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Leya Speasmaker

Located in the heart of Downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, the 35-foot high Positivi-Tree towers above the crowd, filled with brightly colored umbrellas. The artists created the installation with their multicultural community in mind, saying, “Positivi-Tree was designed to represent coming together, feeling safe as well as friendship, unity and inclusivity.

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Paola Marquez

This month’s featured fellow is Sylvia Arias with Catholic Charities in Biloxi. The Peru native told CLINIC about how she came to work with immigrants and what she finds more rewarding about her job.

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Paola Marquez

Susana Caterina Quiroga was born in Puno, Peru on May 25, 1978, not 1943 as her American lawyer indicated on her immigration forms. An attorney herself, Quiroga was wary of her lawyer’s suggestion to sign the forms without looking them over. Trusting her instinct, she insisted despite not fully understanding them; which turned out to be a good idea because she caught the mistake the attorney later blamed on his paralegal. This experience still stands out to her as one of the main reasons she decided to work in immigration.

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Leya Speasmaker

CLINIC Immigrant Integration manager Leya Speasmaker’s newest blog encourages citizens to embrace newcomers in their neighborhood and host gatherings in their homes. This allows families, children especially, to learn and grow as they get to know cultures different from their own.

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LaRia Land

At the end of the summer, CLINIC partnered with faith and community-based organizations around the country to bring awareness to the growing number of immigrant mothers with infants and young children who are locked in detention centers. Supporters held symbolic baby showers in 10 cities, sent cards denouncing family detention to Jeh Johnson, the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, while using social media to document the campaign and continue to raise awareness.

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LaRia Land

Immigration advocates and state legislators across the country had their hands full protecting “sanctuary cities” this past legislative term.

These cities and local municipalities are known for enforcing policies that prohibited local law enforcement from working with federal immigration authorities without just cause. Louisiana, in particular, faced unique challenges Robert Tasman, executive director of the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops (LCCB), attributes to the conflicting values of its residents and leaders.

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Dianne Kaiyoorawongs

Monica Callahan began working with Catholic Immigration Services of Little Rock as a CLINIC Fellow less than a year ago. She did not have much exposure to the complex issues of immigration law, but was inspired by her background with the Spanish language.

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Kate Adams and Ashley Feasley

CLINIC attorneys examine the special immigrant non-minister religious worker program, which is set to expire on September 30, 2016, unless Congress takes action to reauthorize it.

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Andrés Abella

The Annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference, co-sponsored by CLINIC, typically focuses on nonpartisan policy discussion with an academic focus. This year it offered an electorally timely twist: not just policy, but politics as well.

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Christy Williams

CLINIC Advocacy Attorney Christy Williams became a citizen five years ago. While she is proud of her experience, she remembers not seeing its true value until working with immigrants who had more challenging citizenship journeys.

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Dianne Kaiyoorawongs

When talking to Lauren Armbrester, our CLINIC Fellow with Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Raleigh, it’s obvious she is passionate about working with immigrants in her community. As a newly accredited BIA representative, she doesn’t view this as just a job, but as a way to live her spirituality.

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Dianne Kaiyoorawongs

Estela Tirado, a CLINIC Fellow working with the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (HICA), moved to the United States this past September and is excited to have a job she is personally connected to.

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Laura D. Francis

The deferred action for childhood arrivals program has successfully boosted the career and educational opportunities of its more than 700,000 participants, but there’s still more the Obama administration could do to improve it, a coalition of immigration advocates said in a report.

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Dianne Kaiyoorawongs

Nathalie Dietrich and Silvia Arias Barber, both CLINIC Fellows in the Southeast, work with immigrants on a daily basis. Though they are always looking for ways to better serve this population, this past World Refugee Day offered a unique opportunity to also educate those unfamiliar with the experiences of immigrants in America.

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Kristen Lionetti

Nathalie Dietrich knows immigration from multiple angles. Although she “never could have imagined that she would be living in the United States” one day, that journey has brought her to advocate for immigrants, first as a volunteer, then as a legal assistant and now as a BIA-accredited representative.

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Nathaly Perez

U.S. immigration law is complex and it can take many years for a family to be reunited in the United States through the current immigration system. It is also expensive! It costs thousands of dollars per person in fees to the U.S. government agencies responsible for processing applications, conducting background checks, interviewing applicants and issuing official documents for identification and work authorization. 

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Jeanne Atkinson

Today, on World Refugee Day, I had the honor of attending a naturalization ceremony at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Thirty-six men and women who left their homes and sought protection in the United States took the oath of allegiance and waved American flags as they were proclaimed citizens of the United States of America.

