Tag: #immigration reform 2014

CLINIC Materials Highlighted in Education Department’s New Resource for Assisting Undocumented Students

Silver Spring, MD— Resources from the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), including the Educators’ Back to School Toolkit, are featured in a new guide released Oct. 20 by the U.S. Department of Education, aimed at helping educators support undocumented students.
 
Resource Guide: Supporting Undocumented Youth,” is the first of two such booklets planned by the federal agency to focus on the needs of undocumented young people. It compiles basic legal information along with background material from a variety of sources and suggests resources for helping high school and college students succeed. A second guide, scheduled for release in 2016, will focus on children at the elementary and early learning levels.
 
The 63-page guide includes:

  • An overview of the rights of undocumented students;
  • Legal guidelines for educators;
  • Tips for teachers and other school personnel for supporting undocumented youth;
  • Information on access to federal financial aid for noncitizens;
  • A list of private scholarships for which undocumented youth might be eligible;
  • Information on federally-funded adult education programs at the local level;
  • Guidance for students and young adults in obtaining their school records for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program.

In addition to CLINIC’s toolkit, the guide features a link to CLINIC’s webinar for educators. All of CLINIC’s resources on DACA can be found here.
 
“Teachers and school personnel around the country will benefit from having material in one place that can reliably direct them in helping immigrants in their communities,” Jeanne Atkinson, CLINIC Executive Director said.  “CLINIC is pleased that the Education Department collaborated with us and others who have hands-on experience in the advocacy community to create this important resource for educators. We look forward to continuing this kind of engagement and outreach to the immigrant community.” 

Source: Catholic Charities

The New Latino South

We know immigrants are coming to the Southeast.  But who are they, and from where are they coming?  Seven of the nine U.S. states in which the Latino population more than doubled between 2000 and 2010 are in the Southeast region.  Over one-third come from Mexico. Most immigrants are undocumented and of the undocumented, most are Latino (76.2%). As the numbers clearly show, Hispanics constitute the largest ethnic immigrant group in the Southeast.  Yet Latinos in the Southeast have been doing more than transform the statistics: socially, culturally, and economically, the mass migration of Latinos over the course of the past two decades has profoundly transformed Southeastern society.

During the 1990s, the Southeast became one of the fastest growing regions in America, resulting in economic progress and new job creation in a variety of industries.  At the same time, employers in some industries , such as food processing, faced increasing challenges to fill positions with local workers and, therefore, began recruiting immigrant workers.  Combined, the region and its economy magnetically attracted immigrants.  Not surprisingly, immigrants coming to the Southeast and other new-destination states were more likely than immigrants elsewhere to be of working age (the median age being 27), able to pick up their lives and move northward. These immigrants were also more likely to be male but, over time, many wives joined their husbands with children and other family members north of the border.  The emergence of this Latino community in the Southeast quickly became apparent throughout suburbs and cities, in the form of everything from tiendas, selling popular Latin sweets and Spanish-language newspapers, to radio programs, playing popular Latin music.  Adult Latino immigrants make up a significant part of the manufacturing, service, and construction sectors. The Latino school-age population in the Southeast grew by 322% between 1990 and 2000, which has put pressure on local officials and governments to meet and provide the social service needs for these children and their families.  In Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia, Latinos now make up one out of every twelve voters

As a result of the region’s minimal pre-existing infrastructure of Spanish-language institutions and lawmakers with little experience dealing with new, growing immigrant communities, an abundance of policies and legislation have been enacted—though often not in favor of the immigrant.  Check back next week to find out more about societal changes in the Southeast and wide-spread immigrant-restrictionist sentiment.

*Lorenza Ramirez is FirstGen Fellow with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC)

Source: Catholic Charities

Making a Difference: Comforting the Detained Families of Dilley

Twenty-eight years ago my mother fled her home in Nicaragua, a country embroiled in civil war. For years, her life and that of her family had been ravaged by a country with corrupt government officials and oppressed by a rebel group that brought nothing but violence to civilians like my parents.  My mother saw family members and friends killed or forced to fight for a cause they did not believe in. At one point, she was taken hostage and held at gunpoint by militant groups and forced to drop out of school. After my brother was born, my mother decided to  make her way to the United States in search of a better life. Four months ago, my mother became a naturalized citizen. Although undocumented for years, she was able to work and provide my brother and me with a safe home, education, and the resources to succeed.

My mother is the reason I wanted to go to the Family Detention Center in Dilley, Texas as a volunteer with the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Representation and Advocacy Project. Had my mom been an asylum-seeking immigrant today, she would be in the same situation as the women I encountered in the detention center.

