News & Views

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

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WATCH OUR BRIEFING: “UKRAINE, AFGHANISTAN, HAITI: OUR WORLD IN CRISIS”


How to Get Help

How to Give Help

What We Know (Scroll down to learn more)

 


HAITIANS ALSO NEED OUR HELP

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TO GET INVOLVED WITH HELPING AFGHAN AND HAITIAN REFUGEES, PLEASE sign up for a volunteer database profile AND A new volunteer information session.

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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.


Afghanistan

What We Know

So far, we have welcomed 125 Afghans to the Philadelphia area, and we continue to resettle refugees from other countries. We have also been providing legal support to Haitians and Afghans who were here before the crises erupted last summer. These are people who are seeking authorization to remain in the United States or to petition for family members overseas.

We have received many calls 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 who are 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.

Despite an entire year of advocacy, there remain many Afghans that we resettled who are desperate to get their family members out of Afghanistan. The only legal avenue for Afghans to be able to enter the U.S. at this point is either through going through the lengthy process of being declared a refugee or applying for humanitarian parole. This latter, if granted, permits a person to enter the United States and remain for about eighteen months. However, tens of thousands of these applications were filed in the fall of 2021 and most of these were denied. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), in November of 2021, suddenly imposed a stringent standard, declaring that in order to get humanitarian parole an applicant had to prove that he or she was personally in imminent danger—something that is extremely challenging to do when many Taliban threats have been made to close family members and/or have been non-specific saying things like, “we will kill you and all of your family”. A lawsuit challenging the legality of imposing this standard has been brought but so far, the denials keep coming. A 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 provided daily 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.

On the good news front, there have been a few reunifications that have taken place. A client and his family were separated from their two-year-old son in the chaos that erupted at the airport last August. In April of 2022, after a great deal of advocacy by many people and nonprofits across the country, the family and their child were reunited in Philadelphia.

Further good news relates to the Afghans who have been resettled in the last year. When Afghans were first evacuated by the military and permitted to enter the United States, they were given humanitarian parole. As mentioned above, however, this is not a legal status—it’s temporary permission to remain in the United States. On September 30, 2021, Congress passed an Act stating that all Afghan parolees seeking to remain in the United States should apply for asylum and their applications should be expedited. While this was theoretically a good thing to do, there was insufficient funding to ensure that every resettled Afghan would be able to obtain immigration legal assistance to help them file for asylum. In addition, the need to file for asylum—or face deportation after their humanitarian parole ran out—added unnecessary stress to Afghans who have already been traumatized by their sudden need to flee and start a new life. As a result, advocates across the country proposed the Afghan Adjustment Act. This Act, if it passes, will permit Afghans that arrived here pursuant to last year’s evacuation, to automatically adjust their status from parolee to permanent resident (green card holder) without having to file for asylum. The Act was introduced into Congress on August 9, and we hope you will contact your legislator to let them know how important this Act is to ensuring the ongoing peaceful integration of Afghans.

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 afgkaprt@unhcr.org

For UNHCR information about relocation, click here, and for UNHCR information about family reunification, click here.

There is also an Interagency website and Help Line at AWAAZAF. You can call their toll free hotline seven days per week at 410.

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’s name who you are seeking to help, 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 for 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.

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 hereLearn 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.

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.

How To Delete Phone History—Dari and Human Rights FirstDelete Digital History

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


Haiti

What We Know

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 by our immigration laws. 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 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—usually anywhere from 18 months to three years—to work and pay taxes. They do not, however, have a pathway to citizenship.

TPS-holders of many nations find themselves in the untenable position of facing the risk of deportation after having started families and 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. With respect to Haiti in particular, greater help should be provided to Haitians seeking to reside here or who are already residing here given the shameful history of racist treatment towards Haiti and Haitians, much of which has contributed to the current instability and poverty in Haiti causing displacement. 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

HIAS Pennsylvania, in response to the current crisis in Haiti, is providing two months of emergency case management to Haitians, regardless of legal status. If you are a low income Haitian living in Southeastern Pennsylvania and need assistance, please contact our Haitian Immigrant Relief Program Case Manager, Stephanie Laurancy, at (215) 832-0640. For additional resources, please also see 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, call our office at (215) 832-0900 if you are a low income resident of Pennsylvania.


