By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published June 25, 2015
ATLANTA—Frank Mulcahy, executive director of the Georgia Catholic Conference, is the 2015 recipient of Catholic Immigration Network’s CLINIC Champion award.
CLINIC Executive Director Jeanne Atkinson presented the award to Mulcahy at the nonprofit’s annual convening in Salt Lake City, Utah, May 14.
Atkinson said that Mulcahy, a CLINIC board member since 2013, goes above and beyond the call of duty to support the group’s mission.
A subsidiary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, CLINIC works to promote the dignity of immigrants and protect their rights.
Atkinson called Mulcahy an “invaluable bridge builder” in forming strong relationships between CLINIC and other state Catholic conferences who had not previously made immigration a priority issue.
According to Atkinson, Mulcahy has been a leader at CLINIC’s Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C., and is always willing to mentor new participants, shepherding them around Capitol Hill to urge members of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Atkinson also highlighted Mulcahy’s work in Georgia in promoting such reform and the importance of welcoming unaccompanied children, in advocating against immigration detention, and warning about immigration scams.
The CLINIC Champion award has been awarded four times in the organization’s 26-year history, and Mulcahy said he was humbled and appreciative to receive it.
“I could not have done any of this without the support of the bishops of Georgia and the staff of both the Archdiocese of Atlanta and the Diocese of Savannah, particularly with our efforts to support parish immigration ministries,” he said.
The Georgia Catholic Conference under the direction of the bishops of Georgia promotes public policy positions which affect the common good and interests of the Catholic Church.
Mulcahy hopes to draw attention to CLINIC’s work rather than his own achievements.
“They really have three major things that they do,” said Mulcahy about the Maryland-based group.
CLINIC’s program areas cover advocacy, religious immigration services, and training and legal support.
At the national level, CLINIC’s efforts focus on administrative advocacy with officials at the Department of Homeland Security and agencies to promote the consistent application of immigration policies. The organization supports the efforts of state and local advocates working to combat anti-immigrant measures. The advocacy arm also increases representation for detained immigrants through coordination of the Board of Immigration Appeals Pro Bono Project.
“All that advocacy is tied to what the USCCB is doing,” explained Mulcahy.
Through its religious immigration services, CLINIC helps priests, seminarians, nuns and religious brothers to immigrate legally to the United States.
This work while very important is often behind-the-scenes, noted Mulcahy.
“A lot of this is not front page news,” he said.
The network also offers training and legal support to member agencies including Catholic Charities Atlanta through webinars, workshops and publications.
“They are very thorough,” said Mulcahy about the CLINIC training.
Mulcahy’s area of law practice was not immigration, so he attended CLINIC’s New Practitioners Course in August 2013 to build up his technical immigration expertise.
CLINIC also operates a national hotline with Catholic Charities New York providing resources for those seeking asylum from persecution for ethnic or religious reasons. The program was made possible from a grant from the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
Mulcahy said many of the Central American immigrants, particularly mothers bringing children, are leaving native lands due to persecution and a culture of gang crimes.
“This is what they are fleeing,” he said.
The fact these mothers go to great lengths to bring their children to America while facing peril demonstrates they have “serious reasons” for doing so, emphasized Mulcahy.
Half of CLINIC’s board members are bishops, giving Mulcahy a wonderful opportunity to listen and learn from them about the Church’s teaching in relation to immigration.
“It’s kind of fun being on this board, actually,” said Mulcahy.
Bishop Kevin W. Vann of the Diocese of Orange, California, is the board president.
Detention of families and families separated by detention of a family member is a focus of the bishops.
“This is a hot button issue for the bishops right now,” said Mulcahy.
He added they are concerned about families being reunited and the importance of the family unit.
“That’s our Catholic social teaching,” added Mulcahy.
In Georgia, Mulcahy anticipates issues surrounding drivers’ licenses for immigrants with deferred action status may surface next legislative session. He keeps Georgia Catholics informed by writing comprehensive immigration updates year-round and legislative summaries during the state session. They are posted on the Georgia Catholic Conference website.
Mulcahy also works with Kat Doyle, director of the archdiocesan Justice and Peace Ministries, to establish parish ministries for immigrants.
The CLINIC Champion award, most recently awarded to the SC Ministry Foundation of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, is a colored glass sculpture. Mulcahy’s Champion award is inscribed, “Your work and devotion have touched countless immigrants seeking a measure of justice.”