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Intolerance Towards Immigrants Is Spreading

Posted on May 15, 2018 by Catholic Charities Admin  |  Share

Nobody Can Be a Bystander

By C. Mario Russell, Esq.

Director, Catholic Charities NY Immigrant and Refugee Services

Recently, at the Interfaith Conference event that a good number of us from Catholic Charities NY attended at the United Nations, an important message about social involvement and “being there” with migrants and refugees was conveyed by Gijun Sugitani, a Buddhist leader who was a presenter. He said:

In the present world, exclusionism and national particularism have been spreading widely, due to political prejudice and intolerance towards migrants and refugees.

These issues are not irrelevant, and it is not an exaggeration to say that anyone could be displaced from their homeland.

Nobody is therefore allowed to be a “bystander,” and in order to deal with the issue of migration, we must first of all reconfirm the basic principle of “respect for human dignity.”

While people increasingly tend to regard the issue of migrants and refugees as a problem to be solved by “someone else,” we must clarify our responsibilities regarding global compacts, raise public awareness, and implement specific measures.

These words are well placed and very familiar. They are what we do and what we believe at Catholic Charities.  We act and “do” because we believe that holding up the worth and value of the human family is our job, not the job of someone else. We are not bystanders.  And so, again, this month, I am pleased to report the highlights of our Immigration and Refugee department’s amazing work:

  • Catholic Charities Immigration & Refugee Hotline staff and volunteers answered more than 1,300 calls during the NaturalizeNY 4-day phone bank last week. A thanks for the heavy lift by all (one by one registration!)

           Read more in the news

  • Catholic Charities Special Projects hosted a successful Community Legal Clinic event in Yonkers on April 6. 105 immigrants were screened for relief and 30 were identified for representation. On that day we also publicly launched the Liberty Defense Project, with attendance and remarks by NY State Secretary of State Rossanna Rosado and Msgr. Sullivan. News12 and Telemundo covered the event, with some of our staff and volunteers interviewed. Thank you Special Projects for your great organizing and presentation.

           Watch on Telemundo

  • In this complicated time, despite public rhetoric and unrestrained bias, children seeking protection and reunification—a real and pressing human need—continues to be a troubling reality for us.

As our nation debates what the right answer should be, and as the administration does what it can to diminish its response, Catholic Charities is stepping up.

In April the Unaccompanied Minors Migration Counselors screened 520 young people, a record since 2016.  Related, the  Unaccompanied Minors legal team has worked incredibly hard—and with success!—to ensure that clients aging out of long-term foster care will avoid ICE detention and are instead sent to institutional sponsor, the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors program, or former foster parents. This is a big team victory with important human implications: release and reunification, not detention and deportation.

  • Immigration Legal Services  provided an ethics training as part of the NYIC 40-hour training, earning stellar reviews from more than 40 attendees. We’re excited about doing an ethics training for our legal staff. And, putting finishing touches on the case, the Immigration Legal Services  team was able to obtain a grant of asylum for one of our clients who met with . Pope Francis in September 2015. Hope and Help… Great work!

  • As ESL/International Center continues to bring its services to communities in the Archdiocese, most recently it launched citizenship classes at the Ecuadorian consulate, with 35 students enrolling to begin. Related, and underscoring Catholic Charities advocacy about the importance of funding ESL take a look at this clear piece from Independent, featuring our students and Catholic Charities programming.
  • And speaking of ESL and citizenship, our staff gave presentations on naturalization to English as a Second Language classes at the Mid-Manhattan Adult Learning Center. The presentations were attended by more than 60 students and were delivered in 3 languages: English, French, and Spanish. Great work!
  • Learn more about the care and nurture of La Union FC team soccer programming for Unaccompanied Minors in this recent El Diario news story

  • Our Refugee Resettlement Program hosted a very successful Screening and Panel Discussion with the Mayor’s Office on Immigrant Affairs and partners during Immigrant Heritage Week on April 18th.
  • Last month the Immigration Court Helpdesk (a Special Project of Catholic Charities NY Immigration Legal Services) held its 17th asylum self-help workshop.  In just 18 months, Immigration Court Help Desk has completed and submitted asylum applications for over 260 individuals and families in removal proceedings, helped 189 people obtain work authorization, screened 1417 people for relief from removal, and placed 240 cases with pro bono attorneys. Critical work in a critical time!
  • One of our terrific full-time volunteers was featured in this video about her service year:.
  • Two of our lead staff served as advisory board members for the UNICEF and Children's Defense Fund most recent report on unaccompanied children: Unaccompanied Migrant Youth: Service Needs and Gaps in the New York Metropolitan Area Report. In this report, Terra Firma, an organization cofounded and run by Catholic Charities NY, is listed a model program! can be found here:
  • Always gratifying to see steps toward the integration of our newest newcomers!—Last month, the most recent of our  ESL beginner class at the International Center received certificates of completion.  Related, and as important to our continuing expansion of work in this area, the International Center is providing new literacy programming for students preparing for the citizenship exam and who have limited or no literacy skills in any language.  
  • On a difficult subject, please note one of our staff’s comments in The Trump Administration is Dismantling the Refugee Resettlement System
  • International Center and Unaccompanied Minors have brought together natural interests, expertise, and passions: games, children, learning. Every Wednesday, IC student volunteers, all bilingual, prepare and lead games and activities with the children brought by UMP shelter staff and waiting for their legal case review. Thank you, volunteers, for your collaboration and coordination.

That’s it!... Thank you!

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