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Update Regarding Office Operations on Behalf of Catholic Migration Services Pertaining to COVID-19

Due to the evolving outbreak pertaining to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) crisis, Catholic Migration Services is limiting office operations to reduce health risks to visitors, staff and volunteers. We understand that we assist clients with sensitive matters. Please be assured that our staff is making all necessary accommodations to proactively work with our community in a way that will not harm our clients. For the health and safety of all, please do not come to our offices unless instructed to do so by a staff member of Catholic Migration Services.

For New Clients
Please be advised that Catholic Migration Services has suspended all new client meetings indefinitely. This means that if you are currently scheduled to meet with a staff member for the first time to obtain legal assistance, please do not come to our office for your appointment. A staff member from Catholic Migration Services will contact all new clients about their individual situations and if we cannot assist you over the phone we will try to reschedule your appointment for a later date.

For Existing Clients
If you are an existing client with Catholic Migration Services and have a scheduled appointment, please do not come to our office unless instructed by one of our staff members. In the meantime, please try to call or email the staff member assisting you.

For Immigration Assistance

For Individuals Seeking Legal Assistance for the First Time
If you are not a client and are calling to make a new appointment, we are not currently scheduling new (in person) appointments. Please be sure to visit our website for more information as it becomes available.

For other immigration matters, consultations for individuals with appointments are being conducted over the telephone. If you are interested in having an initial consultation with one of our attorneys, please call (718) 236-3000 in Brooklyn or (347) 472-3500 in Queens and leave a message. We will return your message and schedule a time with one of our attorneys. If you are an existing client, please reach out to the attorney assigned to your case.

For Citizenship Help
Naturalization eligibility consultations are currently canceled through the first week of April 2020. Current clients may reach out to the naturalization counselor assigned to their cases to determine how to proceed.

For Housing Assistance

Please be advised that Housing Court has been closed since Tuesday, March 17th until further notice, except for emergencies such as illegal lockouts and emergency repairs. Please know that all evictions will be put on hold until further notice. If you are a Queens resident and have questions about evictions, rent or repair issues, pease call (347) 472-3500.

For additional housing assistance, please contact:
Andrew Lehrer, Esq. – ext. 1028
Amy Collado, Tenant Organizer – ext. 1021
Ahren Lahvis, Paralegal – ext. 1027

For Workers’ Rights Assistance

The Coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on workers. While our offices remain physically closed, Catholic Migration Services continues to provide critical legal services to low wage and immigrant workers. In addition to providing advice and legal representation on general employment matters, such as wage theft, we are now also providing advice to workers directly impacted by this pandemic, including those with workplace health and safety concerns and those who have recently lost their jobs. Our hotline is open!

To speak with an attorney, please call (877) 52-LABOR (52267) Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ¡Hablamos Español!  

The safety of our community is our priority at all times. As a result, Catholic Migration Services has suspended all outreach activities including our monthly community meetings in Woodside and has also temporarily closed our Queens office located at 47-01 Queens Boulevard, Suite 203, Sunnyside, NY 11104 until further notice. We encourage vulnerable individuals to exercise caution and stay safe. Thank you for your patience and understanding during this health emergency.

For additional updates, please regularly visit the organization website and social media channels:

www.catholicmigration.org
www.Facebook.com/CMSBQ
www.Twitter.com/CMSBQ
www.Instagram.com/CMSBQ

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/.

 

 

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. 

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP Honored at 5th Annual Sunset Reception

On Thursday, June 13, at the 5th Annual Sunset Reception in Brooklyn, Catholic Migration Services honored Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, recipient of the 2019 Public Service Award for outstanding pro bono work to help New York’s immigrants become U.S. citizens.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP has offered invaluable support to the naturalization efforts of Catholic Migration Services, providing attorneys, paralegals, volunteers, and interns for naturalization workshops.

“With their support, Catholic Migration Services has been able to significantly increase the amount of Legal Permanent Residents we are able to serve. Last year the naturalization team assisted over 600 LPRs”, said Chloe Moore, Naturalization Coordinator. “Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP has helped field over 700 hotline calls, getting in touch with hotline callers, completing a basic preliminary screening for naturalization, and then scheduling them for intake at the offices in Brooklyn and Queens.”

Thank you for supporting the 5th Annual Sunset Reception. It was a successful event that, like in past years have brought together the New York and Brooklyn law communities to help raise funds to enable Catholic Migration Services to carry out its mission of “welcoming the stranger in our midst.” A great opportunity to mix, mingle, and network with a community dedicated to social justice, we hope you will continue to support our work in underserved immigrant communities in Brooklyn and Queens.

[Photos: Catholic Foundation of Brooklyn and Queens]

Thank You to Our Diamond Sponsors!

 

 

Thank You to Our Gold Sponsors!

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP
Cullen and Dykman LLP
Mark & Suzanne Colodny

Thank You to Our Silver Sponsors!

Iannelli Construction Co., Inc.

Thank You to Our Bronze Sponsors!

Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP
Michael J. Holland, Esq. and Patricia Holland
Levy Ratner, P.C.
Moris Duffy Alonso & Faley
Rosato Firm P.C.

The Immigration Conundrum

The issue of immigration reform has caught the attention of our country because of the unfortunate practice of separating children from their parents as they approach the border. Some of the people are seeking asylum or a safe haven escaping difficult situations in their home countries, especially violence and oppression. Others come seeking to improve their economic condition fleeing a life of poverty. In his weekly column Put Out Into the Deep, the Most Reverend Bishop DiMarzio revisits the President’s State of the Union address and the four pillars announced as the necessary elements for immigration reform.

Read the full column in The Tablet: The Immigration Conundrum