An essay by Lorraine Campanelli, Director of Cabrini Immigrant Services, Dobbs Ferry, NY:
Since President Trump signed the Executive Order about Immigration, fear has entered the immigrant community in Dobbs Ferry, NY and the surrounding Rivertowns. Dobbs Ferry went from a town with bustling streets to a town where you see a few individuals walking freely. The Village officials have made a statement that it is a safe place that welcomes all no matter their race, creed, status, etc. But still, there is fear, fear of the unknown, fear of an ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) Raid.
At Cabrini Immigrant Services (CIS) in Dobbs Ferry, we work with both adults and children. I remember the Thursday after the election at our afterschool homework program. The children expressed great fear about what may happen to our country and also to their home countries. Some children did not want to go to school for fear that their Mom and Dad may not be at home when they return. The majority of our children are American born but their parents are undocumented. Thus, the parents can be deported but not the children.
We did an impromptu prayer service to help them express some of their concerns. Each child received a picture of a vigil candle and was asked to write what their hopes were for the country. Some wrote that they hope their parents will be allowed to stay in the US; some hoped for an end to wars and bullying; while others hoped for enough food and housing for all people. Some children who are Pakistani had additional fears because of not only where their family is from but also that they are Muslim. One of the children hoped that our country would not bomb Pakistan because a lot of his relatives live there. These children are in Grades 1-6. A lot of stress for such small children. We talked about their hopes and fears. We prayed that God will continue to watch over all of us.
The adults also have tremendous fear. I think their greatest fear is for their children. If they are arrested with the intent of deportation, they will not be able to see their children. The children will more than likely be put into the foster care system. When you look into their eyes, you see the fear, you see the tears. They are also afraid that they may lose their jobs because employers may be fearful to have someone work for them who is undocumented. Housing has also become an issue for some.
We have many people who are trying to become US citizens. Some, do not have any documentation nor do they qualify in any way to become a citizen. Some may have the necessary documentation but do not have enough of a command of the English language to pass the interview part of the exam. In most cases, they must have an interview, read and write in English and learn 100 questions about US civics. We assist the clients in learning English and preparing for the naturalization exam.
Staff and tutors have attended rallies to voice our support for immigrants. I have been speaking at forums and at colleges. I am on a team that is going throughout the county informing people of their rights as well as letting them know what services CIS offers. When I speak about CIS, I always begin with the fact that St. Cabrini was an immigrant and how she was told to return to her homeland. I explain that in the Catholic Church, St. Cabrini is the Patroness of Immigrants and I tell the people to turn to St. Cabrini.
CIS continues to welcome all in the name of St. Cabrini. We are a safe place for our clients to come. Our clients feel comfortable coming to CIS and they know that they will be accepted for who they are.
I ask that you please keep us and all immigrants in your prayers. We ask St. Cabrini to intercede for us.