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Meet José Miranda: A Second-Year Fellow Assigned to Catholic Migration Services

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Camilo and Jose Miranda at the Office of Catholic Migration Services. Photo: Immigrant Justice Corps

José Miranda, an Immigrant Justice Corps (IJC)​ second-year fellow was assigned to Catholic Migration Services during the Fall of 2018. Now a Staff Attorney for the Removal Defense Project with the Immigration Program, José was recently profiled by IJC and recalled his first client experience at Catholic Migration Services, a Nicaguaran family in need of immigration assistance assigned to the “FAMU” (family unit) docket. 

Camilo and his family arrived at the U.S. southern border in August of 2018 seeking safety and protection after being targeted by the Frente Sandinista Liberación Nacional (FSLN) who wanted to use their home as a shelter for confrontations with the anti-Sandinista student protesters and as a place to store weapons. The family refused and death threats against their lives steadily increased. After a near kidnapping of their son, the family fled Nicaragua and journeyed to the US. border seeking asylum.

After a dangerous trip, they soon reached the U.S. where Camilo, his wife, and two children were detained in a privately-run detention center in Texas for six days and later released after passing their credible fear hearing. On their way to New York, they sought assistance from Catholic Migration Services where they met José. Through the representation of Catholic Migration Services, José advocated on behalf of Camilo and his family during an expedited case in immigration court which led to a successful outcome for our client.

Read the full write-up by Immigrant Justice Corps (IJC): “You can say happy but the word isn’t enough.”

 

 

Chinatown Dim Sum Workers Win Federal Lawsuit for Owed Wages

Plaintiff “Vincent” Cao at the Chinese Staff & Workers’ Association.

The Chinese Staff & Workers’ Association (“CSWA”), a partner organization in the CILEC consortium, contacted Catholic Migration Services in late 2018 with a request for legal assistance for a number of workers that they had been organizing who were owed significant sums of wages. The group had worked in a Chinatown dim sum restaurant and most were owed up to eight weeks of unpaid wages when the restaurant closed its doors in August 2018. Jin Ming “Vincent” Cao, an organizer with CSWA, is one of the many workers who was owed unpaid wages and decided to sue his former employers, Joy Luck Palace Restaurant, its owners and its general manager. Catholic Migration Services filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of 19 of those workers, most of whom were Chinese immigrants, employed by Joy Luck Palace restaurant for about two and a half years. The group of workers, consisting of captains, servers, and bussers, pleaded violations of federal and state minimum wage and overtime laws, state spread-of-hours laws, state notice and paystub provisions, and state laws governing the purchase and maintenance of uniforms. The employers failed to participate in the litigation, and, after reviewing the workers’ sworn testimony and employment records, the judge overseeing the case ordered the employers to pay the full amount of damages that the workers sought in the litigation, totaling approximately $950,000.

Although a win for Vincent and his former coworkers, the 19 employees have yet to collect on their owed wages. According to a NY Daily News article, Vincent believes that recovery of the workers’ wages will be an uphill battle, stating that “the restaurant’s owners and operators had plenty of time to hide their assets as the lawsuit ground a conclusion.” Thomas Power, an attorney with Catholic Migration Services who represented the 19 workers in that federal case shared Vincent’s concerns that judgment collection will likely be difficult sharing that  “it’s fair to suspect that [the defendants] have taken some steps to move their assets.” Power added that “there is a bill that was recently passed by the New York State legislature, which advocates refer to as the SWEAT Bill, that would give workers some extra tools to help their efforts in recovering unpaid wages.” As of the date of this posting, that new piece of legislation currently awaits Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature.

In fact, every year, workers in New York State are cheated out of an estimated $1 Billion that they earn but are not paid. Immigrant workers bear the brunt of this wage-theft, often toiling in low-wage industries where they don’t receive minimum wage or overtime, and sometimes receive no wages at all for days or weeks of work. To learn how you can help fight this epidemic, click here.

Read the full article in the NY Daily News: Workers in NYS are owed up to $1 billion in stolen wages: experts

Stand with Workers Cheated Out of Their Wages

Workers and Advocates Rally to Stop Wage Theft in the Capitol with Assembly sponsor Linda Rosenthal. Photo Credit: SWEAT NEW YORK

Every year, workers in New York State are cheated out of an estimated $1 Billion that they earn but are not paid.  Immigrant workers bear the brunt of this wage-theft, often toiling in low-wage industries where they don’t receive minimum wage or overtime, and sometimes receive no wages at all for days or weeks of work.  You can help fight this epidemic. 

