February 19, 2021 // Diocese

Catholic Charities leverages experience, expertise to handle potential immigration policy changes

FORT WAYNE — In an executive order Feb. 2, President Joe Biden signaled a pending shift in immigration laws and policy. The order created a task force to reunify immigrant families and promised the development of a strategy to address irregular migration across the U.S. border with Mexico as well as promote the integration of immigrants.

Looking ahead at the possibility of reforms in immigration law in the United States, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend foresees people in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend having many questions about these potential changes. The most important of these questions is, once passed by Congress, who can be trusted to interpret and implement changes in the law quickly and effectively?

Legal immigration work is complex and multi-layered, said Gloria Whitcraft, CEO of Catholic Charities. The organization is equipped with extensive expertise to assist immigrants within the new legal landscape. 

“It is in the best interest of the consumer and our communities that changes in immigration law are interpreted correctly and that related services are provided by accredited experts,” stated Whitcraft. She stressed that the value of employing CCFWSB’s experienced and accredited professionals is that they can combine their call to serve with the need to uphold U.S. immigration law and policy. 

After 20 years of building this critical infrastructure for legal immigration work, CCFWSB has the personnel, expertise and credentials to respond quickly to and manage well even the most intricate reforms.

“The consumer cannot afford to take chances with their legal case, and the community at large depends on CCFWSB’s competency in these legal matters,” she said.

CCFWSB is the only agency in northeast Indiana recognized by the Department of Justice and only one of a handful throughout the state. Today, CCFWSB possesses the expertise to accept some of the most complex immigration cases that others cannot. 

“The first task is to determine the person’s eligibility,” explained Luz Ostrognai, CCFWSB immigration supervisor. “For this we carefully examine references and history, including any possible criminal background, which would disqualify them.”

Ostrognai leads a team of professionals who serve the 14 counties of the diocese. She is the only one in northern Indiana fully accredited as an immigration professional, a designation that is granted when someone demonstrates a mastery of immigration law and procedures.

After confirming eligibility, the task is to determine which of the dozens of federal regulations apply to the applicant. Everything must take place in the right sequence, using the correct forms and documentation.

“Someone can be turned down and not know why,” said Ostrognai. “This often occurs when some well-meaning, inexperienced person attempts to help. After 20 years, we know how to prevent problems and achieve the correct outcome.”

As the domestic charitable arm of the Catholic Church, CCFWSB’s job is to respond to the Gospel imperative to serve those in need and welcome the stranger. Whitcraft stressed that all of CCFWSB’s programming aligns with Catholic Church teaching that marriage and the family are the central social institutions that must be supported and strengthened. 

In this context, the Catholic Charities team works diligently to keep immigrant families together, and, whenever possible, reunite families who have been separated. As with all clients, the goal is to strengthen families and help them reach their God-given potential and become economically self-sufficient.

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