CWS Immigration Legal Services

This week’s update is from our partners at CWS written by Phillip Rincon and Carol Fouke-Mpoyo.

Whether applying for a work permit or petitioning to bring a family member to the United States, refugees and immigrants to this country face detailed legal paperwork and processes. Every year, thousands of them receive help from Church World Service.  Week of Compassion supports CWS’s network of a dozen immigration legal services offices across the United States. 

The network’s staff of 18 accredited representatives and seven attorneys assist clients with humanitarian-based immigration petitions that reunite families and keep them together, and foster clients’ self-sufficiency and participation in U.S. civic life.

Among clients is Yunior*.  He is counted among the nearly 8,500 refugees and immigrants served by CWS Legal Department in Miami, Florida, in Fiscal Year 2014. 

Yunior and his wife Raysa at home in Miami, Florida. CWS Photo by Phillip Rincon.

Yunior and his wife Raysa at home in Miami, Florida. CWS Photo by Phillip Rincon.

Yunior came to the United States in November 2013 through a family petition filed by his father, who had immigrated earlier that year. Yunior, age 37, suffers from Muscular Dystrophy, a condition that has greatly affected his physical movements and ability to perform certain tasks. In Cuba, Yunior was never able to receive the dedicated care he needed for his condition. 

In Cuba, he worked as an information technology specialist and his wife Raysa worked as a nurse at the local hospital.  Each earned a salary of only $17 a week, which was barely enough to live on. Their life journey has not been easy, but they have fought to stay content and economically self-sufficient.  

Yunior first came to the CWS Legal Department in Miami seeking assistance to apply for a work permit to be able to earn an income in the United States. With the help of CWS legal staff, Yunior was subsequently referred to a local nonprofit agency that helped him receive the medical assistance that his condition required. CWS “provided me the guidance that I truly needed,” Yunior said. “They treated me as a friend and they showed me that they cared. We’re really thankful to CWS for their personal dedication to our family and our case.” Yunior and his wife are currently working with CWS to apply for U.S. permanent residence.

From the CWS Corporate Center in New York, Associate Director for Legal Services, Lucy Baez, conducts training and support for regional legal services offices and helps them with complicated legal casework and immigration procedures. Within the local community, the New York legal services team served 600 clients in Fiscal Year 2014, both one-on-one and through immigration legal clinics at local churches and group processing events in partnership with other community based organizations. Recently, CWS partnered with the Brooklyn Public Library to provide a naturalization group workshop which saw large numbers of lawful permanent residents applying for citizenship.

* Yunior and Raysa’s last names are withheld to protect their privacy.

This Week's Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Sri Lanka, Flood Relief