Catholic Charities of Orange County (CCOC) is doing an excellent job to build capacity and integrate immigrants into the community in Orange County. This beautiful area on the Southern California coast is very diverse and home to almost one million immigrants. Orange County has one of the highest immigrant populations of any county in the United States. Unfortunately, Orange County is also sorely lacking in immigration legal services and many immigrants in Orange County are not able to access immigration legal assistance.
CCOC has shown a commitment to build capacity to try to meet this dire need in Orange County. The agency has done this through increased use of BIA recognition and accreditation, innovative use of volunteers, and cross county and diocesan collaboration. In addition, in anticipation for Administrative Relief (AR) or Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) implementation, CCOC is planning and preparing in collaboration with other agencies across the county, state, and country.
CCOC has joined forces with the Diocese of Orange, Catholic Charities of Los Angeles, the Diocese of Los Angeles, Catholic Charities of San Bernardino and Riverside, and the Diocese of San Bernardino to increase capacity and plan for AR and/or CIR. These agencies have started a Parish Pilot Project, where they work with volunteers at local parishes to provide immigration legal services to the community. Each diocese will select approximately twelve volunteers to go through CLINIC’s Comprehensive Overview of Immigration Law (COIL) and apply for BIA accreditation. The collaborators of the Parish Pilot Project get together about once a month to discuss strategies, outcomes, and lessons learned.
In 2015, CCOC got 3 new staff and 7 volunteers accredited and plans to submit applications for 5 more parish volunteers by the end of the year. CCOC is accrediting non-immigration staff and parish volunteers so that when there is a one-time or short-term need for someone with a bit of background in immigration law, CCOC has the flexibility to mobilize its staff and volunteers to meet the need without having to worry about hiring new staff it’s not sure it can keep. CCOC brings its volunteers to help at group processing workshops and other large-scale legal clinics.
Since CCOC has limited staff, this resourceful use of volunteers allows the agency to serve more clients than it would be able to with existing staff. CCOC has also opened and with CLINIC’s assistance successfully obtained BIA recognition for a new sub-office in Capistrano Beach, a fairly remote area in Orange County where there are no immigration legal non-profits. In the past 10 months, CCOC has had 3 workshops to review documents, over 25 informational sessions on DAPA and expanded DACA, and assisted over 4,000 clients. This success highlights that an agency can increase capacity when it thinks outside the box using every day tools. CCOC leveraged resources it already had – BIA recognition and accreditation and volunteers – to create more capacity without hiring additional staff.
In addition to capacity building, CCOC is dedicated to immigrant integration. CCOC provides a myriad of services above and beyond immigration legal resources to assist immigrants accomplish their goals and integrate into their communities. The agency offers citizenship classes, assistance preparing for naturalization, a crises counseling hotline, counseling services, a senior housing complex, a community food pantry, assistance with Cal Fresh, help to people with disabilities access services, and referrals to other community-based organizations for assistance with things CCOC does not handle in-house. These services assist CCOC’s clients and other immigrants to better their lives and become more productive integrated member’s of the communities they live in.
Source: Catholic Charities