Acting on concerns over human rights, archdiocesan Catholic Charities is participating in a pilot program to assist asylum seekers from the U.S. Southern border with social, legal and case management services that will complement their arrival in New York.
The program, called “The Border Is Everywhere,” is headed by Catholic Charities USA in partnership with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network and Catholic Charities of Oregon. The humanitarian crisis on the border has garnered national and international attention in the past few years.
CCUSA, based in Alexandria, Va., implemented the program in the summer, and in early October CCNY began assisting asylum seekers registered with the program network.
Mario Russell, director of Catholic Charities New York’s Immigrant and Refugee Services, said last week that his office has been in contact with 18 families referred to New York City through The Border Is Everywhere program, with the first ones arriving in early October.
Russell said that Catholic Charities’ resettlement team has begun working directly with 11 of the families, providing services that include case management, transportation, education and health care support, housing and legal referrals.
Russell said that CCNY estimates it will assist more than 75 families in the program by next summer. This would be in addition to the many asylum seekers that Catholic Charities New York helps on a regular basis, he explained.
Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities New York, said, “Families arriving at the southern border of the United States find it extremely difficult to seek the assistance and resources they need before they are referred to a new and unfamiliar city. Catholic Charities will help every step along the journey to New York City.”
Msgr. Sullivan added that CCNY “is proud to assist those seeking asylum and grateful for The Border Is Everywhere program. We thank Catholic Charities USA for their coordination and vision in creating this initiative.”
A statement from Catholic Charities New York said the program “serves as the first-of-its kind national effort to ensure asylum seekers and their families are properly referred from border communities to an interior city destination, and there receive ongoing social service support, including access to legal services.
Kat Kelley, director of strategic initiatives for Catholic Charities of Oregon, writing in Charities USA, the magazine of Catholic Charities USA, said, “Images of unaccompanied minors in massive congregate shelters and young families traumatized and weary after crossing multiple international borders, often on foot, have rightly horrified any supporter of human rights the world over.”
To better coordinate and improve “the extremely limited services” provided to asylum seekers in the interior, the lead program partners sought to “create and implement a service network unique to the needs and experiences of asylum-seeking families and individuals,” the Charities USA article noted.
Many asylum seekers leaving detention on the border pass through Catholic Charities humanitarian respite centers, where they receive food, clothing, showers and basic health care.
Organizers said that while immediate humanitarian support in respite centers is essential to the well-being of asylum seekers in their first days in their new country, “it is imperative that asylum advocates and allies recognize the enormous challenges faced by asylum seekers as they enter their next step in the asylum process in communities around the country.”
In New York, case managers with Catholic Charities Community Services’ Immigrant and Refugee Services are working with clients to assess their relocation and transitional needs and legal needs related to their immigration cases.
Three social work interns from Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service, overseen by a CCCS case manager, are guiding asylum seekers to available housing resources, food security programs, school enrollment, health care benefits and other support and social services that can help them better integrate into their new communities.