Child immigration fix could hurt Nevada

Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada stands to lose about $1.2 million by Aug. 15 if federal officials succeed in redirecting $94 million nationwide to aid Central American children crossing the U.S. border alone.

The nonprofit takes the lead as the State Refugee Office in Nevada and receives about $5 million annually for its refugee re­settlement programs, said Thomas A. Roberts, president and chief executive officer.

Catholic Charities provides guidance and support to the Ethiopian Community Development Council, which is the only other resettlement agency in Las Vegas, Roberts said.

“It would be devastating to our program,” he said Friday of the potential loss of funding.

If officials from the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement move forward to redirect those funds, and Congress gives the go-ahead, about 1,000 refugees in Southern Nevada would be impacted, Roberts said. He said about 15 employees also could be laid off by Catholic Charities and the Ethiopian Community Development Council.

Catholic Charities sees about 1,700 refugees per year.

Roberts said he understands the funding issues to address the humanitarian crisis of Central American children crossing the border unaccompanied. “But we can’t do it at the expense of re­fugees who are already here.”

The organization will have to wait to receive word from federal officials for now.

“We realize that people have strong opinions about this issue,” Roberts said. “In my opinion, this is not a political issue, this is a humanitarian issue.”

He is urging people to ask their congressional representatives to support funding to address the humanitarian crisis, but to also keep funding refugee re­settlement programs at the same level.

An estimated 57,525 un­accompanied minors have been apprehended at the border with Mexico this fiscal year, according to statistics from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The fiscal year began Oct. 1, 2013.

That compares to 27, 884 un­accompanied minors apprehended during the 2013 fiscal year.

A total of 122 children have been sent to a sponsor in Nevada since Jan. 1, according to a report by the Office of Refugee Resettlement. The office cares for children in shelters across the country until they can be released to a sponsor, which can be a parent or a relative, who can care for them while their immigration cases are processed, according to federal officials.

Roberts said he couldn’t comment on the 122 cases because he hadn’t seen the report. The Catholic Charities’ refugee re­settlement program has occasionally helped unaccompanied minors over the past 20 years.

“As of right now, we are not aware of any volume coming our way,” he said.

Carisa Lopez-Ramirez, vice president of migration and immigration services for Catholic Charities, said six federal grants are threatened by the potential cut.

Some of those grants offer case management and employment, career recertification, school assistance for children, intensive case management for older re­fugees, health education and assistance with immigration services.

Under the proposed cutback by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement, officials could reduce each of those six grants by 58 percent, she said. Most of the services help the refugees become self-sufficient.

“There are great outcomes that come out of these grants,” she said.

Contact Yesenia Amaro at or 702-383-0440. Follow @YeseniaAmaro on Twitter.

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