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ICE Raids in New York: Catholic Charities Responds with Legal Resources

Immigrant family under legal stress in their home

by Jim Sliney Jr. and John-Mark de Palma

5 Min Read. Catholic Charities of New York is playing an ever-increasing role in welcoming and assisting new arrivals to the United States. While the news of late has been dominated by the poor living conditions, separation of families, and threats of ICE raids in our cities, it is hard to grasp the enormous scope and complexity of the total needs of new Americans.

In a statement released on Friday, July 12, 2019, Catholic Charities New York Executive Director Monsignor Sullivan stated:

“Once again, as the media reports threats of deportation and family separation, Catholic Charities is responding with increased services to support immigrant families, adults and children.” Monsignor Sullivan said.  “Rash harsh talk and actions harm not only immigrants but also communities and neighborhoods throughout the country.  I have seen pain on the faces of immigrants who fear the threats that raids pose to their families, their jobs, and their safety.  We support and encourage legal immigration, as we also insist on the humane treatment of those who enter without proper documentation seeking protection and opportunity.”

Monsignor Sullivan also reminded New Yorkers and those in the area that there are resources available if they feel they have been unfairly targeted by immigration officials or others.

Immigration and Refugee Services is a vital department in the overall mission of Catholic Charities. Directed by Mario Russell the agency provides legal consultations and representation to documented and undocumented newcomers regarding their immigration status. In fact, Russell recently told Catholic New York that people who are seeking asylum or are in need of legal immigration assistance are reaching out in great numbers for the legal assistance their office provides.

Services are offered to all immigrants, regardless of their status or how long they have resided in the United States. The broad range of services includes political asylum, deportation, DACA cases, naturalization, work authorization, relative petitions, petitions for battered and abused spouses and children, and much more.

But how do immigrants know who to contact for help?


The New Americans Hotline is a project of Archdiocesan Catholic Charities Community Services (CCCS) and the New York State Office for New Americans. The hotline provides general information and referrals on immigration-related questions and other social services available to immigrants. The New Americans Hotline ( 1-800-566-7636) is toll-free and anonymous, providing real-time assistance in more than 200 languages, including English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chines (Mandarin and Shanghainese), Hindi, Urdu, and Punjabi. Anyone calling the line can get information and/or referrals, regardless of their citizenship or documented status.

The hotline is managed by CCCS but supported by both New York City, New York State, and Catholic Charities of New York. It is an outstanding example of how the city and Catholic Charities work together. It is open Monday-Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and on Saturday-Sunday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.


The Action NYC Referral Hotline (1-800-354-0365) is a project of Catholic Charities New York with support of both New York City and New York State. This legal referral assists thousands in our area with immigration legal services. The program ensures that individuals receive accurate and confidential information and are referred to the appropriate resources as quickly as possible. In an expansion of this service, lawyers are also on-hand for individuals in situations that require emergency legal counseling. The hotline is open Monday-Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and on Saturday-Sunday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.


Director Russell also told Catholic New York, “These are incredibly challenging times for immigrants...Arrests and deportations are up…Judges and administrators are instructed to limit people’s relief in court, asylum, threats really at the border and the interior continues, and as we know…most recently, children and families separated, and that’s just in the last year.”  


If the needs of immigrants were still unclear, The Catholic New Service recently covered a statement made by Pope Francis regarding the call to aid immigrants. Referring to the beatitudes, Pope Francis reminded us that those who have “been thrown away, marginalized, oppressed, discriminated against, abused, exploited, abandoned, poor and suffering…ask to be freed from the evils that afflict them”.

The Holy Father’s reminder comes at a time when it seems like so many people are fleeing violence and persecution only to suffer some form of injustice elsewhere. And we’ve seen much of this at our own border and right here in our own city.


Catholic Charities of NY is dedicated to helping people make this transition in a dignified way. The work isn’t easy of course, navigating government rules never is, but to give them the best chance, CCNY:

  • Helps family members and sponsors process overseas applications for refugee status outside the United States  
  • Helps those who recently received asylum status in the United States
  • Makes pre-arrival arrangements to assure a smooth transition into the United States
  • Provides material assistance after arrival
  • Offers English as a Second Language (ESL) classes
  • Helps with school enrollment
  • Provides information and referral to social services
  • Provides training to find and land a job

Furthermore, the New American Hotline and the Action NYC Referral Line have introduced new layers of justice and accountability to the naturalization process by allowing people to:

  • Ask general immigration and naturalization questions
  • Obtain referrals to immigrant-related public and private programs
  • Find out information about the ONA Opportunity Centers
  • Report immigration assistance fraud and schemes against immigrants

Further still, the Department of Immigration and Refugee Services offers professional and confidential legal consultations and representation to documented and undocumented newcomers regarding their immigration status.

They can be contacted by calling 212-419-3700 or by visiting their offices at 80 Maiden Lane, 13th Floor New York, NY 10038, where legal consultations are provided every Thursday (except holidays), on a first-come, first-serve basis, depending on capacity.

If you are an attorney and would like to vounteer your time, pleae visit our Catholic Charities Pro Bono website for more information.

The work is hard. The road is long. But the services are there. Tell others about them.