Diocese announces educational campaign on policy changes for immigrants

21 Nov 2014

The Diocese of Metuchen will embark on an educational campaign to create a better awareness and understanding of the immigration policy changes announced by President Barack Obama Nov. 20 and explain what it will mean for many immigrant residents of the counties served by the diocese – Middlesex, Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren. To kick off this initiative, information sessions will be held in various locations throughout the four-county diocese beginning next week.

The first immigration information sessions for Spanish-speaking residents in the Greater New Brunswick area will be held Tues., Nov. 25 at 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. at Catholic Charities’ Unity Square Community Center, 81 Remsen Ave., New Brunswick. The consecutive sessions will feature a presentation by Catholic Charities, Diocese of Metuchen’s immigration legal services staff, delivered in Spanish.

A second outreach event will take place Thurs., Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. at in the cafeteria of Lord Stirling Community School, 101 Redmond St., New Brunswick.

Additional information sessions are being planned throughout December; as details become available, information will be posted on both the Diocese of Metuchen and Catholic Charities, Diocese of Metuchen official websites, diometuchen.org and www.ccdom.org.

The diocese’s announcement came less than 24 hours after President Obama’s televised public address announcing his intention to take definitive measures to shield up to 5 million immigrants, who currently are living illegally in the U.S., from deportation. There are approximately 11.3 million estimated unauthorized immigrants in this country; therefore, the president’s executive order would leave about 6.3 unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. – more than half – unaffected.

The Most Reverend Paul. G. Bootkoski, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Metuchen, said he is “most thankful for the president’s bold decision to provide administrative relief for many immigrants in the absence of legislation, despite the fact that comprehensive reform has not yet been fully achieved.”

The bishop encouraged those who live and work in Middlesex, Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren counties to join him in celebrating progress while praying for a continuation of dialogue among lawmakers that will result in a permanent solution to help rebuild the country’s broken immigration system.

“With the president’s landmark announcement on the steps he will take in the area of immigration reform, it seems we are definitely moving in the right direction,” said Bishop Bootkoski. “As a nation, we can only hope and pray that, over time, our Congressmen and women will reach an agreement on a permanent and long-term solution regarding comprehensive immigration reform in this country, which remains so sorely needed.

“Until that time comes, we can and should rejoice in this news that up to 5 million of our brothers and sisters, who have been forced to ‘live in the shadows’ for fear of deportation, may have a chance to remain here with their families as law-abiding and hard-working people and that, ultimately, all may be able to obtain a fair and just pathway to citizenship in this country.”

Bishop Bootkoski noted that, just this past Sunday, Pope Francis addressed a crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square, calling for dialogue on immigration and imploring civil institutions “to take up as a priority what has now become a social emergency.”

“The important thing is to not give into the temptation to confrontation … [and also] to reject all violence,” the pope said. “It is possible to dialogue, to listen to one another, to make plans together, and in this way to overcome suspicion and prejudice, and to build a coexistence that is ever more secure, peaceful, and inclusive.”

Marianne Majewski, executive director of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Metuchen, said it was fitting that the President in his address evoked the words of Exodus: ‘Do not oppress the stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger -- you too once were strangers in the land of Egypt.’

“At Catholic Charities we welcome the stranger, and will do so with renewed passion and vigor in this exciting time for our communities,” said Majewski. “Through our Immigration Program, we will reach out to educate our immigrant communities about these policy changes. When the time comes for those newly eligible to apply, we will provide high-quality legal representation to low-income families.”

Through information sessions, written materials and other resources, Catholic Charities will seek to inform the immigrant community within the Diocese of Metuchen about the president’s changes and instruct them about how to prepare for the eventual application process.

These community outreach efforts will focus especially on the newly-authorized process of Deferred Action for Parents (DAP) of U.S.-citizen and legal permanent resident children.

Provided that they have been in the U.S. for at least five years, pay their taxes, and have not committed any serious crimes, DAP will provide eligible parents a work permit and protection from deportation.

As the application process for DAP will likely not open until approximately six months from now, Catholic Charities will inform potential applicants on how they can prepare for a future application.

It will also warn immigrant communities about the potential for fraud and scams by “notarios” and other groups and individuals neither qualified nor authorized to practice immigration law.

Catholic Charities’ Immigration Services Program is formally recognized by the federal Board of Immigration Appeals, and its legal staff possess proper federal accreditation. The Program sees close to 2,000 immigration clients per year.

Once the application process is announced by the federal government in 2015, Catholic Charities will represent low-income clients throughout the diocese in filing their DAP applications.

Potential clients are urged not to call the phone lines or visit the offices of Catholic Charities’ immigration offices in the coming days. Rather, those who are interested in knowing more about the application process should follow the websites of the Diocese of Metuchen (diometuchen.org) and Catholic Charities (www.ccdom.org) for the latest news, and schedules of informational sessions as they are confirmed.