Each woman was there because she had a fear of returning to her country of origin and it was our job, as volunteers, to discover that reason. An important task that the volunteers were charged with was preparing the mothers for their Credible Fear Interviews with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). During these preparations, I heard first-hand accounts as to why these mothers fled their country. The reasons varied from gang violence, death threats, sexual harassment, and vicious domestic violence. One woman had her entire house burned to the ground by a gang.  The life of her child was threatened unless she fled the country at once. Another woman recounted the multiple times her husband abused her, meanwhile, her daughter listened and sobbed uncontrollably while her son tried to fight back the tears at recalling the painful memories.

The most difficult aspect of volunteering in Dilley was undoubtedly the emotional toll of seeing and hearing the experiences of these women and children. What is even more heartbreaking is seeing their current conditions in the detention centers, where the haven they dreamed of is nothing but a desert wasteland. Although I witnessed a lot of sadness during my time in Dilley, I feel blessed to have experienced incredible high points as well.  I made a difference.  When a detainee recounted the pain of persecution, I did my best to console them.  I comforted the women with my words and tried to boost the confidence of their children.

These moments were what made every long hour worthwhile. Moreover, the volunteers during my week were an incredibly kind group of experts.  I am happy to say these people became my friends.  If asked if I would volunteer with the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Representation and Advocacy Project again, I would absolutely say yes. 

I am thankful every day that my mother made the decision to leave her country in search of a better life. I know that one day, when these children grow up and realize the sacrifices their families have made, they too will be grateful. 

*Ashlynn Planco is Legalization Administrative Assistant for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC) 

Source: Catholic Charities

Where are Immigrants to the US Moving?

It’s no surprise that immigrants are coming to the United States, and in large numbers: between 1990 and 2013, the number of U.S. immigrants more than doubled as it grew from 19.8 million to 41.3 millionBut have you thought about where in the United States those immigrants are going, and why?

Over the course of the last twenty years, trends regarding the destination of immigrants have shifted.  The traditional seven destination states—California, New York, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, and Massachusetts, which since the 1960s have together attracted between 60 and 75 percent of the entire foreign-born population—have seen a declining share of immigrants entering, while non-traditional states have seen an increase.  Many of these non-traditional destination states are in the Southeastern region of the United States.  Immigrant populations in South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina and Mississippi all increased by more than 49% between 2000 and 2009. (See infographic.)

Upon arrival to the Southeast, those immigrants—both documented and undocumented—are thrust into an overwhelming, complicated maze of immigration laws that impact every dimension of their lives.  The growth of this immigrant population, therefore, presents a need for access to and availability of legal service providers, to aid immigrants in navigating this maze.  The reality, however, is that the availability of said services is extremely limited: by comparing the undocumented population and number of existing immigrant legal service providers, it has been determined that: 1 provider exists per every 11,582 undocumented immigrants in the Southeast.

That’s why CLINIC is committing to providing funding and holistic support to twelve organizations in the Southeast, to help increase the number and effectiveness of legal service providers. 

CLINIC is already engaged with the Southeastern immigrant community through its multiple programs: with 55 of its 278 affiliates being located in the Southeast, departments such as Advocacy, Training & Legal Support, and Religious Immigration Services continue to engage heavily with advocates in the region to promote immigrant rights and support existing legal service providers.  Providing funding and holistic support to the Southeast is simply another effort on the part of CLINIC to promote and defend immigrant rights in the region.

This introductory post is the first in a four-part series focusing on the immigrant community in the Southeast and the need for legal service providers in the area.  Check back next Thursday for the second post: the New Latino South.  Stay tuned!

*Lorenza Ramirez is FirstGen Fellow with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC)

Source: Catholic Charities

CARA: ICE and CCA Continue to Endanger the Lives of Mothers and Children Incarcerated at Family Detention Facility

SAN ANTONIO, TX – Today, the American Immigration Council (Council), American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), and Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), partners in the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project, formally lodged the latest in a series of complaints detailing the inhumane conditions to which mothers and children are subjected while detained at the South Texas Family Residential Center (STFRC) in Dilley, Texas.

