Crises in Afghanistan and Haiti: What We Know, How to Get Help and How to Give Help
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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 over 100 Afghans 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.
Earlier on this page, we wrote of flights landing in Philadelphia for a short time period and then the folks on those planes being transported from Philadelphia to military bases across the country for processing. These flights have ceased. At this point, all evacuated Afghans have been sent to either military bases in the US or to American bases in Germany, Qatar and other locations for further processing. All told, approximately 130,000 individuals were evacuated. Of those, more than 70,000 were sent to bases. After receiving COVID vaccinations and security background checks, 50,000 were resettled across the US.
At this point, there remain more than 20,000 people at military bases in the US, as well as many thousands more who are at military bases overseas, who need resettlement, who are ready to be resettled but who have not been resettled yet due to delays caused by the pandemic, shortages in affordable housing and challenges with staff capacity to resettle. Resettlement agencies across the country are working on these issues and do expect the ability, eventually, to integrate all Afghans needing assistance but trying to resettle such high numbers in such a short time is what has been difficult.
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 very few commercial flights out of Afghanistan. The American military is no longer in Afghanistan. To our knowledge, the passport offices in Afghanistan are closed and the American consulate in Afghanistan is closed. 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.
Nevertheless, the Afghans that we have resettled are desperate to get their family members out of Afghanistan. One of our clients was separated at the airport from his young son and has been unable to get him back because the child doesn’t have a passport. Another client was separated from his pregnant wife and three children and there is no pathway to assist him in getting his family out to safety. Reports of danger, threats, violence and starvation are daily provided to our clients who are sick with worry about their family members. We need you to advocate with the White House and Congress to do something for these separated families.
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.
As far as the Haitian community, note that Haitians in our community, with some exceptions, are not eligible for refugee status or asylum because of the way that those terms are narrowly defined. The only immigration remedy for which most Haitians are eligible is Temporary Protected Status (TPS). TPS is awarded to populations that have experienced crises – either environmental such as earthquakes or famines, or man-made such as with outbreaks of war. It is, as its title suggests, a temporary status that must be renewed by the Executive Branch of our government every few years. Those who receive TPS are able, during the time period granted, to work and pay taxes. They do not, however, have a pathway to citizenship.
As three years is sufficient time to marry, have children, purchase a house or start a business, TPS-holders of many nations find themselves in the untenable position of facing the risk of deportation after having started families, businesses, purchased a home or otherwise created lives for themselves in this country. When TPS expires, thousands of people who have contributed economically as well as in intangible ways to their communities and our country are suddenly rendered vulnerable by our government. We need people to advocate with Congress to ensure that a pathway to citizenship – an opportunity to sustain the stability that they have created – is made available for all.
Haitians who are trying to get here, because of the recent earthquake and assassination of their President and/or because of civil unrest, violence or starvation in Central American countries that they migrated to initially, have been kept out by the Biden Administration because of the reauthorization of Title 42. This provision allows our government to temporarily prevent people from entering our country and, if they have entered, to expel them, if there is a public health crisis. It was invoked by President Trump at the start of the pandemic and set to expire this July.
Shockingly and contrary to the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control, Biden reauthorized this, while simultaneously welcoming tourists, refugees, migrant students and migrant workers. Doing this prevented thousands of Haitians and other migrants from seeking relief. Even more shockingly, President Biden has returned to President Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, a policy that sends asylum seekers to Mexico while they await their court dates. Human Rights First and the Haitian Bridge Alliance have released a fact sheet regarding the administration’s Haitian expulsion strategy and history of failing the Haitian people. You can help by contacting Congress and advocating.
How to Get Help
If you are in the US and and seeking help, for yourself or a loved one, and you are originally from Afghanistan, please click here for more information. If you are seeking to reunite with family members click here for more information.
If you are still in Afghanistan, here is the UNHCR webpage (available in Dari and Pashto), and here is further information about getting support from UNHCR. You can also contact UNHCR at 079-199-0225, 079-069-1746, or 070-499-6168 (available all business days). You can also email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are a low income resident of Pennsylvania seeking immigration legal assistance for a loved one, please email email@example.com. 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. You can learn specifically about the US Department of State Refugee Admissions Program here. For specific information about the P1 program click here and for the P2 program click here. Learn more about the SIV Program 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).
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Afghan SIVs arrive with work authorization and need jobs! If you are hiring, please contact Enock Sanon, our Employment Program Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 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 email@example.com.
- Donate to HIAS PA to help us resettle Afghan and Haitian individuals seeking safety and assist those applying for legal status. Donate here.