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Abdulmajeed Alhogbani, with contributions by Barrett Bles, recent graduate of CUA Columbus School of Law

“Ok, I’d be willing to stipulate to humanitarian asylum.” We were approximately 30 minutes into the recess the Immigration Judge took, during which we were supposed to negotiate a favorable solution for our client, when DHS said the words we had been waiting to hear since we first met our client in October.

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Jill Marie Bussey
Weeks of planning went into our logistics to hear oral arguments in the biggest immigration case to come before the Supreme Court since I’d become an attorney. But when I finally approached the court grounds that Sunday afternoon before the April 18 argument, it was all a bit disorienting. After all I was preparing to camp out on the grounds of the august Supreme Court building.
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Kristen Lionetti

An immigrant herself, Miriam Martinez understands the challenges her clients face. She was separated from her parents when she was young, had a painful journey to the U.S. as a child and has lived as an undocumented immigrant in the United States.

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Leya Speasmaker

Students in Des Moines, Iowa who have received immigration status through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, are testing their cinematography skills each year in a contest sponsored by American Friends Service Committee.

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Kristen Lionetti
This month we introduce you to Claudia Perez, the fellow with Catholic Charities Bureau, Inc. in Jacksonville, Florida.
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Leya Speasmaker

For 11 years, the Tax EZ program, offered by Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County has helped clients prepare nearly 15,000 returns, generating millions of dollars in refunds.

For the 2016 tax season, Steve Hicken, Division Director of Economic Development Services, shifted the location of services from the Catholic Charities offices to parishes. This approach encourages interactions between newcomers and the people of their new hometowns, epitomizing immigrant integration on the local level. Ultimately, it may also result in higher numbers of tax returns being filed.

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Jeff Chenoweth

When one’s friends and relatives -- let alone candidates of public office -- question the benefit of welcoming immigrants separating fact from opinion can be challenging.

Immigration issues are so large and consequential that they require thoughtful and accurate answers to the hostile and manipulative sound bites tossed about by political candidates and pundits.

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Sital Kalantry and Carolyn Wald

Although Matter of A-R-C-G, the landmark board of Immigration Appeals  decision, gave women fleeing domestic violence a pathway to asylum, survivors continue to be routinely denied asylum by immigration judges who interpret the decision narrowly.

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Kristen Lionetti

This month we introduce you to Matthew Young, the fellow with Catholic Charities of Jackson, Inc. in Jackson, Mississippi.

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In an article for the web page of the Diocese of Orange, Bishop Kevin W. Vann, who chairs CLINIC’s board of directors, explained what we do and how it fits into the Catholic Church’s social teaching. This is a slightly edited version of the original blog.

By Bishop Kevin W. Vann

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Leya Speasmaker

In the pretty college town of Ithaca, New York, Sue Chaffee, a BIA accredited representative, heads the Immigrant Services Program of Catholic Charities Tompkins /Tioga.

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Kristen Lionetti

This month we would like to introduce Enid Colón, the fellow at Hispanic Services Council in Tampa, Florida. Enid became a fellow in October of 2015, but she had previously been working as the organization’s “intra-agency connector” for more than a year.

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Aline Barros

Shortly before Christmas a large box arrived at CLINIC’s office in Silver Spring, Maryland.

There was no note of explanation. The return address was for the Toledo Correctional Institution.

The contents: 550 handmade greeting cards, illustrated with favorite children’s cartoon characters, religious symbols and other colorful drawings.

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Leya Speasmaker

At the start of 2015, John Cranley, the Mayor of Cincinnati, made public his commitment to make Cincinnati the most immigrant friendly city in the United States. He assembled a taskforce that wrote a plan to make Cincinnati more welcoming for all. A community ID was chosen as a priority initiative. The ID is set to be distributed in the first quarter of 2016. Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio (CCSWOH), and in particular, Ms. Alisa Berry, Chief Operating Officer, have been instrumental in making this goal a reality.

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DILLEY, TX – In the last week, 121 mothers and children were brought to the South Texas Residential Family Center in Dilley, Texas, after being rounded up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project reviewed the cases of 13 families, filed appeals for 12, and won stays of removal from the Board of Immigration Appeals for all 12 families – 33 mothers and children.

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Kaitlin Talley

“Welcome to the United States.” This is what refugees and asylum seekers should hear when they first arrive in the United States, but unfortunately it is a welcome that often comes excruciatingly late, if at all.

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Nancy Wiechec

Religious men and women and a host of volunteers minister to deported migrants at an aid center located just over the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales, Sonora.

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Leya Speasmaker

A little more than a year after President Barack Obama established the White House Task Force for New Americans, a progress report has detailed steps taken so far. The task force’s goal is, in part, to encourage the deliberate development of communities that are welcoming to newcomers.

