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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.

Catholic Migration Services Awarded Combined Grant of $10,320 from The New York Bar Foundation

Foundation Board member Martin Minkowitz, right, presents a grant to V. Rev. Patrick Keating, Esq., CEO of Catholic Migration Services. Photo: Nancy Pardo

Brooklyn, NY – Catholic Migration Services recently received two grants totaling $10,320 from The New York Bar Foundation to facilitate the delivery of direct legal services to eligible tenants and low-wage workers in New York City.  The Catholic Migration Services’ SCRIE/DRIE Legal Services Initiative Program was awarded $5,000 and the Catholic Migration Services’ Immigrant Workers’ Rights Program was awarded $5,320.

The SCRIE/DRIE (Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption and Disability Rent Increase Exemption) Legal Services Initiative Program provided by Catholic Migration Services offers one-on-one consultations and representation to low-income seniors and disabled tenants who may be eligible to obtain exemptions from future rent increases. The Immigrant Workers’ Rights Program works to attain justice for workers who are often marginalized and exploited, and provides workers with the information needed to protect themselves from future employment-based abuse.

“We appreciate the generosity of the New York Bar Foundation as they continue to support Catholic Migration Services’ SCRIE/DRIE Legal Services Initiative Program and the Workers’ Rights Program,” said Very Reverend Patrick J. Keating, Esq., Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Migration Services. “The awarded grants will help us continue to serve low-income seniors and disabled tenants to avoid unaffordable rent increases, retain their rent-stabilized apartments, prevent homelessness, preserve affordable housing units, stabilize neighborhoods during times of intense gentrification, and also increase the provision of services to low-wage workers, primarily workers who experience wage theft.”

 “The New York Bar Foundation has allocated nearly $700,000 in grants to more than 85 programs across New York significantly increasing the total dollar amount of grants over the past several years,” said Lucia Whisenand, chair of the Grant Review Committee. “The issues we touch on are extensive and impact people in life changing ways.”

Since 1971 Catholic Migration Services has been providing high quality legal services and Know Your Rights education to low-income individuals in Brooklyn and Queens. Catholic Migration Services currently assists immigrants with immigration legal services, tenants in Queens with housing legal services, and low-wage workers with employment legal services. For more information about the SCRIE/DRIE Legal Services Initiative Program, the Immigrants Workers’ Rights Program, and other services, visit our website at www.catholicmigration.org. 

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

Workers’ Rights Program Reaches $33,000 Settlement for Domestic Worker in Wage Theft and Harassment Suit

The Workers’ Rights Program won a $33,000.00 settlement for a domestic worker in a case brought under the New York State Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, which guarantees basic workplace protections for domestic workers.

Our client, a Mexican national worked as a nanny and domestic worker for over six years. During that time she suffered significant minimum wage and overtime violations, as well as verbal abuse and sexual harassment at the hands of her employer. Catholic Migration Services litigated the case in Queens County Supreme Court with assistance from co-counsel from LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and reached a settlement shortly before trial in April. 

In the words of our client, “I feel very fortunate that I met the lawyers at Catholic Migration Services. They helped me and defended my rights. I am very grateful.” Catholic Migration Services also helped the client obtain a T visa, as a victim of labor trafficking. The visa was approved in September 2017 and will allow her to remain in the United States with work authorization for up to four years, and to apply for permanent residency after three years. 

‘Expedited removal’ policy could affect Queens residents

On Tuesday, the current administration expanded an already existing “expedited removal” policy that could affect thousands of undocumented residents in Queens who may be subject to rapid deportation proceedings without a court appearance. Alexandra Goncalves-Peña, Managing Attorney with the Immigration Program at Catholic Migration Services spoke to the Queens Daily Eagle about the expansion and what this could mean for undocumented immigrants in Queens.

Read the full story in the Queens Daily Eagle: ‘Expedited removal’ policy could affect Queens residents