NEW YORK – On Dec. 3, the Migrant Center at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi celebrated its third anniversary with staff, volunteers, parishioners and gubernatorial officials by honoring new Americans. This year alone, 37 permanent residents became citizens through low-cost and/or pro-bono legal assistance and services offered by the Migrant Center. Now, more than ever, we believe that it is important to celebrate immigrants, who contribute greatly to our society, and we were glad to see that many of our elected officials reflect this belief as well.
In attendance at the gathering in San Damiano Hall on West 31st Street were Manuel Rosa, director of community affairs at the New York State Governor’s Office of Faith Based Community Development Services, and Commissioner Nisha Agarwal from the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, who shared with us their offices’ commitment to serving and protecting immigrants. Senator-elect Marisol Alcantara (D-NY) described her immigration story and her dedication to the immigrant community as well.
“In NYC, we are unified by our shared values: tolerance, liberty, justice. Those values are our strength,” said Commissioner Agarwal.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo sent congratulatory greetings to the center, saying that, “Working together, we will strengthen, defend, and protect the concepts of liberty and justice for all people and for the future generations of new Americans.”
Established in 2013 under the leadership of Julian Jagudilla, OFM, the Migrant Center at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi seeks to serve migrants of all walks of life through legal services, advocacy and education. Since its founding, the Migrant Center has screened more than 900 immigrants for potential immigration relief and given careful and thoughtful legal counsel to these families.
The center has also organized forums on different immigration issues, such as labor rights, human rights, and “know your rights” workshops. Since 2013, the center has hosted four 40-hour immigration advocates training courses, where advocates and attorneys learn basic immigration law to better serve the immigrant community. The center is preparing to launch its fifth course in January 2017.
This weekend, on Saturday, Dec. 17, the Migrant Center will host “The Current Human Rights Crisis in Latin America and Its Effects on the U.S. Migration and Refugee Situation: A Conference Celebrating International Human Rights Day.” The program will take place from 1 to 6 p.m. in San Damiano Hall. The objectives of the conference are:
- To provide a venue for education and information dissemination on the current human rights violations in Latin America, particularly those perpetrated against migrants and refugees
- To highlight the impact of U.S. migration policy in Mexico and Central America on migrants and refugees in crisis
- To provide a venue for collaboration among human rights activists and organizations
- To introduce concrete actions in support and solidarity for migrants and refugees
The event will also serve as the launch for the “Dignity and Progress for La72” project. La72 is a safe house for migrants and refugees located in Tenosique, Mexico. Casey Cole, OFM, and Christian Seno, OFM, spent their summer internship there this year. The panelists for the Migrant Center’s conference will be Fr. Tomas González Castillo, OFM, of La72, Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico, Samuel Villatoro, president of the Museo de los Mártires, Sindical, Estudiantil y Popular, a museum dedicated to sharing the story of the 45,000 people who forcibly disappeared during Guatemala’s civil war, and Dylan Corbett, director of the Hope Border Institute in El Paso, Texas.
In the past three years, the Migrant Center was able to accomplish all of these things through its dedicated staff, volunteers, and supporters. Information about the center can be obtained on its website and Facebook page.
— Stephanie Bello is a staff member at the Migrant Center at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi on West 31st Street, New York City.
- “Pursuit of Life, Liberty at Heart of Migration Issue” by Julian Jagudilla, OFM – June 17, 2016, HNP Today
- “Franciscan Conference on Migration Held in NYC” – May 26, 2016, HNP Today
- “In NYC, Hundreds March for Immigrants’ Rights” – Jan. 13, 2016, HNP Today
- “Migrant Center Opens at New York City Parish” – Nov. 20, 2013, HNP Today