Ukraine

What We Know

Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine at the end of February of 2022. Since that time more than 5 million Ukrainians have fled Ukraine, most of them women and children. Several million Ukrainians were absorbed by European countries. Although the media has repeatedly referred to Ukrainians as “refugees”, the truth is that obtaining the legal label of “refugee” is a multi-year process that is not responsive to those who are currently in flight and seeking a stable place to call home. In an effort to be more responsive to current needs, President Biden initially authorized approximately 20,000 Ukrainians who appeared at our southern border in March and April to be “paroled” into the United States. This meant that they were legally permitted to enter the U.S. and remain here temporarily and to work, but they do not have a legal status that allows them to receive refugee services, travel outside the country, remain permanently in the United States, or petition for relatives.

In April, President Biden announced that Ukrainians at our southern border would no longer be paroled into the U.S. and instead should be directed by border guards to apply for a new program called the United for Ukraine (U4U) program. This program permits a Ukrainian who has found a fiscal sponsor to petition for permission to enter the U.S. There are no filing fees to apply for this, but the fiscal sponsor has to swear on a government form (the I-134) that he or she will take care of the Ukrainian’s material needs for 18 months. The fiscal sponsor must provide proof that they have the ability to do this, through tax returns and other financial documents, and those documents are reviewed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to determine whether the sponsor’s information is accurate and verifies sufficient means to meet the financial needs of the Ukrainian(s) they are intending to sponsor. Once USCIS determines that all is in order, the Ukrainian(s) can enter the United States. As with the folks that were paroled on our southern border in the early spring, the folks that are permitted to enter through the U4U program have been awarded humanitarian parole—an entry visa, not a legal status—which permits them to remain in the U.S. for 18 months to two years and to work. It does not permit them to receive refugee resettlement services, to petition for relatives, or to travel outside of the United States.

At the end of April of 2022, after the U4U program was announced, Congress passed the Ukrainian Relief Act, which permits Ukrainians with humanitarian parole—either because of being paroled at our southern border or because of participating in the U4U program—to receive the following benefits: SNAP, refugee medical assistance, the ability to participate in Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) employment programs, and the ability to receive services from the ORR’s health and wellness programs. There is nothing in the Act which provides support for Ukrainians to receive legal services. Furthermore, by specifically designating the benefits described above, rather than declaring—as Congress did with the Afghans in September of 2021—that Ukrainians could receive the same benefits as refugees, the Act is requiring that new programs be created, in addition to the ones that already exist, to serve this population. This is a terrible waste of resources, confusing to the Ukrainians and extraordinarily difficult for the already thinly-stretched refugee resettlement agencies. We need people to advocate with Congress to fix this error by passing an Act that will simply entitle incoming Ukrainians to refugee services and permit funding to be released to expand capacity to do this. This is much cheaper and more effective than creating entirely new programs for one population in crisis.


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 ongoing, 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. Donate to HIAS PA to help us resettle Afghan and Haitian individuals seeking safety and assist those applying for legal status. Donate here.

 

Updated on 8/23/2022.
TONIGHT: Join us at the table!Join us for Thankful Together!

Thankful Together, formerly known as Refugee Thanksgiving, is happening TONIGHT at 6PM!

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Celebrate our volunteers who make this all possible!Click here at 11:45AM to join our Annual Meeting!

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The Annual Meeting starts at noon, but join us at 11:45AM for an informal chat before the event!

POSTPONED! Speed Advocacy: Afghanistan

Today's Speed Advocacy: Afghanistan Facebook Live event has been postponed due to a worldwide Facebook outage. We will update you as soon as possible about rescheduling the event.