CCA responding to needs of immigrants

Published: May 31, 2017

The following article was originally published in Catholic Charities Connections, a special section of Arkansas Catholic, on June 17, 2017.

By Frank Head
Director of Catholic Immigration Services in Springdale

In 2017, immigrant families face a sudden decrease in opportunities to reunite their families and integrate into American society. In Arkansas, Catholic Charities Immigration Services is the agency where thousands of immigrants turn for legal advice and representation.

Demand for immigration services has skyrocketed with the new expanded threats of arrest and deportation of immigrants who have committed no crime. Catholic Charities Immigration Services in Springdale significantly expanded service capacity in the last two years, adding a volunteer immigration attorney and four accredited representatives, while the Little Rock office added two accredited representatives.

Last fiscal year, counselling was provided to nearly 13,000 individuals concerning their legal status. Catholic Immigration Services encourages immigrants to obey federal immigration laws and search for legal options to obtain documentation for living and working in the United States.

The Springdale office has created a Rapid Response Program to provide counselling, referral and, when possible, direct legal representation to immigrants arrested by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement authorities and put in proceedings for deportation.

The Springdale office also expanded its compassionate response by participating in a program called Special Immigrant Juveniles. The SIJ program helps foreign children who have been abused, abandoned or neglected. Certain children who are unable to be reunited with a parent can get a “green card” and can live and work permanently in the United States.

So far this fiscal year, the Springdale office has filed 22 SIJ applications. A recent study by the Catholic Legal Immigration Network found that more than 15 percent of undocumented immigrants in seven southern states could qualify for legal status if they had proper legal advice. In Arkansas alone, that represents approximately 8,000 neighbors and loved ones.