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Resources for jobs, healthcare at World Refugee Day

Employers, community health providers and various offices of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Orleans were invited June 20 to participate in “World Refugee Day” at the Hispanic Apostolate in Metairie. The organizations were on hand helping those who have recently migrated to the United States as refugees fleeing persecution, violence, war or disaster in their homeland.

Within a half-hour of the 10 a.m. opening, approximately 40 people had walked through the doors. The refugees, mostly from Cuba, Iraq, Burma and Syria, received a warm welcome from the Immigration and Refugee Services office of Catholic Charities New Orleans that organized the event and enjoyed many resources, free food courtesy of Mona’s and others and lively entertainment from Cuban dancers.

“The idea is to provide the opportunity for employers and refugees to connect,” said Lilian Alvarez, supervising case manager for Refugee Services of Catholic Charities New Orleans. “Most were seeking employment or resources.”

Alvarez said her office is able to help a newcomer to America resettle in New Orleans and become self sufficient through case management, employment assistance and referrals for medical resources, interpretation services in any language, cultural orientation classes to learn about everyday American life and referrals for English as a Second Language (ESL) and Citizenship Classes through Catholic Charities. Representatives also pick refugees up from the airport when they arrive.

Those given refugee status by the federal government upon entering the United States have been granted humanitarian legal status and have temporary status to remain here and receive work authorization. They can apply for their Green card (for permanent residence) after a year, but then go through the U.S. citizenship process that could take up to five years.

Immigration Services of Catholic Charities helps clients understand immigration law, learn their rights under the law and helps individuals complete the immigration process using staff attorneys and volunteers who are certified to work with refugees.

Alvarez said she’s seen her office successfully help individuals. In fact, a former refugee client presented for an employer at the fair.

“We’ve come full circle,” she said.

Alvarez can help refugees apply for government benefits (such as a Social Security card and work permits) and immigration referral services.

Immigration and Refugee Services has hired additional attorneys, mostly to work with unaccompanied minors on asylum, but also victims of domestic abuse. These attorneys provide free or low-cost assistance for family-based immigrant visas, adjustment of status to legal permanent residency, naturalization (citizenship) applications and preparation classes, VAWA petitions, U-visa applications, asylum (for children only), Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), B-1/B-2 non-immigrant visas, Deferred Action applications, fiancée petitions, consular processing, travel documents/advance parole, renewals, work permit renewals, affidavits of support, and fully-accredited Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) Representatives.

There are also volunteers who are accredited representatives that have government certification to provide immigration legal services (such as filling out forms and going to court, similar to what a lawyer can provide) and help with job applications.

Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans is always seeking volunteers and mentors ages 18 and older for its new Refugee Mentor Program that connects refugee families with a volunteer mentor who will help encourage self-sufficiency in America. Volunteers commit to mentoring a refugee or refugee family for at least one to two hours a week for 12 months. Mentors and mentees determine convenient meeting locations and times each week. Orientation/training sessions for refugee mentors are scheduled regularly at Catholic Charities Refugee Services offices, St. Lawrence the Martyr campus, 2505 Maine Avenue in Metairie. Prospective mentors must contact Peyton Smith, Refugee Mentor Program Coordinator to submit a resume and schedule an interview. Call 310-6868 or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Call Refugee Services at 457-3462 weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Christine Bordelon can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Gracious Lord, Child of Bethlehem, as you were born a refugee to parents who fled first to Bethlehem and then to Egypt, help us grow in solidarity with refugees everywhere, to know we are all refugees until our hearts find refuge in you. Amen. – Catholic Relief Services prayer for World Refugee Day

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