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Commemorating National Immigrant Heritage Month

¡Celebremos el Mes Nacional de la Herencia Inmigrante!

By Marissa Flores Madden and Moses Soisa

Marissa: As a spouse, granddaughter, and friend of immigrants, my life has been immeasurably blessed by relationships and cultures from all over the world.

Soy esposa, nieta, y amiga de inmigrantes. Mi vida es tan bendecida por los dones de las comunidades globales.

Moises: Como inmigrante, conozco íntimamente las luchas de la comunidad inmigrante, específicamente los hispanos.

Al mismo tiempo, reconozco las bendiciones de vivir, trabajar y adorar en una comunidad diversa.

As an immigrant, I know the struggles of my community, but I also recognize the blessings of living, working, and worshipping in a diverse community.

Marissa: We celebrate National Immigrant Heritage Month not only because of our own heritage, but even more so now because of our work in Catholic Charities Family Immigration Services.

Over the past two years, it has been an honor for us to work with immigrants from Cuba to the Congo, from Mexico to Myanmar, from Ukraine to the United Kingdom and everywhere in between.

Many come to the U.S. to reunite with close family members. Others have come seeking safety and opportunity. These are just a few of their stories.

¡Sí se puede! — Yes, we can!

Moises: During an appointment to discuss citizenship, a grandma from El Salvador trusted me enough to share her struggles which began long before she immigrated to the United States and have only continued with a recent cancer diagnosis.

Despite the challenges, she is proud to live in the United States and grateful for the opportunities she has been given.

She worried that she wouldn’t be able to complete the citizenship exam due to the language barrier, but she was resolved to try anyway.

Thankfully she passed and just a few months ago she attended her oath ceremony to become a United States citizen.

Similarly, an 80-year-old woman from Honduras who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, was determined to get her citizenship before her condition worsened.

She recently sent me a picture with her certificate of naturalization and a message of gratitude for the support we were able to provide.

¡Paciencia y fe! — Patience and Faith!

Marissa: A little over a year ago, a young mother of newborn twins, who had come to the U.S. as a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, called our office in tears.

She needed help to bring her husband to the U.S., but as her story unfolded, we recognized she needed much more than legal assistance.

Since I am trained as a postpartum doula, I called the woman, conducted a simple assessment, and asked if I could stop by her home that weekend.

Over the next several months, I visited every Saturday. I cared for the mother as together we cared for the babies — bottles, diapers, loads of laundry, cooking, doctors’ visits.

While her spouse’s case is still pending, we were able to connect her to the additional services she required while awaiting his arrival.

I met with a new client this week. He’s a U.S. citizen who had petitioned for visas for his siblings in Mexico more than 22 years ago.

Since visas will be available for his family soon, he wanted to transfer his case to our office for the final steps of the family reunification process.

When starting these types of cases, it seems impossible to imagine the day will ever come for families to reunite.

So, it’s exciting to be a part of a case that is nearing the end of a decades long wait.

Moises: A Mexican American officer in the U.S. army, who is currently stationed in South Korea, anxiously calls me for regular updates on his case.

I usually have to tell him, “We need to be patient. Everything is okay. These cases just take time.”

But this week when he called, I was able to share good news.

The first step in his case was approved. While his fiancé remains thousands of miles away in Mexico awaiting her visa and planning a wedding on her own; with this week’s update, we are hopeful her visa will be available soon.

¡Juntos en la lucha! — Together in the struggle!

Marissa: Since the fall of Kabul to the Taliban in 2021, Catholic Charities has resettled hundreds of Afghans.

Family Immigration Services has worked with all of these Afghan families on numerous types of processes, all with the goal of keeping them safe in the United States.

Many of the newcomers are eligible for a particular type of visa which can be granted based on their years of service with the United States government in Afghanistan.

The application process for this visa is tedious and at times seems impossible.

One of the many requirements for this application is a personal statement of threats received as a consequence of employment with the United States government.

The first threat letter I read detailed the atrocities done to a family member who remained in Afghanistan.

I immediately wished I hadn’t read it.

The reality of this violence that continues to permeate the lives of our clients fuels our commitment to securing permanent status for Afghans who are already in the U.S. and to reuniting families who have been kept apart for nearly two years.

¡Primeramente Dios! — God willing!

Moises: I recently received a call from an asylum seeker from Nicaragua. Fleeing persecution, corruption, poverty, and violence in her home country, her journey to the U.S. Mexico border — two small children in tow — proved just as harrowing as the horror she was escaping.

Like so many other clients, she needed far more than immigration services.

I was able to refer her for social services, medical attention, and legal services that were beyond our office’s scope of practice.

Just this week I met with a Mexican family needing to renew their green cards.

What might have been a straightforward process became more involved as the family shared about their lives with me.

In the end, I not only filed the green card applications, but I helped them register for our client choice food pantry as well.

¡Gracias a Dios! — Thanks be to God!

Marissa: Over the past year, I have worked with over one hundred Ukrainians who have temporarily moved to mid-Missouri.

Welcomed by extended family, friends, and even strangers, they are faced with the challenges of unexpected migration — new language, work, schools, culture, and the inexplicable complexities of the U.S. immigration system!

All the while loved ones remain in Ukraine amidst the daily threats of attack.

Some stayed to fight or be of service to their country. And some refused to leave their spouses who are fighting.

Others are physically unable to travel. Some are caretakers for their elderly relatives. And still others have lost their lives in the war.

As I meet with the families, empathy seems too simplistic as they question the destruction of their homeland and the uncertainty of their status in the U.S. All I can do is assure them that they are safe right here. Right now.

¡Vaya con Dios! — Go with God!

Moises: I am thankful to have a personal understanding of the immigration system and I feel blessed to work for Family Immigration Services helping people like me, while letting them know todo va a estar bien. Estoy aquí para escucharte y ayudarte.

Marissa: We’re here to listen and to help when we can — always grateful for the contributions of immigrants that have enriched our lives, our work, and our country. Happy Immigrant Heritage Month!

Marissa Flores Madden and Moises Sosa are DOJ Accredited Representatives practicing immigration law at Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri. Catholic Charities has been providing immigration legal services for over four decades — reuniting countless families and helping clients navigate the intricate and often challenging U.S. immigration system.

This month we celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month! Join us on social media for reflections and images that honor and celebrate communities we’ve served. Learn more online at: cccnmo.diojeffcity.org/family-immigration.