News & Views

Crises in Afghanistan and Haiti: What We Know, How to Get Help and How to Give Help

HAITIANS ALSO NEED OUR HELP

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IF YOU ARE A LOW INCOME RESIDENT OF PENNSYLVANIA SEEKING IMMIGRATION LEGAL ASSISTANCE FOR A LOVED ONE, PLEASE EMAIL helpforafghans@hiaspa.org.


What We Know

HIAS Pennsylvania is deeply saddened by the recent events in Afghanistan and Haiti. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of our colleagues, clients, and community members who are affected by these events. We stand ready to advocate for our Afghan and Haitian communities and ready to welcome those who come to Philadelphia seeking refuge. 

So far, we have welcomed a few Afghan families to the Philadelphia area and continue to resettle refugees from other countries. We have also been providing legal support to Haitians and Afghans who are here, seeking authorization to remain or to petition for family members overseas. We anticipate that these numbers will grow over the coming weeks as increasing numbers of Afghans arrive here in Philadelphia and seek to petition for family members left behind in Afghanistan and as more information is available about the Haitian community’s needs.

Evacuation flights from Afghanistan have been landing in Philadelphia. To our knowledge, while there are no further military flights leaving Afghanistan, there will continue to be flights arriving in Philadelphia from Qatar, Turkey, Germany and other locations around the world who agreed to temporarily take in Afghans who needed to be evacuated immediately. These flights are expected to continue through mid-September.

While we are proud of our city for welcoming those in need, the persons landing will not necessarily remain in Philadelphia. All evacuees, unless they are American citizens or long-term permanent residents (green card holders), will be tested for COVID-19 and then sent to a military base to receive health screenings, immunizations, and, as necessary, background checks and further processing. Once these are complete, the evacuee will be sent to their final destination for resettlement. The processing is expected to take between fifteen and thirty days. Citizens and green card holders will be free to leave without any further processing.

We have received many calls in recent days seeking information and help for loved ones in Afghanistan or Haiti. The situation on both fronts is complex and rapidly changing. Some important information to understand is that there are different legal processes for different groups of people including (a) people who are here, seeking legal status in order to obtain work authorization and be free from deportation; (b) people who are here, who already have legal status and are seeking to get loved ones out and (c) people who are in Haiti or Afghanistan and are seeking to leave. 

There are currently no commercial flights out of Afghanistan. The American military is no longer in Afghanistan. We have received messages from Congressional Representatives who were trying to help family members of their constituents that as the United States’ mission in Afghanistan has come to an end, their ability to assist those on the ground is now extremely limited. We understand that there are ongoing negotiations between the Taliban and third-party countries that we hope will result in safe travel in and out of the country soon. For those who are here, HIAS Pennsylvania will be turning our full attention to the work of welcoming those Afghans who are here and supporting those who are seeking legal documents for their relatives left behind.

​HIAS, Inc., a national organization that we are affiliated with for purposes of refugee resettlement, has staff working at the military bases that are receiving those Afghans who are not permanent residents and is busy assisting in the processing of the Afghan arrivals. We are working with them to determine how many additional people we can resettle than originally contemplated given the enormity of the crisis. The answer to this question largely depends on you. Learn about refugee resettlement, and the collaboration it takes, here.

How to Get Help

If you are seeking help, for yourself or a loved one, and you are originally from Afghanistan, please click here for more information. If you are a low income resident of Pennsylvania seeking immigration legal assistance for a loved one, please email helpforafghans@hiaspa.org. Anyone sending referrals to this email address should include your name, the person you are seeking to help’s name, your and their contact information and any other helpful information they have. We will get back to you as soon as possible although we ask your patience as we are currently receiving many more emails and phone calls than usual.

In addition, this excerpt from the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies (CGRS) resource page provides resources for Afghans in need of assistance. We have also received reports that the Taliban are searching individual phones for signs of U.S. affiliation. This link provides fact sheets available in Dari and Pashto about clearing phone history and other safety measures individuals can take.

Those persons who have reached out to their Congressional representative and made inquiries have been told that there is a significant backlog and would encourage you to pursue any other opportunities to reach safety. For the most up to date information regarding Afghanistan Inquiries from the U.S. Department of State, please visit https://www.state.gov/afghanistan-inquiries/.

Confused about the different statuses? Learn more about them here.

For U.S. citizens, Legal Permanent Residents, and their families: Please ensure that you’ve filled out the Repatriation Assistance Request.

Although the U.S. Embassy in Kabul has suspended operations, the U.S. Embassy in Doha, Qatar is attempting to assist Americans and their families still in Afghanistan. Please call the State Department – Consular Affairs at 833-741-2777 or 606-260-4379 or email AfghanistanACS@state.gov for assistance.

For SIV applicants: General information on the Afghan SIV applicant process can be found on the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website here.

If you believe that you have an approved petition, but have not been contacted by the National Visa Center (NVC), or if you have questions about your pending SIV case after the petition has been approved, please email NVC at NVCSIV@state.gov or call 1-603-334-0828 and provide the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receipt number, full name, and date of birth. Customer Service Representatives at NVC are available from 7:30 a.m. to midnight (EST).

Potential Afghan Refugees/ P-2: Please refer to this website regarding potential eligibility for the U.S. refugee admissions program for certain categories of at-risk Afghan citizens. The referred individuals will receive notification by email once updated information or instructions are available.

Please note that we are hearing credible reports of Afghan nationals being targeted by the Taliban for contact with Americans, especially American phone numbers. Below are some instructions for wiping this data from devices, for you or your family.

How To Delete Phone History– Dari and Human Rights First– Delete Digital History

For Haitians, this excerpt from the resource page compiled by the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies (CGRS) for people looking to provide assistance to Haitians in Haiti, in the United States, and at the U.S. southern border.

If you seek immigration legal assistance for yourself or a loved one and you are Afghan, Haitian or from any other country, call our office at (215) 832-0900 if you are a low income resident of Pennsylvania.

How to Give Help

We need volunteers to help us resettle incoming refugees and provide legal assistance to new arrivals and current residents who need to stay here because they can no longer go home. Here is how you can make a difference:

  1. Become a volunteer and help us resettle incoming refugees or provide legal assistance to new arrivals and current residents who need to stay here because they can no longer go home. If you are interested in being called on when we need you, please sign up here
  2. Reach out to your legislators. Advocacy opportunities, which are on-going, are available here (through HIAS, Inc., a national organization independent from HIAS PA but affiliated with us for purposes of refugee resettlement) and here. Using the messages and tools on the HIAS, Inc. website and on our advocacy page, you can contact your Representative and Senator as well as President Biden. Find your Representative here and your Senator here
  3. Afghan SIVs arrive with work authorization and need jobs! If you are hiring, please contact Enock Sanon, our Employment Program Manager at esanon@hiaspa.org.
  4. Calling all Landlords: We are seeking landlords willing to provide housing at an affordable rate to a refugee family for six months to year. We, in collaboration with the Office of Immigrant Affairs, Nationalities Services Center and Bethany Christian Services are holding a special event for Landlords on September 22nd at 12 p.m. and will be virtual. You can register for the event here. If you are a realtor or landlord, please attend the event and/or contact our community engagement specialist, Anneke Kat, at community@hiaspa.org.
  5. Donate to HIAS PA to help us resettle Afghan and Haitian individuals seeking safety and assist those applying for legal status. Donate here.