News Articles

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Visits Catholic Charities Bronx Food Hub

CCNY Monsignor Sullivan with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

By Jim Sliney Jr

On Wednesday, August 28th, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez visited a Catholic Charities of New York food hub and community center in the South Bronx to highlight the challenge of food insecurity and immigration issues many New Yorkers face daily. Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez was joined by Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of New York; Beatriz Diaz Taveras, Executive Director of Catholic Charities Community Services, and Mario Russel, Director of Immigration and Refugee Services.

But this was not a mere political photo opportunity. Rather, the congresswoman toured the Bronx Community Center as well as the “Better Food for Better Lives” food pantry. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez received briefings on the many services provided by Catholic Charities such as case management, eviction protection, housing programs, substance abuse, children’s mental health services, afterschool programs, literacy workshops, OSHA training, and immigration assistance. She also toured the food hub and food pantry facilities and learned how Catholic Charities is increasing community access to healthier foods through its network of 25 food programs in The Bronx, in the lower Hudson Valley, and in parts of Manhattan. Along with Catholic Charities’ partner, Goya Foods, the Catholic Charities food hubs deliver fresh produce to smaller food panties with limited capacity and thereby providing residents with access to healthy food options.

The congresswoman also met an asylum advocate from Indonesia, Mr. Indira Sihotang, who had received legal help from Catholic Charities. Mr. Sihotang shared some of his personal experience in the hands of ICE and with CCNY, for the congresswoman. Mr. Sihotang has been in the United States for over fifteen years and has four children. After many years, he was asked to report to Immigration and Customs Enforcement with his current passport. When he arrived, he was detained. He was denied access to a phone call (which he wanted to use to call his lawyer) being told: “no, you are already deported.” They tried to put him on a plane and when he resisted, he was thrown to the ground and beaten. Fortunately, his wife came to Catholic Charities’ Immigration and Refugee Services office soon after. His road to an appeal has been a long one, but with Catholic Charities Immigration and Refugee Service’s help, finally, his case is being reheard by a judge.

In response to this, congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez addressed Mr. Sihotang saying, “I’m so sorry this happened. This is not something that should ever happen in the United States. We are working very hard to make sure we work together to create a country where what happened to you doesn’t happen to another person in the United States. There is a direction separating immigrants from US citizens as if immigrants and immigrant families are deserving of less rights than US citizens. We are here to say, that is not true! We are here to fight for every single human being to have the basic human dignity and rights that everyone deserves.”  

catholic charities staffers with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Catholic Charities Staff with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

“We are pleased that Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez chose to visit our Catholic Charities food hub in the South Bronx,” said Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of New York. He continued, “She joins the many elected officials whom Catholic Charities has welcomed over its 100+ year history to learn about our life-changing services and how we might collaborate to better provide help and create hope for New York’s poor, vulnerable and struggling communities.”

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a third-generation Bronxite, educator, and organizer serving the 14th district of New York in the Bronx and Queens. She is the youngest woman ever to serve in the United States Congress.