You may have recently read an article in the New York Times about the deplorable state of third country refugee resettlement in the United States. The article highlights the fact that even though President Trump set the refugee ceiling at 45,000 refugees, it is likely that only 20,000 refugees will be allowed into the country this year. For HIAS PA, that means that instead of welcoming 200 refugees, as we did at our peak, we will likely be resettling less than a hundred. This is unacceptable, and HIAS PA is advocating everyday to change it (contact your congressperson here).
But despite our lower refugee numbers, newly resettled refugees are only a small fraction of the immigrants that HIAS PA serves every year. Last year, we served 190 newly arrived refugees. We also served over 2,000 other new clients, along with another 1,000 or so whom we continued working with from prior years. And government policies have made the need only grow.
Who are these individuals?
- DACA recipients and other individuals who are losing status due to new policies: We are screening DACA and TPS recipients to help them gain permanent status in the US. For example, after “Naomi” learned she was going to lose TPS status and forced back to Haiti after living decades in the US, she came to us. After screening, we realized that she had experienced persecution in Haiti, and are now helping her claim asylum.
- Refugees who are already here: While the government resettlement program only supports refugees for their first 90 days, we have found ways to support refugees beyond those three months, including expanded English teaching services, employment services, and extended case management. For example, “Nan” was resettled in Philadelphia 3 years ago and her family was thriving until she needed a kidney transplant. But because of translation and cultural problems, the hospital didn’t believe Nan and her family could handle the complex follow-up care required for a transplant.. It took the intervention of a HIAS Pennsylvania case manager to advocate on the families’ behalf and show the medical team that, contrary to their assumptions and misunderstandings, Nan and her family did understand the medical follow-up that was necessary and were prepared. , Nan will soon receive a new kidney and her family will continue thriving and contributing.
- Asylum-seekers and those who have received asylum: Some individuals fleeing persecution make their claims within the United States. HIAS PA helps individuals make their claim in court, and then helps provide services to them after they get status. For example, “Ralph”, a political asylum seeker from Guinea was released from detention after he finally won asylum and we helped him get housing so that he could begin his new life.
- Domestic Violence Victims, Neglected and Abused Children, and other Victims of Violence: Immigrants are even more vulnerable today than before, and HIAS PA works to ensure they get the stability of status. For example, when “Rachel’s” husband abused her, she was afraid of calling the police. They might find out her immigration status and send her away from her American born children. HIAS PA helped her get status, enabling her and her children to live free and safely away from violence.
- Individuals applying for citizenship: Being a citizen does not only mean being able to vote. It also means never having to worry about losing your right to stay in the United States. HIAS PA is providing citizenship classes and legal support to hundreds of individuals through clinics, pro bono partnerships, and individual support.
Because of the growing needs of our clients, contrary to the New York Times article, our staff continues to be busy and our volunteers and in kind donations continue to be utilized. In fact, more than ever before, we need to expand our support as we use this crisis in refugee resettlement as an opportunity to expand our social services to meet all of our clients’ growing needs and to provide support beyond the 90 days contracted by the government. We hope you will join us at this critical time as we transform and expand in order to provide legal and social services for all vulnerable and low income refugees and immigrants from arrival to citizenship.
HIAS Pennsylvania has seen immigration policy become more and less restrictive over the 135 years that we have existed. When refugee policy becomes open again, we will be prepared to resettle more refugees. Until then, with your support, we will meet the current demands of all of our clients.