Life on the Frontlines of Immigration Reform

Posted on October 19, 2017 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

Jumping the High Dive to Rescue Lives

By C. Mario Russell, Esq.
Director of Immigration & Refugee Services
Catholic Charities NY


Just over a month has passed since our last update and, as you will see below, in just a few weeks’ time our work has grown, expanded, and deepened in significant, new, and exciting ways… reflecting prophetic and powerful work, over and above what each of our Catholic Charities staff does each day.

So here it goes:

Reunifying Families Separated for Years

September 1:  Our Director of Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Department was featured in this episode of Monsignor’s Just Love Sirius XM radio, the Catholic Channel. She discussed the impact of the administration’s end to the Central American Refugee Minor program (CAM), which her team has been working on for a few years, reunifying families sometimes separated for years.

Backpacks, English Classes & More Put Young Immigrants on Firm Ground

Early September: UNICEF donated backpacks and school supplies for the upcoming school year to Terra Firma participants/Catholic Charities clients. The donated backpacks were distributed at the “graduation” of the Terra Firma summer programming, in which unaccompanied minors received English classes, soccer/recreation, and photography workshops and lessons that culminate in a presentation of their photos, their message, their meaning.


Closing the Achievement Gap

September 8:  Montefiore and Terra Firma sent a heartfelt thank you to the International Center staff for the successful completion of the summer English program. This successful, popular, and superbly run program operates during the summer and helps to close “the achievement gap” by providing English language education to unaccompanied children at Terra Firma.


Thank You for Supporting Young Immigrant Women and Mothers

Related great news, the New York Community Trust awarded the Unaccompanied Minors Program substantial two-year funding to support young immigrant women and mothers in their deportation defense, a tie-in to Terra Firma and the work being done there, which, until this October, had been generously funded and supported by the Porticus Foundation. Great work on the part of our staff for pulling this together just in time!! The New York Community Trust has supported Catholic Charities for over 20 years.


Excellent Work Jumping the High Dive

September 12:  One of our Catholic Charities immigration attorneys appeared on BronxNet’s Dialogo Abierto, to discuss options for DACA recipients after cancellation of the program.


Effects of Cancelling DACA

September 13: Catholic New York ran this article about the effect of the cancellation of DACA


Bringing Regulatory Details into a Human Frame

September 13: Our ActionNYC attorney appeared on BronxNet to discuss the end of DACA and options for Dreamers.


Lending a Voice of Calm and Care to the Community

September 15 and 21: One of our staff attorneys  did his weekly summary segment on Univision, these times focusing on scholarships and funding assistance for DACA applicants  and the DACA Day of Service. Well done!


International Food and Arts

September 22 -24: Our Refugee Resettlement Department participated in the Refugee Food & Arts Festival reported here in The New York Times.


The Best at Organizing & Delivering Legal Services

September 25:  Our Immigration legal team led a successful DACA Day of Service.  We served 51 people, 28 of whom were DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) renewals and consults. The day was kicked off by a press event with the Commissioners of NYC’s HRA and MOIA, who appeared with our Catholic Charities Executive Director Monsignor Kevin Sullivan. Thank you to all who helped coordinate the event and appeared and spoke to media making Catholic Charities a centerpiece for the city that day – and simply showed how we are the very best at organizing and delivering legal services. 

Watch coverage on NBC4 from TVEyes

Watch coverage on NY1 from TVEyes


Match-Making Good with Good

September 26:  Our International Center trained a group of HSBC Bank  volunteers to be Conversation Partners and have thus far successfully paired 9 of them with the Center’s immigrant ESOL students. This is about relationships—HSBC and Catholic Charities, and immigrants with volunteers—with special thanks to our special International Center leader who knows the subtle arts of matching-making good with good.


Refugee Cooking Class

September 27: Refugee Resettlement client, “Boubacar”, was featured in this story about cooking showing the beautiful work of integration at its best.


Right Place at the Right Time

September 29:  Speaking of being in the right place and time, our Special Projects team led a successful Community Legal Clinic in Putnam, further refining an already excellent production. The clinic was able to serve 80 immigrants and over 30 were found to have immigration benefits. An especially special “Special Projects Thanks” to our Special Projects team and the many, many, many volunteers and staff, who are present and contribute time and energy and care, time and again. To date, our Community Legal Clinic program has screened over 400 immigrants, finding about 150 eligible for relief.


If You Build It, They Will Come

Early October:  Our International Center was awarded $100,000 by the NY City Council for this fiscal year, to provide English as a Second Language services that Catholic Charities had been offering without support.


Dreamers Need You More than Ever

October 3: Our Immigration Hotline led a DACA phone bank, opening a new relationship with Telemundo and with NBC TV, its parent. Our staff was on hand—again, in less than a week!—for interviewing and for outlining deadlines and policy questions to this vulnerable community. Big thanks to our staff for their presence and support for the Dreamers, children brought by their parents to the United States, who need you more than ever.


Indonesian Dad Dragged on Plane, Leaving Child with Down’s Syndrome Behind

October 5: [Developing Update]: Several of our Catholic Charities attorneys and staff, mobilized through our Enforcement and Emergency Response Team, took on the challenging case of an Indonesian man who was about to be dragged on a plane for deportation but resisted because he was leaving behind four US Citizen children under 9 years (one with Down’s Syndrome) and his undocumented wife. After sustaining injuries by ICE officers, he was brought to a hospital in New Jersey and is now in Hudson County jail. We filed a Motion to Reopen and Stay request, seeking to reassert a claim of persecution in Indonesia based on the family’s Christian practice and affiliation. Also, the New York Civil Liberties Union will consider filing a civil case against ICE flowing from the assault and injuries. Our staff is working to coordinate human services support to the mother and children. More to come, but we are grateful for these important first interventions and efforts. This is where we must be.


Parishes Co-Sponsor Refugee Families

And finally, some exciting news from Refugee Resettlement: three parishes have agreed to become “community co-sponsorship groups” and will complete the process to sponsor three refugee families in FY17 and another four groups are being engaged with to prepare them for potential cases.


Take this all in. Pretty amazing and good stuff!



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