Friday, June 22, 2012

FAQs about President Obama’s DREAM Policy from Catholic Charities’ Immigration Legal Services

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On June 15, President Obama and his administration announced a new policy that grants a two-year period of “Deferred Action” to young people in the United States who do not have currently valid immigration status. This policy has the power to touch the lives of many young immigrants who call America home.

As is always the case with a change in immigration enforcement, there is a great risk of notario fraud by unlicensed immigration advisors who scam immigrants seeking legal advice.

As a resource for immigrants with questions about the recent change in immigration policy, Catholic Charities’ Immigration Legal Services Staff has developed this list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to help address some common question about the new policy, who it affects, and how to get help.

Is this the DREAM Act?
No. The DREAM Act failed in Congress, and this executive order is not the DREAM Act. Instead of a path to citizenship, the Obama administration issued an executive order stating that young illegal immigrants who match certain criteria could receive “deferred action.” This means that qualified young people will not be deported for two years, if they apply for deferred action and receive it.

The order says that eligible immigrants can get “prosecutorial discretion.” What is that?
Prosecutorial discretion is the power not to prosecute people for crimes they have committed. It is used frequently at all levels of government – from local district attorneys to the President. In the case of the Deferred Action order, the “crimes” for which people will not be prosecuted are: illegal entry into the United States, possession of false identity, and employment under false identity.

Can I get my citizenship/green card if I qualify for Deferred Action?
No. The Policy expressly states that Deferred Action is not citizenship or permanent residence, and does not offer a pathway to citizenship or permanent residence.

Can I work legally if I receive Deferred Action?
Applications for employment authorization will be accepted by DHS for all those who qualify for Deferred Action, and will be adjudicated on a case-by-case basis.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day!

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Guest Post from Father John
President and CEO
Catholic Charities

I had a great relationship with my dad. Simply put: he was, and still is, my hero.

What made him special was that he lived the Gospel of Love. When I was little, and this was way back in the 50s, spankings were still pretty common. A spanking was my punishment for being bad. After a few times through that, the mere threat of a spanking from Dad became more than enough “behavior modification” for me to get back in line.

By the time I was 13 or 14, if I did something wrong, I never got a spanking. Instead, my dad would just look at me and say, “John, I’m disappointed in you.” Those words would crush me. You can probably relate that I’d much rather have taken a spanking than disappoint my father or mother. As a result, my teen years were never concerned with being punished, but rather living up to the high standards set by my parents.

As we celebrate Father’s Day, I realize how special the gift of love is from our fathers and father figures, and what a positive force they can have in our lives.

I was taught early on that the love of a father is like the love of God. In both, we experience love and forgiveness. I guess that why I'm so confident in God's love - my own father was a shining example.

Every day I am blessed to see many similar examples of love and compassion shared between Catholic Charities, the neighbors we serve, and the generous people who support our work.
Just a few thoughts as I wish you all a very Happy Father’s Day. Be sure to share your love with someone who is a father figure in your life.

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Parents conquering incredible obstacles find strength and support at Catholic Charities. Meet a parent at our Angel's Watch Shelter who's earning her degree to find her independence!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Surrounded by love and support, Kennedy School celebrates the class of 2012

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There are only six graduates in the 2012 Catholic Charities’ Kennedy School graduating class, but the room is filled to capacity by family, friends, fellow students and well wishers. For these six students, donning blue and white gowns and those fun square hats with the tassels, the graduation represented an important milestone of hard work and achievement – and a future with opportunity.

The Kennedy School, part of Catholic Charities’ Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Institute, is a school dedicated to young students with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. With smaller class sizes and extra teaching staff, the school meets students where they are.

At the graduation ceremony, held Tuesday June 5 at the Pastoral Center for the Archdiocese of Washington, another factor was clear in the students’ success: support. There was singing, signing and dancing.

The cheering, clapping and festive atmosphere reminded everyone, and especially the students, how much potential these students have to offer when given the right opportunity.

Father John spoke at the end of the ceremony, saying, “I go to many graduations at this time of the year. But this one is special. All of us here, we’re incredibly proud of you. We’re excited by your potential and the unique talents and perspectives you will bring to our community. Congratulations.”

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Monday, June 4, 2012

Once a victim of abuse, a mother of three finds independence through college

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Becky heads to class at the CSM's La Plata campus
Last summer, Becky walked into Catholic Charities’ Angel’s Watch Shelter after she walked out of a scary domestic abuse situation. Her husband’s violence, which she had endured for years, had begun to threaten the safety of their three young children. Enough was enough.  

“I’m a feminist now,” Becky said. “Before I thought I had to stay in my marriage, since I depended on my husband to support me and my kids. But Angel’s Watch has helped show me that women can achieve whatever they want to achieve. I don’t need to stay with a man just for financial reasons. ” Today Becky is studying for her nursing degree at the College of Southern Maryland, caring for her kids, and holding a weekend job.

Becky (right) with her case manager, Dayon
Catholic Charities’ Angel’s Watch Shelter, located in Charles County, Maryland, provides a safe haven for women and their children fleeing domestic violence and homelessness. “Often women who have been abused come here with just the clothes on their backs,” said Dayon Jackson, Becky’s case manager at Angel’s Watch. “They also have a lot of difficult emotions that we need to work with them to overcome.”
Like many victims of domestic violence, Becky had fallen into a dangerous cycle. During her husband’s abusive episodes, she had tried to leave many times, but could never go through with it. She was afraid of how her husband would react, she worried about how she could support her kids, and she felt guilty about uprooting them from their home.

When Becky finally found the courage to leave, she went first to CAP (Center for Abused Persons), where she was referred to Angel’s Watch. Once the crisis of safety and shelter was addressed, Becky worked one-on-one with her case manager Dayon to develop a plan to gain financial independence, since she needed to support her kids.

This summer Becky's tackling some Gen. Ed. courses at CSM
Becky already had a career in mind; she had dreamed of becoming a nurse ever since caring for her dying grandmother several years back. “I had tried to start nursing school when I was still with my husband,” she said. “But I couldn’t leave the kids behind while I was in classes. He didn’t want me to go, and he wouldn’t care for them while I was at classes. So I kept deferring.” Dayon helped her apply for daycare vouchers through the Department of Social Services, which allow Becky to pay for childcare on a sliding scale based on what she can afford. Becky also received a grant that helps with her tuition.

“Dayon is so good for me. She is always encouraging when I am down. She always has a smile for me,” said Becky.

This summer, a time when most students enjoy a few months’ vacation, Becky is packing in extra coursework. “I’m taking three courses for the summer session,” she said.  Doing so will allow her to earn her nursing degree in just two years.

Of course, there are many challenges. Becky often stays up late into the night to crunch in a few hours of studying while her children sleep. Sometimes she needs the kids to play quietly while she studies through the afternoon. “But I hope they know that this is good for me and good for them, because we won’t be financially dependent on anyone once I get a job,” she said. “I want to be their provider from now on. I’m going to break the cycle.”

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