Serving families starting new lives in Eastern Virginia

Guest Column

Eastern Virginia is home to some of the largest immigrant communities in the Commonwealth. The Virginia Office of New Americans recently reported that an estimated 116,000 immigrants reside in the area around the Virginia Peninsula. Of that number, approximately 49,000 (42 percent) are noncitizens. Commonwealth Catholic Charities (CCC) is committed to serving these individuals and families every day. Since 2010, CCC has been at the forefront of welcoming refugees and immigrants into our community, providing comprehensive wraparound assistance to refugees fleeing war, poverty and violence and offering professional immigration legal services to foreign-born individuals and their families.

Immigration services

CCC’s Department of Justice-certified staff provides legal immigration services to both refugees and immigrants. CCC is the only DOJ-accredited agency providing pro bono and reduced-cost immigration legal services in Newport News, and in the past year, has assisted 400 immigrants throughout the Commonwealth. CCC hired an in-house immigration attorney in 2021 to better meet the sizable demand for immigration relief.

Refugee resettlement services 

In the past two years, CCC has assisted 1,500 refugees fleeing conflict and persecution in their home countries. CCC provides housing location services, short-term rent and utility assistance, cultural orientation, English-language instruction, educational support and school liaison services, employment training and assistance, mental health services and overall case management. Ongoing support for five years helps refugee newcomers achieve self-sufficiency and stability as they journey toward citizenship. 

The intersection of refugee and immigration services 

After the fall of the Afghan government to the Taliban in 2021, the U.S. government granted temporary Special Immigrant Visas to tens of thousands of Afghan nationals who had supported U.S. troops. Since the crisis, CCC has assisted nearly 900 Afghan refugees and their families to resettle in Virginia. Currently, these individuals face another hurdle. With their temporary residency status expiring, they must now quickly apply for asylum to legally remain in the U.S.

This process is long, complicated and difficult for those with limited English-language skills. Though professional legal guidance is imperative, the associated fees are cost prohibitive for many new refugee families. With low and no-cost immigration legal support, CCC has been able to assist many Afghans through the next stage of their journey.

Looking ahead

With the continued growth of immigrant communities in Eastern Virginia, the need to compassionately welcome newcomers into our neighborhoods, schools and communities will grow. Additionally, the need for pro- and low-bono legal support for noncitizen immigrant communities is clear and growing. CCC hopes to secure funding to expand immigration services across the region and to the Eastern Shore’s large noncitizen community. CCC is here as a resource not just for people on the move, but also for the entire community of which they will become a part. I welcome you to join CCC as it welcomes and serves migrants and refugees as they arrive, assimilate and strengthen our communities. 

About Sister David Ann Niski 13 Articles
Sister David Ann Niski is executive director of the Bernadine Franciscan Sisters Foundation. A strong advocate and supporter of the Virginia Peninsula not-for-profit agencies, she can be reached at 757-886-6025 or by e-mail at