Helping immigrants become more stable and connected to the community

One client’s story: An immigrant from Africa shares how the Newcomer Network changed her life.

Helping immigrants through a continuum of care: Catholic Charities USA interviews the executive director of the Newcomer Network, Sister Sharlet Wagner. Listen here.

Welcoming the Newcomer: Immigrants Find Hope: The Sisters of the Holy Cross interview Sister Sharlet Ann Wagner, Newcomer Network executive director.

Immigrants represent a large and growing population in the Washington metro area that makes powerful contributions to our community. But there is huge need in the immigrant community, with many families facing significant barriers to stability.

Thanks to a generous commitment, the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation has made a multiyear investment to launch the Newcomer Network, an innovative program at Catholic Charities to create a state-of-the-art social service program to serve immigrants in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

What is offered

The network assists immigrants with legal services and connects them to comprehensive support through holistic case management. The program also leverages Catholic Charities’ network of parishes and community partners to offer additional services and meet immigrants where they are.

An office at the Catholic Charities Center in Silver Spring, Md., offers the synergy of having different programs serving the same population in the same building.

How it works

The Newcomer Network has three components: an already established and successful Immigration Legal Services team; navigator case managers to assist people with accessing social services; and partnerships with parishes where many of the newcomers go to worship and other social-service providers.

Each client will have an assigned navigator case manager, supervised by a licensed social worker. The navigator case manager will collaborate with either a Catholic Charities attorney or a pro bono attorney working the case. Navigators will work with the person or family to address housing, employment and other needs, and to qualify them for social services and public benefits.

Who is served

The Newcomer Network can aid those with or without a legal path to permanent residence. The Newcomer Network Immigration Legal Services attorneys’ priority will be to help those with a legal path to permanent residency overcome obstacles on that path. For those who have no plausible legal path to permanent residency, Newcomer Network attorneys can warn clients against being cheated by unscrupulous individuals who offer to help them apply for legal status. While these clients might not qualify for most government-funded benefits, the Newcomer Network can work with private philanthropy to assist them.

Why it’s significant

As a result of these holistic and integrated services, high-need clients may see life-changing outcomes, improved mental and physical health, economic achievement, housing services and public benefits.