Eyewitness to New Immigration Enforcement Tactics

Posted on March 16, 2017 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

First-Person Account From Catholic Charities Director of Immigrant Services

We witness daily at Catholic Charities the profound impact of new immigration enforcement tactics.  From at-the-airport meetings with refugees fleeing international crisis to deportation defense to helping these new arrivals find jobs, learn English and more, we see and hear how fear, first from the governments refugees fled and now from the new government they’re getting to know, holds them back from justice.

So, what, based on this hard-won expertise, are our recommendations? Check out these highlights from the testimony of Catholic Charities Director of Immigrant and Refugee Services Mario Russell shared when he spoke yesterday before the New York City Council on Immigration.


By C.  Mario Russell

Catholic Charities Director of Immigrant & Refugee Services


Fear and Uncertainty:  Effects of the Executive Orders

  • Catholic Charities hears directly from clients and members of immigrant communities about the fear and confusion generated by the vitriolic anti-immigrant rhetoric of the Republican presidential campaign and the executive orders signed over the last few weeks.
  • Furthermore, we are hearing non-stop from non-citizens throughout New York City and New York State who are contacting our New Americans Hotline.


Catholic Charities Hears from the Thousands of Immigrants and Refugees We Serve

  • Our services include immigration legal services, unaccompanied minors programming, English as a Second Language (ESL/ESOL) and cultural learning at our International Center, refugee resettlement services.
  • They also include general informational and referral services through the New York State New Americans Hotline and the National Children’s Call Center.
  • Together we responded to over 43,000 calls for information during the last fiscal year, and already over 23,000 calls in the first five months of this fiscal year.


Worries Spark the Unthinkable

  • Legal permanent residents are afraid to travel internationally
  • Families say they are too scared to send their children to school or to attend family court or immigration court hearings
  • Parents ask for assistance to do the unthinkable: give guardianship over their children to family members or friends to ensure someone would care for the children in the event the parents got deported.

In This Time When Rumors Abound

  • Resources such as Catholic Charities New Americans Hotline are key in a climate of fear and uncertainty, where rumors abound and fraudulent schemes to defraud frightened immigrants proliferate.
  • Reliable information, referrals to non-profit legal service providers, and assistance filing complaints against scammers are just an anonymous phone call away through our Hotline. 

Our Hallmark of Commitment

  • Catholic Charities legal staff actively participate in three initiatives launched by New York City government to mitigate the needs of city residents for immigration legal assistance: ActionNYC, Immigrant Children’s Advocates’ Relief Effort Initiative (ICARE), and Immigration Opportunity Initiatives (IOI). 
  • These three initiatives – each based on successful collaboration among many service providers – are a hallmark of New York City’s commitment to immigrants. 
  • Because these initiatives already successfully operate in our communities, their expansion can serve as the starting point of a city-wide response to recent and future executive orders that affect immigrants and refugees.


To further our commitment rooted in respect for the human dignity of each person and the value he or she brings to our communities of work, family and faith we recommend expanding existing Catholic Charities’ city-supported immigration legal services including:


  • Legal Services to Unaccompanied Minors and Central American Families
  • Know Your Rights Presentations and Screenings in Schools
  • Increased funding for simple and complex immigration cases
  • Expanding services provided at Terra Firma, a Bronx medical-legal partnership between Catholic Charities and Montefiore Health Systems and replicating this medical-legal partnership model in every borough.
  • Supporting the New York City Immigration Court Helpdesk to provide comprehensive access to information and assistance for New York immigrants facing removal.
  • Funding Case Management Services for Immigrants
  • Providing Flexible programmatic structure and requirements that allow immigration legal service provider experts to do what they do best: provide high quality representation to vulnerable. 

Investing in People Today Is an Investment in the Economy Tomorrow

An investment in these young people and their families today is an investment in the economy and future of our city tomorrow: Thousands of people, grateful for the safety they have been extended, will get an education and work for the future of New York and of our nation.