Earlier this year, the New York State Legislature passed the Securing Wages Earned Against Theft Act (the SWEAT Act).  Catholic Migration Services played an integral role in securing thepassage of this bill, which provides critical tools to workers, the NY Department of Labor and the NYS Attorney General in their efforts to recover unpaid wages from their employers.  Too often, employers evade accountability by hiding and transferring their assets once they are sued by employees or are under investigation by the government. Workers and the government obtain judgments for millions of dollars that they never collect.  The result is that workers don’t get their hard earned wages, and their families suffer the impacts – inability to pay for the essentials of life, and increased reliance on public benefits. The SWEAT Act will make it harder for employers to evade accountability for wage-theft, and reduce wage-theft in New York State.

You can help the SWEAT Act become law.  Although both houses of the NY State legislature passed the SWEAT Act in June, it must be signed by Governor Cuomo before it becomes law.  Please urge Governor Cuomo to sign the SWEAT Act (Bill No. S2844B) by calling him at (518) 474-8390, or writing to him at: The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of New York State, New York State Capitol Building, Albany, NY 12247. 

For more information about the SWEAT Act, visit http://sweatnys.org/.

 

 

Congratulations to the 2019 Shining Stars!

On Friday, October 4th and October 11th, Catholic Migration Services hosted the 15th Anniversary of the Annual Shining Star Award Dinners. Located at Gargulio’s Restaurant in Coney Island, Brooklyn, approximately 1000 attendees gathered to celebrate honorees who, through their efforts in their communities embody the mission of “welcoming the stranger among us”.

This year 26 leaders representing 23 ethnic ministries received Shining Star Awards. Honorees were selected by their peers in their respective ethnic ministries and were treated to an evening of festivities which included the award ceremony, dinner, and dancing. In addition to the Shining Stars, the 2019 Founder’s Award was presented to members of Coro San Miguel (St. Michael Choir) from St. Finbar in Brooklyn. Choir members were acknowledged for their commitment and contribution to the Guatemalan community. The 2019 program included Rev. Jorge Ortiz-Garay, Coordinator of Ministry to Mexican Catholics and Pastor of St. Brigid and Rev. Jason Espinal, Associate Vicar for Migration and Ethnic Apostolates and the Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Angels in Brooklyn who offered the Invocation. During his Opening Address, the Very Rev. Patrick J. Keating, Esq., CEO of Catholic Migration Services marked the importance of the role of the immigrants in the life of the community and Church.

Following the presentation of awards, Fr. Keating welcomed the Most Rev. Witold Mroziewski, Vicar for Migrants and Ethnic Apostolates, Pastor of Holy Cross Church in Maspeth, and the former Coordinator of the Polish Apostolate who later introduced the Most Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn for the Keynote Address. In his address, Bishop DiMarzio spoke about the diversity of the Diocese of Brooklyn, fondly known as the Diocese of Immigrants. He congratulated the honorees, their work and commitment to their parish communities, the Church, the City, and the Nation.

In addition to honoring the Shining Stars, each evening support the legal and pastoral services of Catholic Migration Services, and the crucial role it plays assisting underserved immigrant communities. 

2019 Shining Star Award Honorees
Mrs. Joices Lucia Momongan-Triestanto – 2019 Indonesian Shining Star
Mrs. Norika E. M. Krupka Janik – 2019 Czech/Slovak Shining Star
Mr. & Mrs. Albert & Elaine Agyemang Tontoh – 2019 Ghanaian Shining Star
Mr. Gerardo Lozano – 2019 Colombian Shining Star
Mr. Enrique Lugo – 2019 Dominican Shining Star
Dr. Augustine Umeozor – 2019 Nigerian Shining Star
Ms. Josefina Arriaga – 2019 Mexican Shining Star
Deacon Joseph Bichotte – 2019 Haitian Shining Star
Ms. Catherine Abdullah – 2019 West Indian Shining Star
Mr. Young Jin Kim – 2019 Korean Shining Star
Dr. Krzysztof Gospodarzec – 2019 Polish Shining Star
Ms. Concetta Ciulla – 2019 Italian Shining Star
Ms. Elma Souza dos Reis – 2019 Brazilian Shining Star
Mrs. Li Ming Fong – 2019 Chinese Queens Shining Star
Mr. & Mrs. John & Marica Lesica – 2019 Croatian Shining Star
Mr. & Mrs. Mark Veluz & Lizbeth R. Bucad-Veluz – 2019 Filipino Shining Star
Mrs. Reji Antony Babu – 2019 Indian Latin Rite Shining Star
Mr. Noami Dilawar – 2019 Pakistani Shining Star
Mr. Pavlo Khrushch – 2019 Ukranian Shining Star
Mrs. Rosa Kan – 2019 Chinese (Cantonese) Brooklyn Shining Star
Ms. Anele Jaseviciene – 2019 Lithuanian Shining Star
Mr. Michael Benn – 2019 Irish Shining Star
Deacon Victorino P. Elijio – 2019 Garifuna Shining Star

