Mendez Celebrates 21 Years in Immigration Services

Author: Heather Welch Published:

As a case manager, Ana Mendez has experienced her share of families in need in the last 21 years.

To tell a client they are not eligible for any immigration benefits due to current immigration law, or to tell them that Catholic Charities is not able to take their case due to the complexity are the most challenging parts of her job.
Immigration Services provides affordable services for families of all sizes and origins. The program is accredited through the Board of Immigration Appeal (BIA) and affiliated with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. (CLINIC).

It was in 1963 Catholic Charities began helping refugees, primarily Vietnamese as they came to Kansas to find refuge and a new life. Staff helped the refugees get settled, place their children in schools and provide other support or referrals as needed. The goal was to help individuals and families stabilize in their new communities. In 1980, Mount St. Mary’s Learning Lab started to help the Indochinese refugee population with English as a second language and with the adjustment to the American culture.

Then, in 1985, the program diversified with the addition of migrant education, GED and citizenship courses. Computers were added for technology literacy. Expanding on refugee services, Catholic Charities began serving immigrants in 1986 offering help with legal paperwork and the process to citizenship.

Mendez said by supporting Catholic Charities today people are enabling it to continue to carry out their mission. “The mission of Immigration Services is to help immigrants build new and secure futures in the United States of America,” she said. “It is the philosophy of the program that every individual or family seeking services be given the most honest, clear and detailed answers to their immigration concerns.”

Mendez said her favorite part about her job is seeing the families reunite once again. “Hearing clients stories about how their lives have greatly changed now that they have obtained the immigration benefit for which they had applied brings me joy.”

Having an immigration attorney on staff to assist those clients who are in proceedings and do not have the financial means to hire an attorney are among Mendez’s hopes for the future. “My goal is for our program to grow to be able to assist more clients and expand to other parts of the state.”