Caring for the downtrodden, the outcast, the stranger among us, is part of our call as Catholics and we here in the Archdiocese of New York have been doing just that for more than 200 years,” Cardinal Dolan wrote in his recent blog post about the mass.

Every week, in cottages that dot a bluff at Lincoln Hall in Northern Westchester and in shelter facilities for unaccompanied youth across the area, Catholic Charities’ team of lawyers and paralegals encounters 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.

“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.”

Children Fleeing Violence Reach New York

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

“Immigration service providers and the city are working closely to streamline resources for the 3,200 child migrants who have reunited with family in New York,” reports Amelia Pang in Epoch Times. “But for the additional 10,000 who are expected to arrive in New York by the end of the year, it is unclear how such services will be funded for them. And for many, mental health care is a top priority.”

New York City service providers and government officials met last week to discuss the coordinated strategy they are undertaking, as part of the New York State Unaccompanied Minors Working Group.

“The working group brings together experts in immigration, legal advice, education, social services, medical and mental health services,” reports Rebecca S. Myles in the Latin Post.

According to organizers, more than half the children are coming to New York to reunite with a mother or father, and more than two-thirds are fleeing some kind of violence or threatening situation in their homeland. Fifty percent of the girls have suffered some kind of psychological trauma or abuse, and they are especially vulnerable.

 We need more resources to fund this,” said Steven Choi, executive director of New York Immigration Coalition (of which Catholic Charities is a member) tells Ms. Pang of Epoch Times.

The most important services the migrant children will need are attorneys and mental health care, and both are costly.

According to a United Nations report, 60 percent of child migrants are eligible for relief. The children, however, are not likely to receive relief if they do not have an attorney.

“Catholic Charities has a longstanding, comprehensive knowledge of the humanitarian plight faced by immigrants, including unaccompanied children, and we are looking forward to creating a coordinated response to this new call for help,” said  Mario C. Russell, Director of Immigrant and Refugee Services for Catholic Charities.

“Every week in residences for unaccompanied children in the New York area, our lawyers meet with and give preliminary legal assistance to dozens of immigrant children, over 2,000 in this year alone. This gives us first-hand knowledge of the trauma these young people have experienced, trauma that we have begun to attend to through our Safe Passages program and through Terra Firma, an innovative medical-legal partnership designed to meet the complex medical, psycho-social, and legal needs of unaccompanied minors.”

Read more in the Latin Post.

Find out more in the Epoch Times.

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.