Justice for Immigrants

Protecting the dignity of the person and preserving family are core components of Catholic Social Teaching. Unfortunately, Catholic Charities continues to see increased numbers of families at risk of being torn apart due to immigration status – a symptom of a broken immigration system. Conversely, we have a growing number of requests for help from individuals separated from their children and loved ones for years, due to policies that do not serve the interests of the common good.

Pope Francis has said, “Society as a whole, and the state in particular, are obliged to defend and promote the common good.” At Catholic Charities, we work day-in and day-out to advocate and support the common good, with a goal of keeping families together.

Our Priority

In 2004, the Catholic bishops of the United States committed to immigration reform as a priority of the U.S. Catholic Church, and to creating a culture of welcome in which all migrants are treated with respect and dignity. A diverse group of Catholic organizations with national networks joined the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Justice for Immigrants Campaign (JFI) in an effort to unite and mobilize a growing network of Catholic institutions, individuals, and other persons of goodwill in support of immigration reform.

The JFI campaign’s primary objectives are:

  • To educate the public, especially the Catholic community, about Church teaching on migration and immigrants;
  • To create political will for just and humane immigration reform; and
  • Advocate for just and fair reforms in U.S. immigration and refugee laws and policies that reflect the principles enunciated by the bishops.

Locally, here in Oregon, Catholic Charities is committed to ensuring that immigrants are treated with dignity, respect, and with full access to the resources needed to protect and keep their families intact. Specifically, Catholic Charities is focused on expanding legal services,  providing detained immigrants (who have no criminal history and risk being separated from their families) with legal counsel, and providing immigrants with information, knowledge, and legal planning support.

Our Work

Catholic Charities is working the front lines to help these highly vulnerable and at-risk families. In partnership with Legal Aid Services of OregonSt. Andrew’s Legal Clinic and Stoel Rives LLC, our attorneys and staff have launched the following initiatives to address the imminent and critical need to support families at risk of separation:

Sponsor continuing legal education (CLE) events to train attorneys on legal tools that help keep families together and plan for emergency separation events. Legal tools such as Power of Attorney and Delegation of Parental Powers can be put in place without a court order, giving families a greater degree of certainty as to the care of their children in the event a parent is deported. To date we have trained over 50 local attorneys on the use of these family law tools in the context of mixed status and undocumented families. On-going training is now available by video with an option for CLE credit.

To date, Catholic Charities has provided culturally specific and professionally appropriate training on how to work with interpreters to approximately 26 attorneys. We are in the process of developing training for volunteer interpreters in a legal clinic setting.

Recruit and train a growing pool of volunteer attorneys to work with our legal services team, either through our in-house volunteer opportunities, Oregon Bar Certified Pro Bono Program or Family Safety Planning Clinics. To date we have recruited and received volunteer commitments from over 40 Portland-area attorneys who have not previously volunteered with Catholic Charities.

Organize and sponsor free Family Safety Planning legal clinics for families at risk of detention and deportation. In partnership with St. Cecilia’s Parish, St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton Parish, ILS has coordinated the efforts of our growing fleet of volunteer attorneys, interpreters, notaries and support staff to run pro bono Family Safety Planning clinics at two separate evening and weekend events. To date, over 25 individuals and families have directly benefited from the legal advice and legal document preparation services made available for free at these clinics, with more to come as we forge additional parish and community partnerships in the following months.

This new tool was specifically created for use in our Family Safety Planning Clinics but is also available upon request to any Catholic Charities client or interested party. This list of highly qualified family law professional service providers has been vetted by our staff and includes both local non-profit legal service providers as well as Portland-area private attorneys who are able and willing to take on complex cases for a reduced or sliding-scale fee. Having access to these expert family law practitioners is another critical piece of providing quality legal services in a pro-bono clinic setting, where legal questions may arise that are outside the scope of our limited clinic setting and/or require more specific knowledge or experience than can reasonably be expected of even the most highly-trained volunteer attorneys.

Center for Immigration Defense

With the launch of the Center for Immigration Defense, Catholic Charities will immediately add removal defense legal services to the portfolio of services our Immigration Legal Services’ team offers. The Center will provide legal protections for immigrants who are unable to afford attorneys and will ensure safeguards for vulnerable mixed-status families when detainment and deportation becomes a real threat. One full-time lawyer and one full-time legal assistant will be dedicated to providing clients with representation; outreach and education; and development, management and coordination of comprehensive pro bono activities.  For more information, check out our Center for Immigration Defense page.

