By Christopher Martinez
At Catholic Charities of the East Bay, one of the three pillars of our work is “Welcoming the Stranger”. In Matthew 25, Christ compares the way we treat the stranger in our midst to the way we welcome Christ Himself. With President Obama’s announcement last week, our nation took a step toward a more compassionate immigration system that respects the inherent dignity of immigrants as fellow daughters and sons of God. We hope that the executive action by the President does not prevent Congress from enacting a more comprehensive reform that offers permanent solutions for families.
In the Diocese of Oakland, we have witnessed so many families torn apart due to a broken immigration system. As a Catholic social service agency, we continue to offer legal immigration, refugee employment and refugee resettlement services to those in need, regardless of their status, background or ability to pay.
With this historic announcement, our immigrant communities will be able to benefit from an expansion of deferred action against deportations. This would include parents of children who are US citizens or permanent residents, expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and revisions to the deportation priorities.
While this is exciting news for the immigrant community, it is important that they be wary of scams and avoid falling victim to fraud. We urge individuals of our immigrant communities to seek assistance from accredited non-profit organizations or reputable private licensed attorneys. “Notarios,” notary publics, and immigration consultants may not provide legal advice or represent people before the USCIS.
We want to stress that there is no application process yet, nor is there a pre-registration process. We have an idea of when the USCIS will start accepting applications, but until there are official regulations issued we caution the immigrant community to be patient, and please do not give anybody any money.
Catholic Charities of the East Bay is a BIA recognized organization with licensed attorneys and BIA accredited representatives on staff. Once the application process is set by USCIS, we will announce clinics and direct legal services to help the community prepare for applying for administrative relief.
In the meantime, CCEB will work in partnership to offer free workshops and educational forums on this new relief. CCEB will assist Oakland Community Organizations in offering two information sessions at East Oakland churches. The first, on Dec. 13, begins at 11:30 a.m. at St. Louis Bertrand Catholic Church, 1410 100th Ave. The second, on Jan. 11, begins at noon at St. Jarlath Catholic Church, 2620 Pleasant St. For more information, please contact Christopher Martinez at (510) 768-3159 or email@example.com.
Pope Francis calls us to walk with those in need on their journey out of poverty and to strengthen families at risk. In communities across Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, Catholic Charities of the East Bay served more than 1,000 people last year in our refugee and immigration services. We see the impact of our broken immigration system every day. We encourage you to learn more and be part of the solution by getting involved.