NEW YORK — Brian Jordan, OFM, is offering help to immigrants and laborers through a new initiative. Through the Holy Name Province Labor-Immigration Project, Brian works closely with the New York City Central Labor Council on labor and immigration issues.
He and an associate are available by phone and in person on Wednesday afternoons at the Central Labor Council, AFL- CIO office at 275 Seventh Ave. He encourages those in need to make an appointment to obtain help.
The project’s free immigration services include:
• Naturalization process
• Adjustment of status
• Asylum and refugee issues
• Certificates of citizenship
• Replacement of lost/damaged USCIS documents
• Diversity visa lottery entries
• Victims of exploitation
Brian offers advice to friars and others about three key immigration issues:
1. In case of raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, Brian recommends a bilingual pamphlet issued by Local 32BJ, SEUI: “Know Your Rights in an Immigration Raid.” The Web site is www.seui32bj.org “Raids have been increasing within recent months. If arrested and the adult has children, make sure you inform the ICE officers that the detainee has children.”
2. Families with financial hardships, can, though Opportunity NYC (City Hall, New York, New York 10007; www.nyc.gov), open a no-fee account at one of eight banks or credit unions. This account has ATM privileges and no minimum balance, Brian said. In addition Opportunity NYC deposits $50 in each account. There are six agencies, including Catholic Charities, funneling families to this program.
3. Marriage between a U.S citizen and an undocumented immigrant. “Be very careful of this growing and dangerous practice,” Brian said. “If they are marrying out of true love, by all means support it, but within reason. Only an undocumented person who entered with inspection (they entered and retained a copy of their I-94 visa) can marry a U.S. citizen. If the undocumented immigrant crossed over the border or jumped ship without inspection by U.S. immigration officials, they cannot adjust their status.
“If the couple is marrying for convenience, in which the undocumented immigrant seeks only a green card, counsel them, for several reasons, not to attempt to apply,” Brian said. “First of all, marriage is a sacred institution. Second, many USCIS (United States Citizen and Immigration Service) offices nationwide are rejecting marriage petitions because they suspect fraudulent intentions and the paper work is not filled out properly. For example, the New York district of USCIS rejects 60 percent of all marriage petitions.”
“The penalties for rejected petitions are (a) the undocumented immigrant is no longer eligible for any immigration benefit for life, and (b) the United States citizen can no longer petition for another immigrant in the future.”
The U.S citizen is also liable for a monetary fine. This attempt to shortcut the system is extremely risky and the immigrant faces dire consequences, Brian said.
On Sept. 6, Brian participated in the annual Labor Day parade in Manhattan, sponsored by the NYC Central Labor Council.
”The parade was a complete success due to its huge turnout and its moving theme, ‘Labor’s Sign of Gratitude to the Wounded Warrior Project,’” Brian said, “Over 50,000 labor union members participated in the parade, which honored those wounded and disabled in both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Twenty wounded warriors marched in the parade, which drew thousands upon thousands of spectators on Fifth Avenue from 44th Street to 72nd Street”
“It made a tremendous impact upon the city, let alone the local community,” he said. “New York is a labor-friendly city and sustains the image and strength of the middle class, both in the city and the nation. It was the largest parade in years and promises to be even bigger next year. I was proud to march along with different labor unions. People in labor unions appreciate the presence of clergy and religious ministering among them. If St. Francis of Assisi was alive today, I am sure he would be ministering among them as the friars did during the evolution of the craft guilds.
Brian, who directed the immigration center affiliated with St. Francis of Assisi Church in Midtown Manhattan for nine years, has developed his knowledge and interest in immigration through years at several multi-cultural parishes.
Strong Multi-Cultural Background
Brian has ministered at two of the Province’s most diverse parishes, St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring, Md., and Holy Cross in the Bronx.
“In 1980, I was the first friar in formation to be approved to attend summer school to learn Spanish in Cochabamba, Bolivia,” he said.
“From 1979 to 1982, I worked in the Capilla Latina as my ministry in Washington D.C. Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap., now Cardinal of Boston, was my supervisor. He inspired me to work among immigrants.
Later, from 1982 to 1987, Brian served in Holy Cross Parish in the Bronx where he began “my priestly ministry among Afro-Caribbeans and Latinos. The 1986 immigration law was enacted, which gave amnesty to certain undocumented immigrants. From 1987 to 1990, while studying for a doctor of ministry degree at Andover Newton Theological School, I ministered to Latino and Irish immigrants in Boston.” From 1990 to 1996, he ministered among one of the most multicultural parishes in the United States, St. Camillus Parish in Silver Spring. It was from there that I met numerous federal immigration and law enforcement officials.
“I worked briefly, for about two years, for the then Immigration and Naturalization Service, now part of the Department of Homeland Security. It was there that I made numerous contacts with the federal government, which are helpful even to this very day. If I did not have those contacts, my ministry would not be effective as it is now.”
In 1999, he founded the Franciscan Immigration Center at St. Francis of Assisi Church, which ministered to all types of immigrants. ”It was one of the finest Catholic immigrant service centers due to my contacts with federal, state and city agencies,” Brian said.
Last month, he began the Holy Name Province Labor-Immigration Project “in which the Catholic Church should bridge the gap between labor unions and immigrant concerns in New York City.”
He earned a master’s degree earlier this year from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. His thesis was on “The Role of the Roman Catholic Church as a Mediating Structure Between Labor Unions and Undocumented Immigrants in New York City.”
The Labor-Immigration Project can be reached at 646-473-0413 and firstname.lastname@example.org
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.