2019 Founder’s Award
Coro San Miguel

Media Coverage:
Read the full story in The Tablet: Couple Praises God With Music
See Current’s NET TV’s news segment: 2019 Shining Stars: Ghanaian Catholics Lead Hymns of Praise

View the 2019 event photos for Dinner 1 on October 4th, here.
View the 2019 event photos for Dinner 2 on October 11th, here.

Naturalization Workshop Helps New Yorkers Get Closer to Citizenship

Last month Catholic Migration Services partnered with the New Americans Program at the Queens Public Library (QPL) for a free naturalization workshop in Corona. The workshop was open to eligible legal permanent residents interested in applying for citizenship. Pro bono attorneys, paralegals, and volunteers assisted 23 New Yorkers at the Corona Branch. 

To be eligible for future naturalization workshops, legal permanent residents are required to bring the following documents:

  • Green card and all passports
  • Copy of most recent IRS tax return
  • Marriage certificate or divorce papers (if applicable)
  • Certified court dispositions and MTA dispositions (if applicable)

In addition, if legal permanent residents are eligible for a full or partial fee waiver, individuals will need to provide proof of the benefit that you or an immediate family member (spouse or child) are currently receiving. The appropriate evidence must be in the form of a letter, notice, or other official document. If such eligibility applies, legal permanent residents are required to bring the following documents:

  • SNAP (Food Stamp) Award Letter
  • SSI Award Letter
  • Medicaid Award Letter

The July quarterly naturalization workshop with the Queens Public Library is in collaboration with The New Americans Campaign and Citizenship Works.

Catholic Migration Services Secures Release from ICE of Wrongfully Detained Migrant Fleeing Persecution 

The Removal Defense Project (RDP) recently secured the release of a Central American client who was wrongfully detained in an immigration detention center during a routine check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Upon entering the country, ICE made a clear custody determination to release Javier from their custody while placing him under an Order of Supervision. The Order of Supervision required him and his family to routinely check-in with an ICE Deportation Officer. Despite attending his first ICE check-in and fully complying with his order of supervision, on the day of his second check-in ICE arrested and detained Javier without warning or explanation. 

After spending a month in a county jail which ICE uses to detain immigrants, Javier received a bond hearing to request his release from detention before an immigration judge. At the hearing, ICE produced an official document which falsely stated that Javier did not attend his first check-in and that ICE was revoking his order of supervision and detaining him for his failure to attend that check-in. Javier’s Catholic Migration Services’ attorneys objected to ICE’s introduction of that document and provided the Immigration Court with Javier’s testimony and a different ICE document, which both contradicted the document filed by ICE. As a result, the immigration judge found that ICE’s evidence was unreliable and that Javier presented no flight risk. The immigration judge set the minimum bond amount, $1500.00, which was paid by The New York Immigrant Freedom Fund, a non-profit that pays bonds to free low-income New Yorkers from ICE detention.

Javier had sought help from Catholic Migration Services after suffering persecution and fleeing years of violence at the hands of a transnational criminal organization in his Central American country. When he was a child, Javier’s parents moved to the United States, leaving him in his country in the care of his uncle, who was his caretaker and father figure. Around the age of 13, he witnessed members of a transnational criminal organization murder his uncle during a public soccer game. His uncle’s  killers attempted to murder Javier too, cutting him with a machete and shooting at him as he fled. Fearing for his life and without his uncle’s protection, Javier went into hiding in another part of his country. Over the following years, the transnational criminal organization responsible for murdering his uncle and attempting to murder him tracked him down and threatened his life. The final incident occurred in 2018 when men dressed as police officers came to his home where he lived with his partner and their child. The men threatened to burn Javier and his family inside their home if they didn’t leave. Javier believes that these men were members of the same transnational criminal organization collaborating with corrupt police officers. Upon receiving this threat to their lives, Javier and his family fled from their country seeking asylum in the United States. 

While Javier was in detention, his son Kevin* turned five years old. Kevin told his mother that he would not celebrate his birthday without his father, because he wanted the whole family to be there. The week he was released, Javier and his family celebrated Kevin’s birthday.

Javier will continue to pursue his claim for asylum outside of the detention system with Catholic Migration Services as his representatives.

*Although the stories are real, the names have been changed to protect the privacy of our client.