Tragically, this complaint documents many of the very same medical access problems that were brought to the attention of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and Office of the Inspector General (OIG) by CARA on July 30, 2015. The latest examples include:

  • A mother and two-year-old son suffering from a cough, a cold, and a fever; the mother was told by the nurse that there was no doctor onsite and that nurses were not authorized to prescribe medicine. She and her son returned to the clinic on numerous occasions, still sick and in need of care; on one occasion they waited for four hours, but did not get to see a doctor because he was at lunch. The sixth time the mother sought help, she was given ibuprofen and Vicks Vaporub for her son, who had been vomiting and unable to eat for days.
  • A three-year-old girl, sick with a fever, diarrhea, vomiting, coughing, and ear pain waited more than five hours to see a nurse. The nurse examined her and said she looked dehydrated and it appeared she had a burst ear drum; a doctor said that she had either a virus or an infection that would go away in two to three weeks. The doctor prescribed Vicks Vaporub. Since that appointment, the girl has lost weight and is still sick.
  • A four-year-old boy, who was diagnosed with anemia when he was an infant and required regular medical intervention to treat his condition, but has not received any treatment since he arrived at Dilley, despite his mother’s repeated attempts to get him medical attention.  He complains of pain in his head, his lips turn purple, and he shakes from being cold, even in the heat of South Texas. He vomits, is constantly fatigued and does not play with other children.

To date, the CARA project has received no meaningful response to any of the complaints submitted to CRCL and OIG on the issue of inadequate medical care and there have been no visible improvements made.  The cases documented here represent merely a sampling of the dire state of medical care at Dilley because, in some cases, mothers fear that lodging a formal complaint might negatively impact their immigration cases and therefore do not speak out publicly.

In addition to investigating the specific cases described in the complaint, CARA urges a broader investigation into the adequacy of the medical care provided at all three family detention facilities. These complaints add to the already overwhelming evidence that the detention of children and mothers is inherently inhumane and must end.

Press inquiries, please contact:

AILA: Belle Woods, bwoods@aila.org, 202-507-7675

Council: Wendy Feliz, wfeliz@immcouncil.org, 202-507-7524

RAICES: Mohammad Abdollahi, mo@raicestexas.org, 210-544-7811

CLINIC:  Ashley Feasley, afeasley@cliniclegal.org, 301-565-4831

Source: Catholic Charities

CARA: Coercion and Intimidation of Detained Mothers and Children Must Stop

SAN ANTONIO, TX – Today, Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), the American Immigration Council, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), partners in the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project, submitted  the latest in a series of formal complaints to the Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the Office of Inspector General (OIG), this one documenting intimidation, misinformation and violations of the right to counsel at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas.

The complaint describes how Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers are using coercive tactics to force detained mothers to accept electronic ankle monitors as a condition of release and forfeit their right to pursue bond hearings before immigration judges. The complaint documents case after case of ICE employing unlawful tactics to intimidate detained mothers and thereby prevent them from asserting their rights. These tactics include blocking attorneys from accessing their clients during compulsory ICE questioning, threatening to withhold medical care for children if mothers choose to seek bond hearings instead of accepting ankle monitors, and threatening mothers with deportation if they raise concerns or inquire about the status of their cases.

The affidavits recount instances where ICE officers:

  • Spread misinformation about the possibility of bond, such as telling incarcerated mothers that if they chose a bond hearing instead of an ankle monitor they would be detained for months and that CARA project volunteers were “lying” to them.
  • Actually removed a client from an ongoing consultation with a legal volunteer to attend a compulsory ICE meeting from which the volunteer was barred.
  • Threatened to withhold medical care to children unless the mother agrees to an ankle monitor.
  • Intimidated mothers into signing documents in English that they did not understand and refusing to let them consult with pro bono attorneys who could have advised them on the implications of what they were signing.

This mistreatment of an extremely vulnerable and traumatized group of mothers detained with their young children is appalling. These practices also directly interfere with a detained mother’s right to counsel under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and federal regulations. CARA calls for immediate investigation of ICE’s custody determination and release practices to ensure that they are free from coercion and systemic interference with detained mothers’ rights to counsel and to fair process.

Press inquiries, please contact:

AILA: Belle Woods, bwoods@aila.org, 202-507-7675

Council: Wendy Feliz, wfeliz@immcouncil.org, 202-507-7524

RAICES: Mohammad Abdollahi, mo@raicestexas.org, 210-544-7811

CLINIC:  Ashley Feasley, afeasley@cliniclegal.org, 301-565-4831

Source: Catholic Charities

New Americans Pathways

Through creative programming and a sharp focus on immigrant integration, New American Pathways, an Atlanta-based CLINIC affiliate, contributes immensely to the integration of the 3,500 refugees it serves yearly. New American Pathways was established on October 1, 2014 after two long-standing organizations, Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Services of Atlanta and Refugee Family Services, merged. Capitalizing on their collective expertise in refugee resettlement, New American Pathways is changing its community for the better.