The Dec. 15 report outlines a range of activities launched by various federal offices, from the Small Business Administration through the White House itself.

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Leya Speasmaker

The following blog is derived from the text of a workshop talk given by CLINIC Integration Program Manager Leya Speasmaker Nov. 12 at the Justice for Immigrants convening in Chicago.

Integration has increased in importance and scope for our organization and our network.

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Patricia Zapor

Even before the Paris terrorist attacks in November, a CLINIC affiliate in Biloxi, Mississippi, was getting pushback for processing refugees.

The call by various politicians to make it even more difficult for refugees – particularly Syrians – to be admitted to the United States is causing fallout for several CLINIC affiliates.

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Shaila Rahman

Catholic Charities of Orange County (CCOC) is doing an excellent job to build capacity and integrate immigrants into the community in Orange County. This beautiful area on the Southern California coast is very diverse and home to almost one million immigrants. Orange County has one of the highest immigrant populations of any county in the United States. Unfortunately, Orange County is also sorely lacking in immigration legal services and many immigrants in Orange County are not able to access immigration legal assistance.  

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Concerned people worldwide observe Nov. 25 as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, bringing attention to the stories of women like Preeta Gabba, Barbara Giomarelli and H.T.

Gabba, from India, and Giomarelli, originally from Italy, were among the 24 women known to have died in Maryland between July 2013 and June 2014 as a result of domestic violence.

The plight of woment such as Gabba and Giomarelli are the focus of the U.N.-designated observance, which marks the start of 16 days of activism preceding Human Rights Day, Dec. 10.

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Sister Melanie Grace D. Illana, MSCS

The story of my American citizenship process was somewhat complicated but also full of hope.

Becoming a U.S. citizen was not part of my dreams in my younger years. All I desired was to be a sister, so I could get closer to God and his people.

My parents are active members of the Catholic Church in my birthplace of Cagayan de Oro, Philippines. Their prayer life influenced my growth as a Catholic. As a young adult, I realized that God was calling me to serve him and after my graduation from college, I focused on discerning my vocation in life.

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Jeff Chenoweth

Working at CLINIC’s national office sometimes gives me the impression I am in the engine room of a great ocean liner. My coworkers are alongside me in the boiler room. The “crew” is our affiliate staff in 275 agencies with 1,800-plus immigration counselors. The “passengers” are immigrants they serve. We are traversing the globe. The forecast is clear. It’s full steam ahead.

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Shaila Rahman

Kitsap Immigrant Assistance Center (KIAC) fulfills a dire need for immigration legal services in the West Puget Sound, a lowland area west of Seattle characterized by saltwater bays, islands, and peninsulas.  In this area, there are no other community-based organizations providing services to immigrants.  The West Puget Sound has an almost invisible immigrant population that largely goes unnoticed by service providers.  KIAC was founded in 2004 and since then has been working to assist immigrants in the West Puget Sound better their lives.    

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Jill Marie Bussey

CLINIC recently worked in partnership with the DePaul University School of Law to help key immigration service providers in Chicago learn more about developments at the National Visa Center (NVC) and improvements to come. Overall, the engagement was a tremendous success. It provided an important overview of the past and upcoming changes at the NVC and started a very important dialogue among the NVC team, CLINIC, and its affiliates on the effects of those improvements, suggestions for refinement, and opportunities for enhancements.

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Lorenza Ramirez

 

Why does the Southeast need more legal service providers? To understand the need, this blog series took a holistic approach to investigating who is in need, how, and why, from the assessment of the demographic changes to anti-immigrant sentiment. In the final blog post, we will assess how bad that lack actually is, and what exactly CLINIC is going to do about it.

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Recognizing October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, CLINIC highlights the large, unmet need for immigration legal services for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and trafficking.

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Lorenza Ramirez

So far, we’ve explored the rapid demographic shift of the Southeast region and the emergence of the New Latino South, demonstrating the need for more immigration legal service providers and resources.  But if the growth and impact of this community is evident and felt throughout the region, why aren’t there more legal service providers for immigrants in the Southeast in the first place? 

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Lorenza Ramirez

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%).

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Ashlynn Polanco

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.

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Lorenza Ramirez

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?

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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.

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Jeanne M. Atkinson

Reading the September 28 article “Why American Catholics may not be persuaded by Pope Francis’ message on immigration,” I was disappointed on many levels – in part, due to the article's 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.

