Immigrants And Refugees
Immigrants and Refugees

Working Through Legal Thicket of Migrant Law: Maryann Tharappel

Maryann Tharappel

Even in the turbulent world of immigration justice, it was highly unusual when the Manhattan offices of Catholic Charities Immigrant & Refugee Services was sent scores of notices for court hearings involving people who had never entered the main offices of Catholic Charities. Besides, those kinds of notices are usually sent to home addresses.

Why? That was the first question raised by workers, said Maryann Tharappel, Special Projects Director for Immigrant & Refugee Services for Catholic Charities.

When they inquired with federal immigration officials, they were told that was the address given by migrants. Tharappel isn’t buying that explanation.

It’s just blatantly false.

“It’s just blatantly false,” she said, noting it was highly doubtful that recently-arrived immigrants at the Texas border would have known the 1011 1st Avenue address, or the address for the Kennedy Center, another Catholic Charities facility. While the Kennedy Center serves neighborhood youth and families in Harlem, it doesn’t offer immigration counseling. The Kennedy Center has also received court notices.

Tharappel surmises that it is the effectiveness of Catholic Charities in serving immigrants that caused immigration officials on the border to simply write out the addresses with the hope that it will get to where it’s supposed to go, eventually.

“They were looking up local Catholic Charities, they knew if they sent a person here they will receive help,” she said.

Now the migrants themselves are coming, busload after busload, most of them single males from Venezuela who came through the Texas border.

Now the migrants themselves are coming, busload after busload, most of them single males from Venezuela who came through the Texas border, although other Latin American countries are represented as well. There are also some women and children and whole family units.

Those who come are often stripped of their documents. They have nothing, not even their Bibles. Without proof of who they are, entering the city shelter system is problematic. Some are sleeping in the city parks this summer.

Meanwhile, notices sent to Catholic Charities’ offices often are made out to recipients who are not familiar to the agency. That could cause trouble with court dates in the future as the migrants make their case for asylum.

Catholic Charities is seeking solutions. The agency is currently in discussions with the city and other non-profits to offer migrants a one-stop center that can address their needs. Currently, migrants are forced to move around Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens to find shelters, food and legal assistance.

Please consider donating to the Emergency Relief Fund to help supply these asylum seekers with emergency to-go bags, cash cards for transportation and essential items, toiletries, and food.