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Immigration Update Pertaining to Recent Changes to the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (LRIFA) of 2019

On December 20, 2019 the United States Congress passed a new law as part of the Liberian Refugee Immigration Act (LRIFA) in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that allows certain Liberian nationals the opportunity to file for permanent residence in the United States. 

The deadline for eligible individuals to apply is December 20, 2020.

Who is Eligible to Apply?

Liberian nationals who have been “continuously present” in the United States from November 20, 2014 up to the date of submitting an application, or the spouses, children, unmarried sons or daughters of such a person.  Applicants must meet the following requirements in order to apply: 

  • Be a national of Liberia;
  • Be continuously physically present in the United States from November 20, 2014 to the date of the filing of their application (Note: this physical presence requirement does not apply to spouses, children, or unmarried sons or daughters of the principal applicant) ;
  • Be eligible for an immigrant visa; and
  • Be admissible to the United States for lawful permanent residence or eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility or other form of relief.

A licensed immigration attorney or accredited immigration counselor can explain these eligibility requirements and whether you may be eligible to apply.

If you believe you may be eligible to apply for residency under this act, please contact Catholic Migration Services to schedule an appointment in Brooklyn at (718) 236-3000 or in Queens at (347) 472-3500.

Catholic Migration Services will continue to update information in the near future to reflect any further changes. All are encouraged to visit our website for future updates, training sessions and workshops.

Download this immigration update as a PDF.

Immigration Update Pertaining to Recent Changes in Federal Immigration Policy Regarding the “Public Charge” Rule

Presione aquí para la versión en Español
Peze la pou tradui nan Kreyol Ayisyen

Last month Catholic Migration Services notified the community of a potential change to the “Public Charge” rule that would have impacted who can enter the U.S. and who would have been eligible for a green card.

Catholic Migration Services would like to inform the immigrant community, that in a huge victory for our immigrant communities, on October 11, 2019 a U.S. District Court Judge in New York issued a nationwide injunction against the Trump administration’s “Public Charge” rule. This means that the new “Public Charge” rule, which was to go into effect on October 15, 2019, is now blocked from going forward. Additionally, this means that for now individuals applying for green cards and filing family based petitions are not currently affected by the new rule. It is almost certain that the legal fight will continue, but, for now, the rules applying to the “Public Charge” determination within the United States have not changed.

Catholic Migration Services will continue to update information in the near future to reflect any further changes. All are encouraged to visit our website for future updates, training sessions and workshops.

For Free Help
All immigrants who may apply for an immigration benefit in the future should seek advice about whether receipt of public benefits may impact their ability to apply for that future benefit. For free assistance, call the New Americans Hotline at 1 (800) 566-7636 between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday to Friday.

If you have any questions or concerns, please call Catholic Migration Services Monday through Friday between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. at (718) 236-3000 or (347) 472-3500.

Download this immigration update as a PDF.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: Changes to the “Public Charge” Test Will Impact Who Can Enter the U.S. and Who Will be Eligible for a Green Card

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Peze la pou tradui nan Kreyol Ayisyen

For some immigrants, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) will consider whether an immigrant is likely to become a “public charge” when it reviews the immigrant’s request for a visa or green card. A “public charge” is someone who may rely on public benefits for a significant period of time. If USCIS determines an immigrant is likely to become a public charge, it may deny an immigrant’s entry into the United States or their green card application.

The Trump administration recently issued new rules that redefine the term “public charge” in a way that will result in many more people being denied entry or a green card. The new rules will go into effect October 15, 2019 unless legal challenges stop or delay them. It is important for immigrants to understand whether they might be impacted by these new rules.

Catholic Migration Services would like to inform the immigrant community that the new public charge rules does not mean everyone should stop receiving any public benefits that they need for their family. Therefore, before withdrawing from any public benefits you are currently receiving, we encourage you to speak with a trusted immigration attorney.

The New Rule – Who it Applies To:

  • You and your family are green card holders The new public charge rules do not affect you unless you leave the country for more than 6 months.
  • You are in the U.S. and plan to apply for a green card or visa The new public charge rules may affect you.  You should speak with an immigration lawyer to learn more about the possible impact.
  • You or your family plans to apply for a green card or visa from outside the U.S. The new public charge rules may affect you.  You should speak with an immigration lawyer to learn more about the possible impact.
  • You are already a U.S. citizen, DACA recipient, U or T Visa holder, TPS holder, or have SIJS status, or have status as an asylee or refugee, or are applying for any of these statuses  The new rules do not affect you.  Benefits you receive while in this status will not be counted against you in the future if you apply for a green card.

