To implement the Church’s commitment to social justice and her emphasis on “Welcoming the Stranger,” the mission of Hogar Immigrant Services is to offer a wide range of services at little or no cost to a vulnerable immigrant population, without regard to religious or ethnic identity. These services include but are not limited to, immigration legal services, naturalization assistance, citizenship classes, and English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. Our aim is to assist newcomers to achieve their own goals of integrating successfully into American society, to work collegially with other social service organizations, and to do so in a supportive, welcoming, and professional manner.  We accomplish this through the continued generosity of our donors and through the dedicated service of our well-trained staff and volunteers.

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By Jeannette Ynfante, Staff Attorney, Hogar Immigrant Services

Pope Francis once said that “the Church without frontiers, Mother to all, spreads throughout the world a culture of acceptance and solidarity, in which no one is seen as useless, out of place, or disposable.” This is a reminder that the Gospel calls us to welcome the stranger.  It is with this in mind that Hogar Immigrant Services has undertaken to respond to the increasing needs of the most vulnerable in the immigrant community during these times of change and uncertainty.

Hogar Immigrant Services is supporting the immediate and long-term needs of immigrant communities affected by the new immigration policy shift. Anyone who has entered the country, whether escaping harm or seeking to be reunited with family members, is potentially a priority for removal from the United States.

Community members listen to a Know Your Rights presentation.

Hogar Immigrant Services has taken a number of steps to help the immigrant community throughout the Diocese.  These steps are based on principles and values that reflect Catholic teachings and that respond to God’s call to serve the neediest among us and to recognize the face of Christ in every human being.

Hogar Immigrant Services has been providing Know Your Rights Presentations (“KYR Presentations”) in many churches throughout the Diocese.  During these KYR Presentations, Hogar attorneys, staff, and volunteers provide the immigrant community with information about their constitutional rights in the United States. They learn that the fundamental constitutional protections of due process and equal protection embodied in the Constitution and Bill of Rights apply to every person, regardless of immigration status.  More specifically, the immigrant community learns that everyone, including undocumented individuals, has basic rights that can be asserted when approached by law enforcement or immigration officials.  Such as the right to remain silent and the right to retain an attorney.

The need for these presentations is ever increasing and ever so important.  To date, Hogar has conducted 8 KYR Presentations at Catholic churches throughout the Diocese, with as many as 200 people in attendance.

Hogar has also responded to the immediate need of the immigrant community by conducting a series of legal screening workshops in Manassas and in Alexandria to screen undocumented individuals to determine if they are eligible for immigration relief.  As a result of this series of legal screening workshops, Hogar screened 176 participants.  Of those 176 participants, 156 individuals were eligible for some form of immigration relief under the law.  That’s 88 percent!  These 156 individuals were unaware of their potential eligibility for some form of relief until they were able to consult with an immigration attorney during those workshops.  These numbers are crucial in demonstrating the impact of having legal counsel.  Even just a 60-90 minute consultation with an attorney can be life-changing.  Many of these individuals had never had a consult with an attorney before and were unaware that they qualified for certain forms of relief that would allow them to remain legally in the United States if pursued.  Some of the forms of relief identified include, but are not limited to, withholding of removal, asylum, U-visa, and special immigrant juvenile status.  This shows that access to legal representation has profound impacts on the lives of immigrants and their families.

Clients at a Naturalization Workshop make the steps to become full U.S. Citizens.

Additionally, and despite limited resources, Hogar and other legal aid providers are mobilizing to provide free consultations on Saturdays in order reach a wider net of non-citizens who are living in the United States without authorization.  As a part of this effort, Hogar attorneys, alongside Ayuda, Legal Aid Justice Center, and volunteer immigration attorneys, joined forces to conduct two consultation clinics in April and May.  In these clinics, individuals speak to attorneys who evaluate their cases, explain their rights, and determine their eligibility for various forms of relief.

The gospel’s call of welcoming and helping the stranger is louder each day, and Hogar’s services and recent activities prove that a difference can be made by those who respond to the gospel’s call.  It is humankind that can and should spread a culture of acceptance and solidarity, where no human being – documented or undocumented – feels out of place or disposable in our community.

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With that in mind, if you or anyone you know would like to become involved in our efforts to keep the immigrant community informed, you may contact us at volunteerhogar@ccda.net or by 571-208-1572.

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