Grant allows CCCTX to help more families

By Enedelia J. Obregón
Senior Correspondent

Catholic Charities of Central Texas (CCCTX) has received a $200,000 grant from the city of Austin that will allow the charity to expand mental health services to the growing immigrant community.
Sara Ramirez, CCCTX executive director, said the funds will allow Catholic Charities to serve an additional 50 clients a month for the next year.
The program offers hope to the most vulnerable members in the diocese, Ramirez said. The diocese has the 14th-largest immigrant community out of the 194 Catholic Charities service regions in the country.
“Central Texas has one of the fastest-growing immigrant communities,” she said. “We care for and respect the dignity of all people regardless of status.”
Since 2001, CCCTX has provided family based immigration legal services, which include but are not limited to, work authorization, naturalization, temporary protection status, visas for victims of domestic violence and human trafficking and representation for those seeking a path to U.S. citizenship
“Catholic social teaching is the foundation of why we do what we do,” Ramirez said. Aside from the CCCTX, the organization partners with local agencies to serve their clients’ needs.
In addition to legal representation, families also have access to Catholic Charities’ Counseling Services program, which is designed to assist children, adults, couples and families address life challenges and emotional barriers that impede on their ability to reach their life goals.
Justin Estep, director of the Immigration Legal Services program for CCCTX, said mental health services are needed because immigration often leads to stress, which can lead to conflict at home and affect the entire family. 
He said those who arrive without documentation often face unimaginable hardships, including physical and sexual assault. All of this affects relationships between parents as well as children who may have problems in school due to tension at home.
Children who are U.S. citizens face the added stress of fear that their undocumented parents may be suddenly taken away. The different stressors create volatile environments, Estep said.
Immigration law is complex and the legal program offers help to those who are eligible for certain services. Last year, they served immigrants from 37 different countries. The top five countries are Mexico, Honduras, Colombia, Guatemala and Vietnam.
Estep said the program added staff the last two years to meet demand, averaging 25 to 30 new clients a week. Since the beginning of this year, the demand has increased again, averaging about 50 new clients a day. He also said the staff has come up with innovative ways of helping people, such as the use of Skype, to meet clients who are not able to come in person to the nearest CCCTX office.
Ramirez said the primary goal is to keep families together and safe. 
“By continued support through both the Immigration Legal Services and Counseling Services programs, Catholic Charities helps individuals and families address their immediate needs and plan for their long-term well-being and success,” she said.
Attorneys –– especially those specializing in immigration –– are always needed. To volunteer or to make a donation, call (512) 651-6100 or go to www.cccctx.org.