Community Protection & Preparedness

Family Safety Planning

Mitigating The Risks Of Family Separation In The Face Of Expanded Federal Enforcement Against Undocumented Immigrants

There are approximately 62,000 children of undocumented immigrant parents living in Oregon. Seventy-nine percent of these children are US citizens, or approximately 49,000 US citizen children of undocumented immigrant parents. Children in these “mixed status” families are at high risk of being separated from their parents due to enforcement activities of Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE).

Under the current administration, ICE activities to arrest and detain undocumented immigrants have increased by 38 percent over the same period last year. Fear of family separation from detention and deportation is a constant source of psychological and related health problems for all members of their extended families. Detention or deportation of a parent is traumatic and life-altering for everyone involved.

Catholic Charities’ Commitment to DACA Recipients

Since its inception in 2012, the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program has provided work authorization and relief from deportation to nearly 800,000 undocumented children and young adults living in the United States. Of the approximate 12,000 DACA recipients in Oregon, Catholic Charities has assisted over 400 individual with applications and renewal legal assistance. These DACA youth are our classmates, co-workers, friends, brothers, sisters, and parents, for many of whom this country is the only home they have known. We are actively working to provide support to all as they navigate these most recent changes to the DACA program.

To read a full joint statement released by Catholic Charities and the Archdiocese of Portland on the decision to end DACA, please click here. 

FAQs For Current DACA Recipients & Families

Please see the following FAQs for general guidance. If you have questions about what this decision means for your immigration case, please contact your attorney or representative. Your attorney can clarify any rumors you hear or concerns you may have.

First-Time DACA Requests: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will process properly filed first time DACA requests that USCIS has received by September 5, 2017. USCIS will reject all first time DACA requests received after September 5, 2017.

DACA Renewal Requests: USCIS will process properly filed DACA renewal requests for those whose DACA expires on or before March 5, 2018 if they are received before October 5, 2017If your DACA will expire before March 5, 2018 and you have not already submitted a renewal request, please contact your attorney or representative immediately to submit your renewal request before October 5, 2017. If your DACA expires after March 5, 2018, there is no way to renew it at this time.

  • You can work lawfully until your work permit’s expiration date. Current DACA recipients will be allowed to keep their work permits until they expire, unless terminated or revoked.
  • You have no obligation to tell your employer that DACA has ended. Your employer does not have the right to ask you whether you are a DACA recipient or how you got your work permit.
  • Your employer cannot lawfully fire you, put you on leave, or change your work status based on your lack of a work permit until after your work permit has expired. If your expiration date is nearing, your employer may ask you for an updated work permit but cannot take any action against you until after it is expired.

For more information about your rights as an employee, see this advisory by the National Immigration Center.

  • If you have not done so already, apply for a social security number (SSN) and a driver’s license or state identification while your DACA and work permit are still valid.
  • Your SSN is a valid SSN number for life, even once your work permit and DACA approval expires, and may be used for tax, banking, and other lawful purposes.
  • Please remember that it is against the law to alter or tamper with your social security card.

You should never falsely claim to be a U.S. citizen for purposes of employment, obtaining an identification, or any other benefit, as this can have extremely negative effects on your immigration options in the future.

USCIS will not process any new or pending applications for permission to travel. If you currently have an approved advance parole document, contact your attorney or accredited representative. Do not leave the United States without consulting with your attorney or accredited representative.

  • Talk to an immigration services provider to understand your legal options and see if you might be eligible for another immigration benefit.
  • Avoid fraudulent service providers and notaries. Confirm that your provider is an attorney or BIA accredited representative. Ask for a written contract and a receipt for any payments, and if you have doubts, get a second opinion.
  • DHS has stated that it will not actively refer DACA applicants and recipients to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) except in case of certain criminal or security grounds.
  • Any criminal arrest, charge, or conviction, can put you at risk with immigration authorities. Refrain from all unlawful activity, including driving under the influence and using marijuana, which is still illegal under federal law.
  • If you are arrested or have a prior criminal history, speak with an immigration attorney as soon as possible.
Learn more about Catholic Charities' Immigration Legal Services