If the new rules affect you, USCIS may count it against you if you use any of the following benefits for a lengthy period: Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), state general relief or general assistance, Medicaid institutionalization for long-term care, non-emergency Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, and public housing.

The government will not consider receipt of the following types of benefits when determining public charge: emergency medical assistance, disaster relief, national school lunch or school breakfast programs, foster care or adoption, Head Start, Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP), WIC, the Earned Income Tax Credit, or the Child Tax Credit.

For Free Help
All immigrants who may apply for an immigration benefit in the future should seek advice about whether receipt of public benefits may impact their ability to apply for that future benefit.  For free assistance, call the New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636 between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Download this advisory as a PDF.

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. 

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: What to do if you are apprehended or detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents

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Peze la pou tradui nan Kreyol Ayisyen

Last month, President Trump announced that some 2,000 immigrant families with prior removal orders would be apprehended and detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in 10 cities throughout the United States. Although it is unclear whether these raids will happen and if so, when, it is important for you to remember that all people have rights in the United States, irrespective of their immigration status and that they can assert these rights. If you believe you may be subject to arrest and detention by ICE we urge you not to panic but to be well prepared.

If ICE raids occur, keep in mind the following points:

  • If you have had prior interaction with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or have a case before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) in the past and are unsure whether you have a prior removal order, call the Immigration Court Hotline at: 1-800-898-7180 to find out. Make sure you have your A-number on hand. This is an automated answering system so you do not have to speak with an actual person.
  • Create a Safety Plan and Identify Emergency Contacts: Put together a folder in which to place important information including, among other things: Birth certificates of your children born abroad and in the United States; marriage certificates; your children’s school information; medical and pharmaceutical records for yourself and any of your dependents; copies of old work authorization documents issued to you by the USCIS; copies of applications for immigration relief filed with the Immigration Court or the USCIS as well as any documents given to you by the immigration court, USCIS, or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Also include a list of emergency contacts who can be reached in the event you are taken into custody. If you are working with an attorney currently or have worked with one in the past include their contact information as well. If you can, memorize your emergency contact and attorney’s phone numbers. Share these documents and contact information with a trusted friend or relative.
  • Be Prepared: If you entered the United States without proper documentation and you have resided in the United States for over two years, include the following documents proving that you have lived in the United States for the last 2 years in your folder: Medical records for you and your children; bank statements; receipts; utility bills (including though not limited to telephone, electric, and cable bills); apartment lease agreements; medical insurance information; money transfer receipts (e.g., Sigue or Western Union); any correspondence in your name received while residing in the United States; pictures of you with a date and time stamp taken in the United States in front of notable landmarks (e.g., the Statue of Liberty, the White House, the Brooklyn Bridge, etc.); and any document clearly dated that includes your name or address in the United States. Please remember: All of these documents need to include your name and must be clearly dated. Share these documents and contact information with a trusted friend or relative.
  • Provide your child’s school or daycare with your emergency contact’s name and phone number and provide authorization for the emergency contact to pick up your child.
  • Remain Silent: This right applies to all individuals in the United States no matter their immigration status. You do not have to answer any questions or show any documents to an immigration officer.
  • Do Not Open Doors: ICE cannot come into your home without a warrant signed by a federal judge. Ask for a judicial warrant to be slid under the door. Any document issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does not authorize ICE to enter your home.
  • Do Not Sign Anything: In the event you are arrested and detained by ICE do not sign anything given to you by ICE officers before reviewing it with your attorney.
  • Record and Report: If you witness a raid, take note of what happened during the incident. If at all possible do this from a safe distance while not interfering with the enforcement action. Take note of where the arrest took place, what time of day it took place, how many officers were involved, how many people were taken into custody, and if children were present during the arrest.

Please make all reports to the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs at reportraids@moia.nyc.gov.

For immediate emergency assistance, please contact the New Sanctuary Coalition Rapid Response Lines at (903) 884-HELP (4357) and (908) 791-5309.

For help obtaining legal assistance in New York State:

  • Office of New Americans hotline at: 1-800-566-7636
  • Action NYC at: 1-800-354-0365

Please review the following Know Your Rights materials from our allies at:
Rapid Response Toolkit, CLINIC
Know Your Rights Cards, CLINIC
Immigrant Defense Project
New Sanctuary Coalition
American Immigration Lawyers Association

For help obtaining legal representation in New York State, contact the Office of New Americans hotline at 1-800-566-7636.
For immediate emergency assistance, please contact the New Sanctuary Coalition Rapid Response Lines at (903) 884-HELP (4357) and (908) 791-5309.

Download this advisory as a PDF.