Catholic Charities provides immigration legal services as part of its mission to “serve the community to in turn serve the vulnerable.” The agency welcomes the stranger as the only Refugee Resettlement Agency in southwestern Ohio, through the Su Casa Hispanic Center and now with the Immigration Legal Services Department.
Immigration legal services are provided to people of all ages and nationalities. Clients may be:
- family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents
- facing deportation
- applying/renewing applications for (DACA) Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
- victims of human trafficking
- asylum seekers
- anyone seeking naturalization
Services provided include: adjustment of status, deportation defense, family-based visa petitions, naturalization, humanitarian relief, and deferred action.
Know Your Rights
Immigration is a timely topic right now. Do you know what to do if you or a friend encounters immigration law enforcement officers? If they knock on your door, do you open it immediately? Watch this “Know Your Rights” video prepared by an immigration attorney from Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Washington. She provides helpful advice for anyone unsure of their rights. Some examples of your rights in the United States are:
- Right to a fair wage for work performed
- Right to safe, clean working conditions
- Right to be silent when interacting with law enforcement
- Right to refuse law enforcement to enter your dwelling
- Right to consult with an attorney
Workshops and Clinics
Every quarter, Catholic Charities hosts clinics for refugees seeking green cards and those seeking DACA permits. Call 513-672-3746 for the next clinic or workshop date.
How to ….
It’s easy to change your address online with USCIS and Immigration Court. Also, you can check the status of your application with USCIS and find a Civil Surgeon near year online. Check out these websites and phone numbers:
- Change your address with US Citizenship and Immigration Services: https://www.uscis.gov/addresschange
- Change your address with Immigration Court: https://www.justice.gov/eoir/form-eoir-33-eoir-immigration-court-listing
- Check status of application pending with USCIS: https://egov.uscis.gov/casestatus/landing.do
- Find a Civil Surgeon near you: https://my.uscis.gov/findadoctor
- Questions on pending applications/petitions: US Citizenship and Immigration Services – 1-800-375-5283 (must have case receipt notice and applicant present)
- Immigration Court case-specific information: Case Inquiry Line – 1-800-898-7180 (must have A#)
Other useful websites are the U.S. Department of State, https://travel.state.gov/content/travel.html, for information on coming to the United States as a foreign national and information on navigating the National Visa Center and applications for visas at the U.S. Consulates. The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) provides information on the Immigration Courts and immigration legal system.
“We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners,” Pope Francis told Congress in 2015. “I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants.”
Long Journey to Citizenship
He had no choice. He feared for his life.
Located in the Eastern Himalayas, Bhutan had begun a campaign in the 1990s targeting the Lhotshampa. The Lhotshampa people are Hindu and the King of Bhutan was Buddhist.
“He wanted us to be one nation, one people,” Tara said. “This meant we needed to speak the same language, embrace the same culture and dress the same. The Nepali language we spoke was banned. Our Nepali books were banned. In school, we were forced to eat beef, and our teachers would tell us to go back to Nepal.”
Some of the Lhotshampa began to protests for basic human rights. This led to arrests and expulsions.
While Tara wasn’t involved in the protests, he knew of other classmates who had joined in the demonstrations. Rumor had it that they fled to India to avoid arrest. He had an aunt in India and figured it would be closer to flee to her home than to his parents’ village. His aunt was happy to see him and relieved that he was safe. But getting word to his parents was dangerous as India supported Bhutan’s campaign against the Lhotshampa.
Once his parents learned where Tara was living, his mother visited. Lhotshampa women were allowed to travel to markets in border towns where his aunt lived. Concerned for his safety, his mother took him to stay with other relatives in Nepal.
Meanwhile the government harassment intensified. More and more people were being forced to leave homes and farms that had been in their families for generations. So when Tara’s parents were given the ultimatum to turn over their son or leave Bhutan, they walked away from their farm, cattle and crops.
They were among the 100,000 people displaced from Bhutan 1992 and 1993. They walked for two days, reaching Nepal where they were directed to one of seven refugee camps. Tara joined them.
“We were given bamboo poles and plastic to make tents. Strong winds would blow the plastic roofs off and heavy rains seeped in to flood everything,” Tara said. “We had no bathrooms. A lot of people died of disease.”
As international relief organizations arrived, conditions improved in the refugee camps. Caritas started schools. Tara lived there from 1992 to 2012. He finished his education, taught others. He fell in love, married and saw his first child born.
Countries like the United States agreed to accept Bhutanese refugees in 2007. Most countries set limits, but the United States did not. Tara’s parents started the resettlement process in 2008 and were welcomed by the United States in 2010. Tara followed with his family in 2012.
While they initially resettled in Denver, Colorado, they eventually move to Cincinnati because extended family members thought they would be happier here. Tara found the lush green hills reminiscent of the hills of Bhutan.
He joined Catholic Charities as a caseworker, resettling refugees in 2016. He empathizes with their experiences, provides hope and assists them in beginning new lives.
“No one wants to be a refugee. Refugees are neglected people,” Tara explains. This is why he was so excited to become a United States Citizen earlier this year. Refugees are able to apply for citizenship after living in the United States for five years.
“I’m 43 now. This is the first time I’ve been a citizen of any country. I am no longer a refugee,” Tara said.
Love and Faith Endures
Papy left civil war and violence behind in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but he never lost touch with his childhood friend Bibishe. Their families were close, and she lived nearby.
Papy smiles warmly recalling himself and Bibishe as children. Life was simpler.
He left his childhood home to study at a university in Kinshasa, the capital city. Upon graduation he accepted a job in the eastern part of the country. Immediately, he realized he was in the wrong place as he witnessed fighting and bloodshed. He fled to Zimbabwe where he worked as a translator for foreign embassies and was active in church. Papy said, “I’m a man of God.”
The entire time, Papy stayed in contact with Bibishe. He worried about her safety.
Once the United Nations Refugee Resettlement program vetted Papy, he was assigned to Cincinnati. He recalls Catholic Charities meeting him at the airport and taking him to his first home. Catholic Charities assisted Papy in securing his first job packing medical supplies. Now he works at an assisted living facility taking care of disabled residents.
Papy reached out to Catholic Charities in preparation for his U.S. Citizenship test last year. He prepared for 100 questions because he was unsure which questions would be asked. He passed easily.
As a U.S. citizen, he was ready to return to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to marry Bibishe. Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services ensured all of the travel documents were in order.
“I praised God. I was so happy to see her safe and alive,” Papy said. At long last, they married. “I’m a man of faith.”
With the support of Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services, Bibishe’s Immigrant Visa was approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services; and was forwarded to U.S Consulate and U.S Embassy in Kinshasa for her immigrant visa insurance. Papy prays Bibishe will be with him soon so they can live their lives together.
Unaccompanied Child Gets Fresh Start
Dominic was just 13 when he dropped out of school to begin working to help support his family. His parents worked but with seven children they struggled.
By the time he was 14, Dominic started working as a street vendor in Guatemala City. He’d leave his family home in the mountains, take a 10-hour bus ride into the city and work there two months at a time. He traveled alone, lived with parental supervision and slept in the streets.
Then he’d travel back to the mountains to share his meager earnings with his family.
Life on the streets was difficult. Dominic was robbed several times, and his meager earnings did not meet the needs of his family. So at 17, he left Guatemala to live with an older sister in Cincinnati.
He’s studying English classes at a local technical school and with the guidance of Catholic Charities Immigration Law team, filed a Special Immigrant Juvenile Status petition. He applied for a green card while the petition was being reviewed and received a temporary work permit.
Dominic’s visa petition was approved last year but due to a backlog he’s still waiting for his green card.