Catholic Charities Migrant Resource Center leads know your rights workshops

CANTON – Immediately after the Spanish-language Mass at Sacred Heart Parish, Nancy Sanchez, Matthew Young and Amelia McGowan put on a very short “know your rights” presentation about what to do in case of an encounter with ICE or the police. The three are all on staff at Catholic Charities’ Migrant Resource Center.

“We particularly spoke about what to do if ICE or the police come to your home or work, or if you are stopped in a roadblock, as most people seemed to be concerned about that,” said Amelia McGowan, attorney for the center. “We used a guide from the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC),” McGowan added. Close to 100 people attended the presentation.

“Because we have received a human trafficking grant, I also discussed human trafficking briefly, as some of our clients have fallen victim to labor trafficking, and many are particularly vulnerable to it,” McGowan explained.

After the presentation, Matthew and McGowan provided legal screenings for interested individuals. About 25 people stayed for the screenings.

“For those individuals, we reviewed their particular situations to see if they might qualify for an immigration benefit, such as a U visa for certain victims of violent crimes, a family petition, asylum, etc. We provided those screenings so that people would know what their legal options may be if they are undocumented and would like to stay in the United States,” said McGowan.

This presentation as part of a grant, the Legal Screening Pilot Project, the Migrant Resource Center received from CLINIC. The purpose of the grant is to provide outreach, education and legal screenings to immigrants – especially undocumented immigrants – throughout the state. Starting in the end of February, the center has conducted these presentations/screenings in Corinth, Greenwood, Jackson, Tupelo and Canton. The staff will host one more in Natchez on a date to be determined. “So far, we have spoken to about 550 in group presentations, and 175 individually,” said McGowan.

She said her staff is available to other communities who see a need for education and screenings. “If any parish or community organization is interested in a presentation/legal screening event, they can call us at (601) 948-2635 or email us at”

Nancy Sanchez, left, Amelia McGowan and Matthew Young speak to immigrants at Sacred Heart Church about their rights. The workshop was one in a series conducted by the Migrant Resource Center. (Photo by Dorothy Balser)

Know your rights workshop