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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.

Tenant Protections Backed by Catholic Migration Services Passed by Lawmakers in Historic Rent Regulations Deal

Last month, the New York State Legislature passed a historic package of rent regulations called The Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019 that will strengthen and restore a series of important rent laws that were weakened over the course of 20 years. The Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019 (“the Act”), signed into law days after lawmakers reached a deal, will preserve the affordability of about one million regulated apartments in New York City.

For Catholic Migration Services and its allies, this is a win that was years in the making. The Act addresses an affordable housing crisis caused in part by rollbacks of tenant protections, and by certain landlords who exploited loopholes and weak laws to put profit before tenants. 

Catholic Migration Services, joined by coalition partners and tenants alike, advocated for years on behalf of New Yorkers to restore equity amid this statewide housing crisis. Carlos Ortiz, Tenant Organizer with the Tenant Advocacy Program picked up as lead organizer at Catholic Migration Services for this initiative shortly after the 2016 laws expired. It was during that time that he and other organizers at Catholic Migration Services began to get into campaign mode to mobilize tenants in need of housing reform. After a statewide coalition was formed joining advocates throughout New York State, they began to strategize and mobilize.

According to Ortiz, “Queens experienced one of the greatest mobilizations in the effort, and Catholic Migration Services was a big part of that. We consistently brought people from the borough, and dedicated tenant leaders who were part of the planning and strategy meetings sacrificed their time, and that of their families.” 

New York tenants were kept abreast about these efforts through coordinated forums, community meetings, public platforms, rallies, and press conferences organized by partner organizations and coalition members. The rollback and new set of laws makes it much easier for tenants and their advocates, removing obstacles, and closing some loopholes that oftentimes threatened the homes and stability of New Yorkers. For Ortiz and other advocates, the historic legislation is a great step in the right direction but there is still work to be done, especially the elimination of the existing Major Capital Improvement (MCI) provisions that contain a loophole through which certain landlords can continue to increase rents dramatically and unfairly.  

Catholic Migration Services is a unique legal service provider in the community. In addition to providing high quality legal assistance and Know Your Rights education to low-income individuals, Catholic Migration Services assists immigrants with immigration legal services, tenants in Queens with housing legal services, and low-wage workers with employment legal services. The staff includes attorneys and organizers.  “We help solve problems from a legal position and in other good ways that are needed,” said Andrew Lehrer, Managing Attorney for the Tenant Advocacy Program. “There is value in having organizers and involving the client community. “It’s remarkable what tenants were able to achieve by coming together to advocate for these reforms,” said Lehrer.

Read the full press release from Assemblymember’s Office here: Assembly Passes Historic Affordable Housing Protections to Bring Stability to Tenants Across New York State

Attorney General James and Governor Cuomo Announce Lawsuit Against Queens Landlord for Violating Rent Stabilization Laws And Tenant Harassment

Earlier this month Attorney General Letitia James and Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a lawsuit against Zara Realty Holding Corp., its principals, and affiliated entities for repeatedly violating rent stabilization laws and harassing tenants at their Queens apartment buildings. The defendants, who own and manage at least 2,500 rent-stabilized apartments in 38 buildings in and around Jamaica, Queens, have taken advantage of their tenants, who are largely immigrant middle- and low-income families, by charging them illegal fees and rents, and requiring that they sign illegal leases.

The complaint, filed in New York State Supreme Court, alleges that Zara Realty has spent years evading and circumventing rent stabilization laws in order to scam tenants out of thousands upon thousands of dollars. Zara Realty often illegally demands and charges new tenants illegal key money, room reservation fees, advanced rent, and excessive security deposits. Tenants who continue to reside in Zara Realty buildings are often illegally charged late fees and fees for services to which they are entitled to for free such as regular apartment maintenance.

For years, Catholic Migration Services has represented Queens tenants who have fallen victim to the harassment and unscrupulous tactics of Zara Realty. Providing legal, advocacy and organizing resources, Catholic Migration Services continues to combat predatory landlords and represents low-income New Yorkers living in Queens free of charge.

Read the full press release from the New York Attorney General’s Office: Attorney General James and Governor Cuomo Announce Lawsuit Against Queens Landlord for Violating Rent Stabilization Laws And Tenant Harassment

Nunca es tarde para que un inmigrante aplique por la ciudadanía

Durante el reciente taller de naturalización el pasado 9 de Marzo junto al Abogados de Nueva York para el Interés Público (New York Lawyers for the Public Interest/NYLPI en inglés), Servicios Católicos de Migración ayudaron Residentes Legales Permanentes con sus aplicaciones para solicitar la ciudadanía estadounidense. En este taller, ambos organizaciones contaron con la participación de voluntarios y intérpretes de Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP; Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, y Goldman Sachs. Tilda, una clienta de Servicios Católicos de Migración comparta su experiencia y como llegó a conocer la organización y sus servicios.

Lea la historia completa en El Diario: Nunca es tarde para que un inmigrante aplique por la ciudadanía

Unity Through Christ on Migration Day

On Saturday, December 1st the faithful of the Diocese of Brooklyn gathered for the Annual Diocesan Migration Day Mass at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph. Immigrants from Brooklyn and Queens celebrated the richness of their faith and diversity dressed in traditional attire and carrying banners from their respective countries and home parishes. It was truly a multicultural experience for those in attendance.

Media Coverage:
Read the full story in The Tablet: Unity Through Christ on Migration Day
See Current’s NET TV’s news segment: Migration Day Mass