Posts Tagged ‘United States’

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.

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.

Torture Survivor Rebuilds Life

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

By Alice Kenny

Ahamed Idrissou was imprisoned for five weeks in Togo, a military dictatorship in Africa.  He was beaten and humiliated; some of his teeth were pulled out.

With help from Catholic Charities, he gained asylee status in the United States and brought his family to safety.

Now, donning a sun-yellow City Sights jacket, he stands at Times Square street corners in the sun, rain and snow hawking tickets for tourist bus rides to feed his family.

Click here to read his story published in The New York Times and learn about crucial intervention he received from Catholic Charities.