Cutting Edge on Immigration & Justice

Posted on February 3, 2016 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

Catholic Charities inimitable Mario Russell, Director, Immigrant & Refugee Services, once again hit the target dead on during his talk at Yeshiva University’s Cardozo Law School last Friday, January 26th, about immigration court and its impact on unaccompanied minors.

“Your talk was a superb example  for the Catholic world and others  of what charitable immigration programs can aspire to and how this work can and should be rooted in a deeper legal, social and religious analysis,” said Donald Kerwin, Executive Director at the Center for Migration Studies that helped organize the event.  

So, what’s so impressive and what do you need to know at the cutting edge of immigration and justice?

Here are some excerpts from Mario’s talk:

Today we are confronted with new challenges and needsthe needs of children in flight...

This year, by conservative projections, 6,000 UAM will be placed on the New York City immigration court docket; at the same time approximately 5,200-6,000 children and parents—AWCs—will also be put on the docket for removal proceedings. ..

(At Catholic Charities),  primarily a social services agency, (we have over 1,000 employees) with a substantial immigration legal services component, Catholic Charities has been programmed to attend to human needs from a broad range of perspectivesfood, housing, case management.

With respect to immigrant children, over the last many years, we have engaged about a dozen initiatives through three areas of programming: legal, detention, and integration.

Within Legal Programming…Over 400 children and adults represented in court last year

Within Shelter/Detention Programming…2,800 individual consultations and 180 Know-Your-Rights presentations in 11 facilities last year

With Respect to Integration (Support and Reunification)…

1,000+ children/families given case management services, 1,600 parents attended 130 LOPCs, and 7,000 orientations/referrals through the Call Center last year.

Now, permit me to describe what I see as the fundamental due process concerns in each of these areas:


LEGAL:  It is a question of "Access"…

…Access to Counsel and Access to Substantive Remedies.

Due Process Needs 1: Access to Counsel.

...The facts about access to counsel revealed by the June 2015 ABA study on representation of minors underscores the imperative:

  • 73% will succeed if with counsel only;15% will succeed alone
  • 92% will appear in court if with counsel; 27% will appear alone

Due Process Needs 2: Access to Substantive Remedies.

The second due process access "need" is substantive. Phrased as a question, what kind of law and theories of remedies exist and are appropriate for children? … 

DETENTION: It is a Question of Review and Fairness.

As I noted, Catholic Charities works with a dozen or so shelters in the New York area.  Meeting and interviewing almost 3,000 children a year, we see a range of issues that surely constrain due process…

INTEGRATION: It is a Question of  Support and Reunification…

Catholic Charities case managers have been providing transitional support services to thousands of unaccompanied alien minors and families from Central America for over 10 years. Before that, we worked with unaccompanied refugee minors (from China and Haiti) and will soon be engaging with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to help settle and support families released from Texas and other places to New York. 

Over the years, our case management teams have worked closely with child legal teams to provide coordinated support. Ensuring the child is healthy or stays in school improves the chances of his attending court, and if the child goes to court and is "on track" about his legal future, his odds of remaining healthy and in school improve. Same with mental health, addiction intervention, criminal conduct, etc.  This is not flawless math. Success in one area does not equal success in the other. But it is about improving probabilities when synergies are created.

Read Mario Russell's complete analysis.

Learn more about Catholic Charities immigrant and refugee services.