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Bradley Jenkins

"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

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Jennifer Riddle

I had the opportunity to volunteer for a week with the CARA Pro Bono Project which provides legal assistance to women and children detained in the South Texas Family Detention Center. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) erected this facility last year in the desolate town of Dilley (population 3,674). It is managed and operated by a for-profit entity called Corrections Corporation of America.

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Leya Speasmaker

As Citizenship Week comes to a close, it is worthwhile to remember that naturalization is but one step on the pathway to the larger goal of immigrant integration.  Immigrant integration is the creation of something new in the places where we live – a more inclusive community that reflects the needs and wants of all its residents. Immigrant integration takes deliberate and on-going work by both the receiving community and the newcomers, and it requires a community to grow and change as it stretches to allow everyone a chance to access services, make an impact, and participate actively.

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Tessa W. McKenzie

On Constitution and Citizenship Day, we honor, not only the newcomers who have and will naturalize, but also the champions who guide them through complex immigration processes and embark on innovative ways to overcome obstacles to immigrant integration.

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I believe that dreams come true and that a good dream becomes true life. Without dreams, all we have is reality. Sometimes on our most important dreams, all we can do is give them our best shot, hope for the highest good, and let go. Knowing I could use all the help available, I contacted CLINIC to fulfill my dream in becoming a Citizen of United States of America.

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Jill Marie Bussey

“…I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; … that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God."

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Laura Burdick and Rommel Calderwood

CLINIC has been promoting and facilitating naturalization for more than two decades, and has developed myriad resources on naturalization for our affiliates and the general public. As we kick off our celebration of citizenship this week, today is a great time to recall these resources and highlight a few. The best part is, most of these resources are free!

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Aminta Menjivar

Interesting are “los caminos de la vida” (the paths of life). Forty-five minutes away from the rural canton where I grew up in El Salvador is a town called Cara Sucia, well known for its market. I loved going to Cara Sucia as a child because we could buy things you couldn’t get anywhere else. My sister and I always loved visiting this tiny stand that sold delicious french fries, prepared crisp and golden with the perfect amount of ketchup, mayonnaise and shredded cheese. I always remembered those fries with fondness, but never thought I would call up such cherished memories in a bleak detention center for immigrant families in South Texas.

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Jeff Chenoweth

Reflections on the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina elicit dark memories of loss of life, displacement and destruction. But looking back also reminds us of great acts of heroism and abundant generosity. For social and political reasons, we should take a long, hard look back at 2005 and where we are as a nation today. CLINIC looks back and recalls its own response to the destruction and how the Gulf Coast looks today from the perspective of welcoming immigrants and creating opportunities for social integration in the process.

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H. Andrés Abella

More than 1,400 women and children—mostly from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala—are detained at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, TX. A significant number of these families come to the United States forced out of their communities by death threats, rape, extortion, or they are running away to keep their children from forced recruitment by the MS-13 or La 18 gangs.

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Louise Maria Puck & Leya Speasmaker

Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS), a CLINIC affiliate located in Sacramento, California, focuses its wide array of services through a lens of immigrant integration. Clients coming to SFBFS are screened for eligibility for any of the available services including immigrant legal services. SFBFS views it as their responsibility to serve the whole client, thus leading them, after almost 30 years of serving as the community’s food bank, to establish an immigrant legal services program to further assist their community.

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Leya Speasmaker

During the tax season, there are many ways for immigration legal service programs to help clients complete this important task, as well as avoid falling victim to scams. Visit CLINIC’s new Center for Immigrant Integration for resources on tax assistance preparation and other ways to encourage immigrant integration in your community.

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Tessa W. McKenzie

Pope Francis’ message for the 101st World Day of Migrants and Refugees embraces the theme Church without frontiers, Mother to all.  Celebrated on January 18, the World Day of Migrants and Refugees is an opportunity to reflect on our faith and the challenges facing migrants.  Ultimately, the Holy Father urges a “universal network of cooperation, based on safeguarding the dignity and centrality of every human person.”

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Nathaly Perez

Adonia R. Simpson, Esq. is readying Catholic Charities of Baltimore, Maryland to serve a rapid increase in the number of immigrants.  This is a result of President Obama’s executive actions announced on November 20 offering administrative relief to an estimated four million immigrants.

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Martin Gauto

The Inland Empire region of Southern California, east of Los Angeles, is home to over one million foreign-born persons. Comprised of Riverside and San Bernardino counties, the Inland Empire (or the “The IE” as it’s known) has a severe shortage of low-cost, professional immigration legal service providers. 

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Sue Colussy

Several government agencies including United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Trade Commission, the Executive Office for Immigration Review, and the Department of Justice’s Civil Division have joined forces to participate in the Administration’s Unauthorized Practice of Immigration Law Initiative.

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