Bearing Witness - & Impacting - Immigration History

Posted on February 21, 2018 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

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By C. Mario Russell, Esq.

Catholic Charities NY Director of Immigration & Refugee Services

We are growing accustomed—though never comfortable—with the pace of change and intensity in the news today.  Careening from one item to the next, we witness this remarkable phenomenon which, in time, will bear a historical mark.

But equally true are the pace and intensity and the news of our staff’s work at Catholic Charities, refreshing, hopeful, and constructive. After enjoying this Presidents’ Day Weekend, I invite you to read this roundup, in which I share some of the successes and notables from December and January and the beginning of February, and which serve as a reminder of how leadership like ours at Catholic Charities NY builds a just and compassionate society, a society that was made possible in part by the leadership of great Presidents from the past, whom we celebrated.

  • In December 2017 the New York Times published ‘I Was Not Going to Accept It’: After Captivity, Blind Syrian Forges Path to U.S., featuring a visually impaired Syrian refugee with whom two of our Catholic Charities NY Refugee Resettlement’s case managers worked at length. Read this compelling story – which is familiar to us for the suffering it reveals but, also, for the transformation and possibility it holds.
  • One of our Unaccompanied Minors Program attorney’s focused work with her brave client was featured in El Diario
  • Our Refugee Resettlement Director represented Catholic Charities at a press conference event on January 26 marking the anniversary of the Trump Travel Ban and which featured the wonderful Syrian family that Catholic Charities resettled one year before and had met with Senator Schumer in 2017.
  •  A thanks to Catholic Charities-operated New Americans Hotline for its work on the Naturalize NY program, which closed recently after supporting hundreds to access citizenship benefits and application fee support. The high cost of the N-400 is a barrier to citizenship for many eligible legal residents, although citizenship is demonstrated to improve better integration, growth, and well-being across all social and economic indicators.  Here’s a shout out to our Hotline staff for being a part of this initiative!
  • Lawsuits shining light on and battling back against detrimental immigration proposals:
    • Catholic Charities joined as amicus with NYS Attorney General Schneiderman and a group of 16 other states in a case filed in the Eastern District of New York asking that the termination of DACA renewals be blocked. Federal Judge Nicholas Garafuis, last week, granted the petition and temporarily blocked unwinding of the program – DACA renewals will continue as this issue is litigated further.
  • The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit recently found the Administration’s discriminatory language and words undid the government’s rationale for the latest Travel Ban, therefore siding with Courts in Hawaii and Maryland, which Catholic Charities had joined as amicus and which had also ruled the program to fail Constitutional review.
  • And, a propos, one of our indefatigable Immigration Legal Services supervising attorneys was quoted in CityLimits attesting to the dismantling of juvenile dockets and the illogic and confusion that both preceded and have followed that decision…
  • On February 2, 2018, Special Projects led another successful event, this one in Poughkeepsie, where Catholic Charities served 103 people and did several TPS/DACA applications. Looking forward to the March 2 event!
  • Our Unaccompanied Minors Program Director spoke on January 29, 2018 to El Diario about the delays and challenges in the NY Immigration Court.
  • Refugee Resettlement staff provided background and context to PBS reporters in a Frontline piece about Administration policy effects on refugees and their families who are seeking protection or reunification. 
  • Our ESL/International Center has been steadily building community programming, bringing ESL support—group and individual—into communities, where it’s needed and in a manner that is particular to them. Some new programs include: ESOL and citizenship preparation class at La Plaza Beacon, an Alianza Division program site in Washington Heights, and ESOL programming on the Upper West Side and at the Grand Street Guild on the Lower East Side.
  • Last month our Immigrant and Refugee Services case management team partnered with the City’s HRA and MOIA offices to launch the Immigrant Resource Center, which will provide basic case management support, upon referral, in certain locations in New York City, one of which will be Catholic Charities at 80 Maiden Lane and 1011 First Avenue. This is exciting, as it represents a new beginning and direction for funding of human services needs for immigrants in New York, which will complement the strong legal support foundations that have been built.
  •  Our Hotline hosted a TPS telethon in January along with Univision and El Diario. In total, the Hotline answered 378 calls and made 873 referrals. There was press coverage of the event on Univision, with one of our staff attorneys interviewed as well as on WNYC.
  • Support and donations for refugees and vulnerable groups we serve continue—building on the terrific outreach of the Refugee Resettlement staff—with groups such as the Brooklyn International School, Greater Newburgh Interfaith Council, PART-One, All Angels Church, The Congregation Beth El Refugee Task Force, B’nai Jeshurun Refugee Immigration Committee, Charity Knit NYC, and Girls on the Run donating over $10,000 in assistance, as well as athletic wear, winter wear, toiletry and school kits. 

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