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Immigration Problems Get Heavier? Catholic Charities Gets Stronger

Dialogo Abierto Show Catholic Charities of New York
"Dialogo Abierto" featuring Catholic Charities New York's Richard Espinal and Esmerelda Hoscoy

By Jim Sliney Jr

The Archdiocese of New York includes ten counties of the New York City and Hudson Valley regions, and population-wise encompasses over ten million people. Manhattan island alone is the most densely populated piece of land in the United States. In Westchester County, there are nearly one million people. It takes a very special charitable organization to meet the needs of so many.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York has a network of ninety agencies addressing the unmet needs of those ten million people. They provide food and shelter, help families, youth and children in crisis, have services for the mentally and physically challenged, and help integrate immigrants legally and with dignity. That’s a lot to talk about, and you’ll be hearing more about other services soon, but since it is such an urgent dilemma, let’s talk a bit about immigration services.


Esmerelda Hoscoy on Dialogo Abierto
Esmerelda Hoscoy on Dialogo Abierto

According to Esmerelda Hoscoy, regional director of Catholic Charities of Westchester County, Catholic Charities (CC) has been expanding its services to meet rapidly growing demands. CC sets up live events in all of its counties and books 120 appointments for people to sit down with immigration lawyers.

Catholic Charities also coordinates with the Office of New Americans (run by the State and City) and operates the New American Hotline, which fields over 60,000 calls a year from people seeking immigration services. The goal of the program is to connect people with legal services and get them access to any other services they may need (more on that in a moment).

But in the last year, the volume of calls for immigration assistance is up approximately 20%. So, Catholic Charities along with partners in the Action NYC Referral Line provide thousands of legal referrals throughout NYC (free when possible). CC has also increased the output of the Pro Bono Legal Network which provides access to non-immigration lawyers to help with the growing need. There are currently 150 lawyers in the pro bono network, but more are needed.


Richard Espinal on Dialog Abierto
Richard Espinal on Dialog Abierto

Richard Espinal, associate director of parish and community engagement for Catholic Charities New York, told Javier Gomez, host of Dialogo Abierto, that when immigrants cross into America, they don’t stay where they cross. They travel through all parts of the country and arrive in New York every day. They typically arrive by bus, sometimes whole families, so housing becomes one of the most urgent needs for new arrivals. Moving in temporarily with family is sometimes an option, but often the family that takes them in is already struggling to make ends meet. Which is why CC helps each person, each family, with the goal of economic independence.


Catholic Charities goes beyond housing and legal assistance. You may know CC for its long tradition of providing food to the hungry. Well, when someone asks for help they aren’t just offered a referral and sent away. If they need housing, food, clothes, medical or mental health services, CC has an agency for that. In fact, it’s hard to comprehend the incredible nest of services CC offers. I can’t recommend enough that you visit our registry of agencies so you’ll better know how CC can help should you know someone in need.

This isn’t about immigration. It’s about treating people with dignity and love, and getting them the help that they need. We pray that you are never in need, but if you ever are, Catholic Charities can help.