For decades, Catholic Charities’ Esperanza Center has helped immigrant individuals and families with many of their basic needs. Our experts at the Esperanza Center have provided this information about undocumented immigration, unaccompanied minors, the impact of immigration on the Greater Baltimore area, and the work the Esperanza Center does. 

What the Esperanza Center does

  • Catholic Charities’ Esperanza Center provides six programs: educational services, health services, immigration legal services, family reunification programs, client services, and anti-trafficking services.
  • Our immigration legal services program provides family-based and humanitarian immigration legal advice and representation at no or low cost.
    • Currently, undocumented individuals may qualify for visas on the basis of being victims of crime, victims of human trafficking, meeting special immigrant juvenile visa standards, or needing asylum.
    • Individuals consult with an Esperanza Center attorney, who determines whether the case appears to qualify for some form of relief. The attorney can provide information about rights and give individuals a chance to find representation either by our attorneys, a pro bono attorney, or an immigration attorney in private practice.
    • Esperanza has 10 immigration attorneys and about 2,200 open cases at any given time. We have more than 100 pro bono attorneys who have volunteered to take one or more cases.
    • Immigration legal services are critical in part because of a practice known as notario fraud. Notario fraud is the practice of offering advice or providing representation in immigration matters without being qualified to do so. It is a serious problem in all immigrant communities.
  • Esperanza Center’s health services program provides medical and dental care to immigrants who do not qualify for any type of medical insurance due specifically to their lack of legal status, which makes them uninsurable.
  • Most immigrants seen at the Esperanza Center have come to the U.S. for safety reasons, fleeing gang and other violence in their home countries. This is especially the case for unaccompanied minors.
  • The youngest unaccompanied minor we have seen at the Esperanza Center was 19 months old.
  • Catholic Charities’ Esperanza Center has been reuniting unaccompanied children with their parents and family members for the past five years. We provide assistance including fingerprinting services and assist the families with the challenges of reunification once the children are released from the shelters.
  • In FY2017, Catholic Charities’ Esperanza Center served 11,510 clients. We expect to serve at least that many, if not more, each year in the years to come.

Immigration Fast Facts

General information about undocumented immigrants

  • Sixty percent of all undocumented immigrants have been in the U.S. for 10 years or longer.
  • Thirty-four percent of undocumented immigrants in Maryland report speaking no English or not speaking it well. Because they are undocumented, there is little funding available to help them learn English.
  • Up to 70 percent of undocumented immigrants are less likely to report being a victim of crime.
  • Undocumented immigrants are 50 percent less likely to commit a crime than American citizens.
  • It costs about $10,000 (direct costs) to deport one individual.
  • According to the federal government, 1,995 immigrant children were separated from their families at the U.S. border between April 19 and May 31, 2018. Estimates are that thousands more are arriving every week.
  • Out of 44 million total immigrants in the U.S., approximately 12 million are undocumented.
  • On June 11, 2018, the attorney general issued a decision that determined that gang violence and intimate partner violence were no longer valid reasons for asylum.
  • Federal statistics may say that one in four people in federal prisons is undocumented. That is because federal prisons also house people being held on undocumented status charges; they are not necessarily there for having committed a crime other than unlawful entry.

Unaccompanied minors

  • In laymen’s terms, an unaccompanied minor is defined as someone under the age of 18 arriving without a parent or legal guardian.
  • Before 2012, there were about 6,000 unaccompanied minors who arrived each year. Since 2013, there have been more than 210,000. The largest spike was in 2016, when there were 59,000.
  • In 2017, more than 41,000 unaccompanied minors were apprehended at the southern border. About 6,900 were under the age of 12.
  • Children are not provided with an attorney in immigration court, though they do have a right to be represented by counsel.
    • Esperanza Center’s Immigration Legal Services program provides these legal services to unaccompanied and/or separated minors and their family members at no or low cost.

The impact of immigration on the area

  • In the Baltimore/Towson/Columbia area, immigrants (any status) account for 38.6 percent of business owners.
  • Maryland is No. 6 in states with the highest undocumented population, behind California, Florida, Texas, New York and New Jersey.
  • A study by the Census Bureau from 2012 – 2016 determined that 146,000 immigrants (any status, self-reported) reside in Baltimore and Baltimore County.
  • Undocumented immigrants pay about $330 million in Maryland state taxes each year.
    • Many undocumented immigrants have individual tax ID numbers (ITIN), which is required to open a bank account, buy a car, etc. With an ITIN, you can, and most immigrants do, pay taxes. Those who pay taxes are paying into Social Security, even though they will never receive social security benefits.


For media inquiries or more information:
Rena Daly
667-600-2007 (O)
646-263-6384 (C)