The Catholic Charities' story of assisting refugees, immigrants and migrants began in the 1960s when an extensive Catholic Charities Migrant Work Program emerged to assist migrant workers and their families who had arrived in the area.
In 1975, Bishop Marion Forst asked Catholic Charities to provide refugee resettlement services for Southeast Asians who had fled their homeland following the Vietnam war. Between 1975 and 1982, Catholic Charities worked with USCCB to resettle 431 Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian refugees.
In 1982, the Catholic Diocese continued to support refugee resettlement first through the Catholic Agency for Migration and Refugee Services, and then through the International Rescue Committee. Refugees continued to arrive from Cuba, Bosnia, Somalia Eritrea, Afghanistan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Burma (Myanmar).
In 2019, Catholic Charities became accredited by the United States Department of Justice to provide Legal Immigration Services. With this designation, Catholic Charities can now provide additional services and support for refugees and immigrants who arrive in the country and choose to make Southwest Kansas their home.
Today, Catholic Charities of Southwest Kansas offers a holistic spectrum of refugee and immigration services. We honor the human potential of newly arriving Americans through service, advocacy, and invitation, in the spirit of the Gospel, so that they experience hope and fulfillment in their new country. Walking with immigrants and refugees on their path from arrival to citizenship, we support their family unit and help them rebuild their lives. Our services are designed to help immigrants and refugees overcome culture shock, create their first home, secure documents, achieve economic self-sufficiency, integrate successfully into their community, and prepare them for citizenship.
Who Are Refugees and Immigrants?
A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence. In the US, refugees are invited by the State Department and are eligible to work. They have the opportunity to become lawful permanent residents and eventually citizens.
An asylum seeker is someone who is seeking international protection, but whose claim for refugee status hasn’t been determined, yet. Asylum seekers must cross a border in order to apply for refugee status.
An immigrant makes a conscious decision to leave his or her home and move to a foreign country with the intention of settling there. Immigrants and migrants are not forced to flee, but nevertheless, their decision is often inspired by the presence of poverty and violence in their home country. They go through a lengthy vetting process to immigrate to a new country. Many become lawful permanent residents and eventually citizens.
As an affiliate of the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Catholic Charities offers the following resettlement services for newly arrived refugees:
- Pre-arrival arrangements and reception
- Arranging and furnishing temporary and permanant housing
- Securing food and other basic necessities
- Legal documents
- Referrals to social service agencies, English as second language classes, and more
- Job search coaching and employment counseling
- Registering children in school
- Ensuring access to medical care and health screenings
- Extended case management services to assist families with home management, accessing medical care, and emergency situations
Catholic Charities also offers a variety of Cultural Orientation Classes covering topics such as:
- Home Management
- Health & Hygiene
- Nutritional Education
- Job Readiness
- Finance and Budgeting Workshops
- Citizen Preparation
- Tenant and Landlord Responsibilities
- US Laws & Policies
Legal Immigration Services
Catholic Charities is accredited by the US Department of Justice to provide low-fee Legal Immigration Services, including consultations, and assistance with immigration documents. Examples of documents include, but are not limited to:
- Adjustment of Status
- National Visa Center Forms
- Applications and Certificates for Naturalization and Citizenship
- Refugee and Family-Based Petitions
- Replacement Documents
- Travel Documents
- Employment Authorizations
- Affidavits of Support
- Temporary Protected Status
- DACA and UVisas
- Fingerprints, Notary Services, and more
Ways to Help
Moving to a new country is challenging. Refugees and immigrants must learn a new language and understand a different culture while striving to establish themselves. Volunteers are needed to:
- Welcome refugees
- Collect and donate essential items such as furniture, household items, clothing, and financial support
- Set-up new homes and assist with move-in
- Tutor in English and other studies
- Identify employment opportunitiesDrive refugees to appointments
- Act as “First Friends” mentoring refugees during acclimation to their new homeland
- Create ‘Welcome Kits’, and more.