One of the first tools New American Pathways created is a visual representation of how it views the pathway to integration. It uses this tool to guide its strategic planning in creating programming that supports local immigrant integration.  Like most refugee resettlement agencies, meeting families’ basic needs is the crucial first step to self-sufficiency and integration. Once basic needs such as access to food, housing, employment and education are met, New American Pathways can then help refugees focus on other components of integration. These areas include cultural integration, empowerment and leadership development, and building strong families. For example, once a family has its basic needs met, a case worker will work with the refugee parents to make sure that they attend parent teacher conferences and other events important for integration. On a larger scale, New American Pathways operates a leadership training program for local refugees. Services like these encourage participation in the community and a better understanding of how the community works.

The goal of immigrant integration is a key component of New American Pathways’ strategic plan. On a daily basis, integration is a deliberate part of all the offered services, as refugees are empowered to make choices that suit their needs, a critical component of self-sufficiency. For instance, while ESL classes are offered at the organization, an ESL coordinator on staff works with the refugee to find English classes anywhere in the community that take place at a location and time convenient for the refugee. These classes might well be offered by an external ESL provider, but the objective is to make it possible for the refugee to attend English classes amid a busy work schedule. To provide meaningful employment opportunities for refugee community members, New American Pathways consciously creates employment opportunities within the agency that capitalize on their language skills and life experiences, again, purposefully striving to facilitate refugees’ integration through jobs that are well-matched to their skills and interests.

New American Pathways is interested in individuals’ progress along the pathway to integration. This is measured through a pre and post evaluation that examines where the person was a year ago compared to present time. For instance, milestones such as acquiring a green card or citizenship are tracked. As a part of measuring the client’s efforts at self-sufficiency, New American Pathways is working with an IT company on setting up a database to help understand how clients move along their way to independence. Efforts to measure the receiving community’s needs are also in place. For example, surveys go out to schools with a large number of refugee kids to find out if the services provided by New American Pathways to the community are sufficient.

Immigrant integration is a complex process that takes a different path for each individual in a community. CLINIC salutes the great efforts of New Americans Pathway as it works to assist each refugee on his or her pathway to integration.

If you have an integration initiative you would like CLINIC to highlight, please contact Leya Speasmaker, Integration Program Manager at lspeasmaker@cliniclegal.org.

Source: Catholic Charities

Pope Francis Connects with Catholics

Reading the September 28 article “Why American Catholics may not be persuaded by Pope Francis’s message on immigration,” I was disappointed on many levels – including misplaced reliance on a non-scientific “experiment” – but most importantly because it totally missed the point of Pope Francis’s strong and consistent comments on immigration.

With a simple introductory statement – “I am a child of immigrants” – Pope Francis sought to change the tone of our national debate.  Time after time we have found that people who know immigrants are more likely to understand their dreams and struggles and more likely to welcome them into their communities.  Pope Francis reminds us that our nation is, and always will be, a nation of immigrants; that immigrants are not “them” but are “us.” 

Even before the powerful words Pope Francis shared with Congress and the country in the past week, American Catholics have been moved by his message and have been taking action.  They have offered their homes and communities to Syrian refugees.  They have worked to provide respite and legal representation to unaccompanied minors and women near our Southern border.  And they have worked with members of Congress to initiate legislation and continue advocating for comprehensive immigration reform.  

These examples show that Pope Francis is already connecting with Catholics, and will continue to do so.  Maybe that is because, unlike the fictitious messages cited by the authors, Pope Francis’s message is undeniably heartfelt and real.

Jeanne M. Atkinson is Executive Director at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC)

Source: Catholic Charities

Catholic Legal Immigration Network Provides Funding to Address Dearth of Legal Services in the Southeast

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:  Tessa McKenzie, Public Education Officer

(301) 565-4812 or Email:  tmckenzie@cliniclegal.org

Washington, D.C. – September 29, 2015 – Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) is pleased to announce the establishment of an innovative program to create capacity for high quality charitable legal immigration services in the southeastern United States.  The initiative will build a stronger community of expert service providers in largely underserved states where the population of at-risk immigrants is on the rise.   

The Southeast has seen a significant influx of immigrant populations in the last decade.   Between 2000 and 2009, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina and Mississippi collectively have seen a 24 percent increase in the number of immigrants from 31.1 million to 38.5 million.

In response to increased demand for community-based immigration legal services in the southeastern United States, CLINIC will place 12 CLINIC fellows with affiliates in 8 states.  Fellows will provide legal assistance and offer a first line of defense against the unauthorized practice of law by unqualified practitioners.  Funding for the fellows will be granted for at least two years starting October 1, 2015.

