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7/13/2017 8:45:00 AM
How Catholic Charities helps immigrants and refugees

Catholic Charities of the Albany Diocese noted that it assists refugees in several important ways:

"To begin with, it's important to understand the definition of a refugee. A refugee is a particular type of immigrant who was forced to leave the home country and cannot return because of war, violence, or persecution. Refugees end up displaced and living in a second country, in areas that are typically called 'refugee camps,' though they vary in sophistication from a temporary camp to what can look like small cities.

"At that point, they can begin the process of applying for refugee status through the United Nations. This status will allow them to legally immigrate to a country that is accepting refugees. The people do not know where they will be offered final placement. It could be Germany, the United States, Canada or one of any other dozens of countries working with the United Nations.

"Once the host country is chosen for the refugees, they begin the process of being vetted and screened by that country. The U.S. State Department conducts those screenings and gives ultimate approval or rejection of a refugee's application to come to the United States. The whole process can take several years.

"Once the refugees are approved to come to the United States, a non-profit in a particular city is selected to work with them. The refugees have no say in where they are placed in the U.S., though the State Department tries to place refugees in cities and towns where there are services for the refugees and other people from their camp, to help them assimilate.

"Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany no longer places and settles refugees -- our last program was very small, placing a small number of Iraqi refugees, and ended in 2012 -- but we do offer other critical services to refugees once they are here.

"Catholic Charities' Office of Immigration Services, staffed by an attorney and a Board of Immigration Appeal (BIA) representative, offers low-cost immigration legal services to refugees who have been settled in this diocese. The process of navigating the U.S. immigration legal system is difficult, and it can be very costly. The office helps local immigrants, including refugees, apply for permanent resident status, petition for family members to immigrate and apply for citizenship.

"For refugees, there are a number of important forms that must be submitted after they are settled, and most refugees apply for U.S. citizenship when they are able to: five years after arriving in the U.S. Roughly 35 percent of the applications for citizenship filed with help by Catholic Charities are for people who originally came over with refugee status.

"Catholic Charities is also a part of the Refugee Roundtable, a group in Albany committed to helping with the successful placement and integration of refugees. Through our connections here, we are able to link refugees up with other services to ease their transition, as well as to make referrals if they need specific assistance.

"We connect people to programs like RISSE (Refugee and Immigrant Support Services at Emmaus), organized by Emmaus United Methodist Church in Albany, and link up parishes that are looking to provide assistance and volunteers to help new Americans."

(Contact Catholic Charities at 518-453-6650.)

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