Welcoming the Stranger: Catholic Charities of Central Colorado

Colorado Springs, CO | www.ccharitiescc.org

“We are called to show mercy because mercy has first been shown to us… As the Father loves, so do his children. Just as he is merciful, so we are called to be merciful to each other.” –Pope Francis

Since 2009, the Family Immigration Services office within Catholic Charities of Central Colorado has served an increasing number of immigrants each year. The state of Colorado is home to more than 500,000 foreign-born residents from more than 75 countries. The challenges of a broken immigration system in the U.S. have left many of these immigrants undocumented. Just as most Americans are descendants of someone who came to this country with the desire to leave violence and poverty behind for a better life – so too are the stories of the modern-day migrants and refugees.

The evidence is clear and the struggles are real for many families seeking refuge in the U.S. “Many are fleeing horrific situations in Central America to keep their children safe,” shared Eric Pavri, director of Family Immigration Services. “They believe in the U.S. and feel they will be safe here.”

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Cristina Pavasars (right), is one of two immigration counselors in the Family Immigration Services office who has earned accreditation from the Board of Immigration Appeals of the U.S. Department of Justice. She is pictured here with director and immigration attorney, Eric Pavri (left). Catholic Charities of Central Colorado is the only organization in their 10-county diocese that has government approval to provide low-cost legal representation in immigration cases.

Removing Barriers to Legal Status

For those eligible to acquire legal permanent residency, the cost is high and the wait is years long. In the family-based immigration system, a backlog of more than 4 million people exists due to the government’s annual limits on visas.2  Legal fees range from $500 to $10,000, which is cost prohibitive for many families. In Colorado’s El Paso County, 98% of the immigrants live at or below the federal poverty level.3

With support from SC Ministry Foundation, the Family Immigration Services office has been able to improve and expand legal services for low-income immigrant families. Guided by director Eric Pavri, an experienced immigration attorney, the staff of accredited immigration counselors has added capacity through education and training provided through the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC). SC Ministry Foundation also supports the efforts of CLINIC, which serves as a trusted resource to all the Catholic Charities offices in Colorado as well as 240+ nonprofits that provide legal services to low-income immigrants.

Collaborating for Greater Impact

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Immigration staff from Catholic Charities offices in Colorado Springs, Denver, Pueblo and Castle Rock collaborate to help Colorado immigrants.

Immigration staff from Catholic Charities of Central Colorado actively collaborate with their Catholic Charities colleagues in the Denver and Pueblo offices to share best practices and resources. SC Ministry Foundation partners with all three of the Colorado Catholic Charities immigration offices, which is part of a significant investment to support the Sisters of Charity public statement on immigration. These partnerships honor the legacy of many Sisters who have ministered with merciful love to the vulnerable and marginalized immigrants in Colorado and across the U.S.

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1, 2: Center for Migration Studies; 3: U.S. Census El Paso County

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