Posts Tagged ‘United States’

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.

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

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

By Alice Kenny

image001

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.