New York Church Reaffirms Commitment to Migrants During Influx

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As Cardinal Dolan and other archdiocesan officials gave a media briefing on the recent influx of migrants to New York, Gregory Jose Gonzalez looked on with immense gratitude for the moral, logistical and basic-needs support he and his family have been receiving from the Church in New York.

“We are greatly thankful for all this support; we’re moving forward little by little, thanks to all the  support from the Church,” Gonzalez, 25, a recent migrant from Venezuela, told Catholic New York in Spanish moments before the Aug. 16 morning briefing on the sidewalk outside the New York Catholic Center in Manhattan.

The cardinal and Catholic Charities officials met with some of the migrant families inside the Catholic Center before the briefing, including the Gonzalez family. Gonzalez was with his wife Erneisbel, 20, and their 1-year-old daughter, Valentina.

Mrs. Gonzalez noted, “We are very grateful; we have no resources and we have no work. We don’t yet have the documents we need in order to work.” They arrived in New York from Texas in early August. 

During the media briefing, officials and case workers with archdiocesan Catholic Charities said they have drastically stepped up efforts to assist new arrivals given the influx stemming from huge numbers of migrants being sent from Texas and Arizona to immigration sanctuary cities, including New York. That assistance ranges from food and clothing to referrals for city shelters and legal assistance. 

They noted that border patrol agents have been giving many migrants the New York Catholic Center address and other Catholic Charities sites as starting points upon arriving in New York.

“The notices to appear and hearing notices have been improperly addressed by government officials at the Southern Border. To date (New York) Catholic Charities has received over 300 notices to appear,” said Maryann Tharappel, a lead immigration attorney with archdiocesan Catholic Charities, during the briefing.

“These are not residential addresses. They are not able to accommodate these immigrants, and worse, the government is assuming that these are addresses where (the new immigrants) can receive mail.” She later said Catholic Charities has been seeking to rectify the situation, without success so far.

Cardinal Dolan, speaking to reporters, said, “I am really grateful for your company today. I’ve never been more proud or more grateful for Catholic Charities and the archdiocese than now, to see that once again they have risen to an occasion of need and of urgency…

“I visited with some of our newly arrived families; we love them and we welcome them. They’ve just been through turmoil, some of them for months, walking from Colombia and Venezuela.” 

The cardinal noted that the families expressed to him “immense gratitude to New York City, to the United States of America, to the Church which they love and which they tell me has helped them all along the way.

“We try to see with the eyes of Jesus. He’s the one who said to us: when I was a stranger, when I was an immigrant, you welcomed me. So that’s our perspective, seeing in these people the image and the likeness of God.”

Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of archdiocesan Catholic Charities, noted that asylum seekers were “fleeing violence, persecution, poverty in their own countries, to seek safety, protection and opportunity in the United States.”

“This pastoral and humanitarian presence continues the Church’s tradition and commitment to stand with those in threatening and dangerous situations…In the past six weeks alone, more than 1,500 men, women and children have arrived suddenly and unexpectedly at our doorsteps…Our staff is strained; they have sacrificed.” 

Msgr. Sullivan expressed gratitude to Catholic Charities’ staff and volunteers for their dedicated efforts, as well as those of agency partners and donors and city officials and staffers for “their willingness to step up in this crisis.”

Also speaking was Marianna Duenas, a case manager with Catholic Charities Social Services, who noted, “It is not only the services that we provide; it’s how we embrace each one of them, with hope.”

A newly arrived asylum seeker named Jennifer told reporters in the briefing that after her hard journey from her native Venezuela, “I first give thanks to God,” for the all the help she has received from the Catholic Charities, thanking Him for Ms. Duenas, “this beautiful human being,” and all the dedicated Catholic Charities staffers and volunteers.

After the briefing, a man in his 20s named Leonardo told CNY that he and his wife were mourning their 3-year-old son, who drowned last December as the family was crossing a river in Panama during the early part of their journey from their native Venezuela to the United States.

With Leonardo and his wife was their 1-year-old daughter; the family arrived in New York in June. Now living in a Brooklyn shelter, they were outside the New York Catholic Center shortly after the media briefing took place, awaiting additional logistical instructions from Catholic Charities.

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