Archdiocese Offers Lifelines to Immigrant New Yorkers Entangled in Border Crisis


Archdiocesan Catholic Charities has protocols in place to respond to the crisis at the border of the United States and Mexico created from the surge of adults, children and families fleeing Central America, and for those facing threats of deportation.

The Catholic Church and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York are “at the center of being a welcoming place” to the United States, and have been for more than a century, said Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of archdiocesan Catholic Charities.

“We now continue that role,” Msgr. Sullivan said.

He was speaking via a telephone briefing his office held June 28 with colleagues in the archdiocese who provide outreach to immigrants and refugees through offices and entities, including the Office for Hispanic Ministry. Catholic New York also took part in the 30-minute conference call.

Msgr. Sullivan explained at the beginning of the call he had asked Mario Russell, director of Immigration and Refugee Services for Catholic Charities, and Russell’s staff, “to activate once more some of the protocols that we have in place so that at a minimum we can provide some respite, some emergency assistance, should any of our Catholic Charities, our parishes, our schools, agencies and ministries, encounter an emergency situation that is there.”

Many need help, with Msgr. Sullivan citing children in Catholic Charities’ preventative and foster care services, those coming to food pantries, families learning English, and families in need of counseling and after-school programs.

“They are replete with immigrants,” he added, noting their needs extend beyond legal services, “although at this time they are critically important and, in some ways, up to the forefront of what many families need.”

Msgr. Sullivan thanked those on the line for the work they are doing, “understanding the volatility of what’s going on.”

Russell, also in the briefing, said, “These are incredibly challenging times for immigrants...Arrests and deportations are up…Judges and administrators are instructed to limit people’s relief in court, asylum, threats really at the border and the interior continue, and as we know…most recently, children and families separated, and that’s just in the last year.”

In a follow-up call by CNY, Russell said the need for legal services is among the most imminent queries to the New York State New Americans hotline. A project of archdiocesan Catholic Charities Community Services and the New York State Office for New Americans, the hotline provides general information and referrals on immigration-related questions and other social services available to immigrants.

The calls come from those seeking asylum, and those seeking immigration assistance for their family, or from those who do not have legal status but are seeking a lawyer to help them regularize their status.

Charities is mobilizing its own resources, Russell said, “to assess how best to access” those families and individuals and “get a sense of the scope of needs.” It is mobilizing to partner with law firms “to work with us as we train them and supervise them to enter into the holding detention facilities,” essentially jails, where people who have been arrested in the New York area or who have been transferred from the border are being placed, “and provide the kind of support that is necessary there.”

Having met with a number who have been detained, Russell described them, collectively, as “confused, disoriented, depressed, incredibly scared and incredibly anxious, whether it’s because they’ve left somebody behind on the border or because they have no idea where they are. They might have been flown to Newark Airport in the middle of the night from El Paso and they were on their way to Seattle. There’s no logic for why they end up in New York.

“It’s just across the board anxiety, confusion, dislocation in the real sense of the word, and also a sense of gratitude and resignation to at least be in the hands of somebody to the extent that that’s going to help.”