Jeanne Atkinson, CLINIC executive director explains, “I am delighted  to place CLINIC fellows in the Southeast where they will serve a growing and dynamic immigrant population.  By welcoming and fully integrating immigrants into their communities, these fellows will strengthen families and communities.  Not only will the Southeast benefit from this program, but our nation will be better positioned to move forward as the contributions of more residents are recognized.”

CLINIC is committing a total of $75,000 per affiliate over the course of two years.  Immigration legal service providers to which the CLINIC fellows will be assigned include:

  • Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans – New Orleans, LA
  • Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Raleigh – Raleigh, NC
  • Catholic Charities, Inc. – Jackson, MS
  • Catholic Immigration Services – Little Rock – Little Rock, AR
  • Catholic Social and Community Services, Inc. – Gulfport, MS
  • Catholic Charities Bureau, Inc. – Jacksonville, FL
  • Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (HICA) – Birmingham, AL
  • Hispanic Services Council – Tampa, FL
  • Holy Cross Ministerio Hispano – Kernersville, NC
  • Maxwell Street Legal Clinic (Kentucky Equal Justice Center) – Lexington, KY
  • Redlands Christian Migrant Association – Immokalee, FL
  • Telamon Corporation – Raleigh, NC (main office) proposed site in GA

 The nation’s largest network of nonprofit immigration programs, CLINIC supports more than 275 affiliates located in 46 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.  CLINIC promotes the dignity and protects the rights of immigrants in partnership with a dedicated network of Catholic and community legal immigration programs.  For more information got o www.cliniclegal.org.

Source: Catholic Charities

Pope Francis, Son of Immigrants

“I am deeply grateful for your welcome in the name of all Americans. As the son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families. I look forward to these days of encounter and dialogue, in which I hope to listen to, and share, many of the hopes and dreams of the American people.” – Pope Francis

Last week, I was blessed with good fortune..  I received a ticket to attend the White House Arrival Ceremony for Pope Francis’s first stop on his visit to the United States.  I found out about the ticket the evening before the ceremony and, by midnight, I had put on my #EndFamilyDetention pin and was standing in line at the White House gate.  I was immediately struck by the importance of this historic moment and the opportunity the Papal visit presented to draw attention the plight of migrants.

Joining me in line were a half dozen asylum seekers, several of whom had limbs amputated after they fell from “La Bestia,” the train on top of which so many migrants have attempted to escape Central America to seek refuge in the United States.  They wanted the Pope and President to consider their struggle and flight from persecution.  My friends and I broke out the enchiladas and breakfast tacos that we had brought to sustain us through our all-nighter, and shared them with our new friends from Central America.  The air buzzed with a sense of fellowship and excitement for the Pope’s welcome.

At 5:30 AM the gates were opened and we were allowed onto the White House South Lawn.  Once we got settled in, who was behind me in the crowd but Carlos Arredondo, a Costa Rican immigrant and hero to the Boston community for the bravery he showed in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing.  (That’s me in the bottom-right of the photo, accidentally sharing in his celebrity).

Over the next few hours, our government pulled out all the stops for the waiting audience: an honor guard of at least 500 servicemen and women, the Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, play-by-play coverage by every news organization imaginable, a VIP list of Washington elites to make your head spin.  It was exhilarating.

After the pomp and circumstance – and following the President’s on-point remarks about the Pope’s unique, moral voice – came the moment we had been waiting for, Pope Francis’s first remarks to the people of the United States. With his first words to the American public, the Holy Father identified himself as the son of immigrants.  I cannot overstate how impactful it was for these to have been the Pope’s first words to the United States.  The very first thing that Pope Francis wanted to do in the United States was to look into the eyes of my new asylum seeking friends, the Costa Rican hero behind me, and every immigrant family and say, “I am a son of immigrants.  I am one of you.” 

In the face of a public discourse about immigration that has sunk to new depths of ugliness calling into question the contributions of newcomers, and debating issues like birthright citizenship, family detention, and the right to migrate, Pope Francis took this first moment to make an intimate expression of personal solidarity with immigrant families. 

So, let us walk with Francis, the Son of Immigrants.  And, in doing so, may we answer the Gospel call to welcome the stranger, continuing to unite around faith and the understanding that together, our communities and character are made stronger. 

*Bradley Jenkins is Training and Legal Support Staff Attorney and Manages the Board of Immigration Appeals Pro Bono Project at CLINIC

Source: Catholic Charities