Since its inception two hundred years ago, the story of the Archdiocese of New York is an immigrant story – a tradition which continues today. For more than 30 years, the Archdiocese of New York has provided services to the foreign-born, including refugee resettlement and immigration legal services, through Catholic Charities Community Services (CCCS). As the immigrant and refugee population in the area has grown and changed, so has CCCS.
In the mid-2000s, CCCS added four new service locations in Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island, and Westchester County and opened a dozen outreach sites in the lower Hudson Valley to serve seven counties north of New York City.
They also added new services in these locations. With funding from the state, they established the New Americans Hotline to provide general immigration legal information and referrals. In addition, counselors and lawyers with CCCS began working together to help unaccompanied children in regional facilities through “Know Your Rights presentations,” individual legal consultations, and friend of the court appearances for the children’s deportation proceedings.
In 2012, the Archdiocese of New York responded to an ongoing need for greater immigrant integration. CCCS acquired the International Center, a separately incorporated nonprofit agency with a long history of providing educational services to the foreign-born, and folded it into its existing array of services. The Center uses its network of 150 volunteers to offer 40 English, counseling, and acculturation classes to 1,000 students on a monthly basis. The addition of the Center helps CCCS provide more holistic services to the refugees and immigrants they serve. For example, immigrants hoping to qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status can easily access the Center for enrollment in English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction, which in turn helps them qualify for DACA and promotes their self sufficiency.
Because of the addition of the Center and growth in services, CCCS’ leadership, particularly Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director, decided to consolidate five departments serving the foreign-born into a central location and a unified program called Immigrant and Refugee Services. This program has 58 staff with legal, advocacy, instructional, and case management skills.
The new location provides a large waiting area, critical to meet the demand for services. On Thursdays, CCCS holds walk-in intake where an average of 80 new clients appear for an opportunity to receive legal consultations and resettlement assistance. In addition, the new space is large enough for separate classrooms, a networking area for immigrants, and a large conference space. Staff and clients have expressed exclusively positive feedback and excitement about the new program and location, with its one-stop-shop experience and more dynamic, holistic resources.
The new structure will undoubtedly better position the Archdiocese of New York to plan and respond to immigration reform when a new law is eventually passed by Congress.
In a recent interview, Mario Russell (pictured here), Director of Immigrant and Refugee Services, said, “This is a radically new experience for us. CCCS has always done this work but never has it been delivered in this consolidated manner. Now we can offer all of our services, from outreach, intake, program enrollment, and receipt of immigration benefits, all in one place. People who come for help here have wide and varied needs. It is our mission to do our best to meet them and this unified approach is a strong step in this direction.”
CLINIC congratulates the Archdiocese of New York and CCCS for its bold move. Imagine the impact the Archdiocese of New York and CCCS will have in the next 30 years!
*Mr. Chenoweth is the Director of CLINIC's Center for Citizenship and Immigrant Communities