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From Amicus Briefs to American Girl Dolls

Posted on April 16, 2018 by Catholic Charities Admin  |  Share

For Immigrants A lot - and a Little - Goes a Long Way

Fostering talents of Immigrant children in NYC shelters

By C. Mario Russell, Esq.

Director, Immigrant and Refugee Services

Whether it is a holiday, a holy day, or a seasonal marker, there are moments in this time of the year that herald much possibility and hope. And regardless of the weather, in spite of the news, or even in the face of what outrage is tweeted out of Washington, it is that hope and possibility that both animates our work and is the very evidence of our work. Looking at last year—2017—this is something to be proud of, as succinctly described by numbers and as carried out, time and again, by our extraordinary, professional staff whose work we celebrate below:

  • 5,215  vulnerable immigrants provided with expert counsel and safeguarded from exploitation
  • 52,790 calls for help answered promptly with accurate information in multiple languages
  • 296  breadwinners helped to obtain authorization to work
  • 160  immigrants reunited with their families
  • 820 newcomers taught English and civics
  • 4,047 unaccompanied children given legal orientation
  • 701 refugees and asylees provided with employment and resettlement support
  • 4,160 adults and children provided with legal representation

Numbers tell us a lot, but context is important. So, below, please check out a roundup of highlights of our work for the past two months:

  • Our Special Projects team hosted another successful Community Legal Clinic event in Spring Valley on March 9th. 94 immigrants were screened for relief and 32 were identified for representation. Consider that and consider the impact this kind of programming has on our undocumented population! Hear more about it on La Voz on Radio Kingston. Great work, Special Projects!
  • Our Immigration Legal Services team accepted a $2,000 donation from students at St. Athanasius School in the Bronx. The collection for the donation had been made during Lent and was earmarked for assistance with immigration fees for clients. It was presented during a ceremony at which the children sang songs, posed for pictures, and gave a tour of the school. These are moments when the world seems to work just right. Thank you, Immigration Legal Services, for your work and well-deserved recognition and support.

Coming up right behind the Athaniasius School kids Montfort University in Leicester UK placed 17 students to volunteer with the Refugee Resettlement department at the end of February doing mock interviews with clients. They also provided $500 in donations of toiletry kits for clients. Likewise,

  • The transfer of some of our programming to the South Bronx has begun -- thanks especially to staff locating there, for their commitment, patience, and perseverance.  We have completed occupancy of the second floor and now are moving forward on the third floor, expected for completion mid-June.

And, with so many changes and adjustments, with an increased intake process on Thursdays, and with the movement of workspace and staff, a special thanks to our Migration and our Unaccompanied Children’s teams support, unfailingly professional execution, patience and care in implementation, supervision, and training that effected an increase in attendance by custodians for rights and responsibilities training. 

So, echoing further and in kind, to all the assistants and administrative staff who continue to step up and step in as they do day in and day out: thank you!

  • Catholic Charities ImmRef Services joined as amicus challenging Attorney General Sessions’ authority to intervene in the longstanding use of Administrative Closure by Immigration Judges, a practice critical to the humane, coherent, and efficient administration of cases in general and, in particular, those involving children. Thank you, to our staff involved in this, for advocacy and attention on these broader, national issues of critical importance.
  • To better understand why family separation at the border is cruel, unjust, and harmful Montefiore check out this clearly articulated Op-ed by some of our staff published in the New York Times.
  • El Diario published this account of a child from El Salvador—“From Glory to Terror: the Odyssey of a Beauty Queen Threatened by MS-13”— represented by our staff.  
  • Thanks to our Hotline Migration Counselors, who spend hours on the phone with parents, custodians, and children reunifying in different parts of the United States, for recently organizing some educational and entertaining activities with some of those very children who happen to be in local shelters—and who visit Catholic Charities for consultation.
  • Similarly and equally joyful, the radiant faces and bright smiles of children who received American Girl Dolls through donations made to Refugee Resettlement were unforgettable. A little goes a long way, and thanks to the Refugee Resettlement staff for their vigilance and quick response, always, to these opportunities.
  • El Diario Op-Eds and internet blogs were published, showcasing our International Center and its director discussing the important work of beginner level ESL and basic literacy and showing Catholic Charities’ focus there:,  and  our Special Projects attorney outlining the importance and effectiveness of Community Legal Clinics. Congratulations for these important innovations!
  • Catholic Charities Unaccompanied Minors Supervising Attorney was asked to participate on an asylum panel at the Federal Bar Association’s annual Immigrant & Refugee law conference. Many of our own distinguished attorneys and legal practitioners were in attendance at the day-long event. And our Refugee Resettlement director moderated a Workshop: "Providing On-Campus/In-Community Assistance and Empowerment" at the University Alliance for Refugees and At-Risk Migrants (UARRM) conference, while our staff attorney the Unaccompanied Minors Program spoke at a New York Law School Panel titled Exploring Myths about Immigration in the Media. She talked about her experience as an immigration attorney in the current political climate and contributed to a discussion on media portrayals of immigration issues.  Kudos to all!

And within the community, at the Spring Community Resource Fair held at the Art & Design HS in midtown as our director gave presentations on immigration at Bellevue Men’s Shelter and at the School of Excellence in the Bronx. Thank you all!

  • Speaking of honors, Special Projects attorney was profiled in Brooklyn Law’s Prelaw Magazine.
  • One of our Unaccompanied Minors staff attorneys secured the release from ICE detention of her age-out client through a formal bond hearing, a first of its kind! On a short timeframe, she researched the law of adult immigration detention, observed bond hearings at Varick St, engaged in written and oral advocacy for her client, and won her client’s release on the minimum cash bond of $1500 at a hearing at Varick Street. These are challenging times, but we rise up. Thank you!
  • La Union FC – the indoor soccer program designed and coordinated by our ImmRef Services Division – had its end-of-season celebration, awarding medals and certificates to players.  Our Catholic Charities liaisons arranged food and activities for La Union participants. Parents and guardians expressed their gratitude, as do we, especially for the time and energy it has taken to establish this transforming program.  Well done everyone!
  • Catholic Charities ImmRef was accepted as a new member of the Westchester Anti-Trafficking Task Force, which we hope will yield enhanced opportunities to support our work with resettling populations in the New York City region.

This is a simple roundup of highlights, points of interest, markers of progress, to give a shared sense of what we do and who does it.  But there is much, much more to say from the thousands of stories and experiences of individuals we support at any given moment each day.

So, in brief, to our staff, those we serve and all who support our work, thank you.

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