Weekly Wins Monthly Round-up: June
If there is one thing I have learned over these past couple of months, it is that we really are stronger when we work together. It may sound cliche, but I am constantly amazed by how we can overcome seemingly impossible obstacles when we join together.
We’ve seen this in a big way in the past month with the protests—which have encouraged corporations, cities, and states to take actions for equity that only last month would have been seen as far-fetched—but I also see it every day in our work.
I wanted to share with you a couple of the Weekly Wins we’ve had this past month that made me remember exactly this.
From former refugees reaching out to help new arrivals, to connecting legal clients to English language resources, together we continue to change our clients’ lives.
1. Community provides cash support to immigrants in freefall
Thanks to our community support, HIAS PA has been able to give out 99 $800 grants to immigrants who are in freefall. Immigrants like Elena*:
Elena is a high school student with a bright future, but she has been finding herself increasingly responsible for providing for her family since her father was deported and her mother lost her job.
Elena and her family have been working with HIAS PA attorney Stephanie Lubert to claim asylum and gain status in the United States since 2015, but after her asylum trial was postponed again to April of 2023, she didn’t know what to do.
The grant from the HIAS PA Immigrant Relief Fund allowed Elena and her family to pay for rent and life-saving groceries during this turbulent time, and they are so happy to be able to have this financial footing.
*Name has been changed
2. SCOTUS decision leads to peace of mind for DACA clients
“I feel like every DACA renewal that we filed before the SCOTUS’ decision was a win! All of our DACA clients were facing the same issue – not knowing what the outcome of the case would be and possibly being back in the shadows.
A renewal of at least two more years was a huge relief and peace of mind for our clients. This meant two more years of deferred action (making them undeportable), as well as renewed work permits.
During these past three months, we were able to file more than 20 DACA renewals. That’s a big number, and the fact that we were able to do so given the limitations of working from home is a huge win for us and our clients.”
-Gerardo Castillo-Jimenez, Latino Outreach and Immigration Services Coordinator
Gerardo spoke with PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro about the DACA decision on Monday, June 22nd. Check it out here!
HIAS PA was featured in the Jewish Exponent! Read on to learn more about the importance of DACA.
3. Former clients make a new refugee welcome
“The Refugee Resettlement Reception & Placement (R&P) team welcomed two new refugee arrivals, one of whom transferred here from Michigan with just a day’s notice. JVC Fellow Annelieske Saunders (again, with a single day’s notice!) found our new arrival housing with some of our former clients. The room he will be living in long term was not ready, so one of our former clients cleared out his own room and insisted on having our new arrival stay there until his room is ready while this former client is out of town on his truck route. They had never met before, but our client’s roommates welcomed him as if he were family.
Another recent client interpreted throughout the airport pickup, helping us find each other from two different terminals and helping the client and his new roommate get to know each other. Many thanks to Community Engagement Specialist Kerry Coughlin and everyone on the R&P team for everything you did to welcome our two new clients and for the incredible level of support I felt from all of you throughout this week.”
-Jennifer LaMotte, Refugee Resettlement R&P Program Manager
4. A teen humanitarian visa-seeker is connected to a ESL tutor
“I have a client who recently moved to Philadelphia and was struggling to register in school. I reached out to Education Program Manager Valeri Harteg on the Refugee Team, who took an hour out of her busy schedule to explain the school registration process to me and come up with a good plan for this client.
Val was able to find a volunteer ESL tutor who may be able to work with the client throughout the summer with the hope that the client will be able to register for high school in August. Thank you so much Val! You are amazing and it’s been so cool to tap into the many resources and institutional knowledge we have as an agency!”
-Joanna Gardner, Legal Fellow
5. After years in limbo, a Liberian immigrant finally has a path to citizenship
I heard this week from a relative of one of my Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness (LRIF) program clients, who told me the client has been smiling nonstop since she signed her first papers to work with HIAS Pennsylvania to get the process to get a green card started.
Many Liberian nationals have lived in the United States for years, even decades, under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and/or Deferred Action Departure (DED). While these programs allowed them to live and work here lawfully, they had no assurance they would be permitted to stay and were never granted a path to a green card or to citizenship until this one-year program was announced. Even though we’re only at Step One of a difficult process, the hope, relief, and joy at this possibility is wonderful!
-Pamela Roberts, Citizenship and Family Unification Program Staff Attorney
6. A family’s first computer allows them to reconnect
Thanks to our community support, HIAS PA was able to donate 79 Chromebooks to our clients.
“My client received a computer for the first time thanks to Kerry, Alexa, Rona B. and a wonderful volunteer. She was so happy that her 3 oldest children could finally do school work after all this time that she sent me a silly image of her with the computer. It really made my day to see how goofy and happy she could be despite all the hardship she has faced recently. Thank you to everyone who has been helping with client emergency tech needs!”
-Isabel Abreu, Staff Attorney
7. Clients learn how to use technology to keep community ties strong
The Immigrant Wellness Program was able to restart our group programming this week with a wellness group for Congolese women. It was really lovely to see several of our clients be able to log into Zoom and have a chance to interact with other community members. A huge shoutout to Anna for helping each client learn how to use Zoom! I am excited to run more of these groups in the future!
-Amy Eckendorf, Immigrant Wellness Program Manager
Contact Your Legislators!
Call your Congressional leaders today and tell them to prioritize creating a fair and just immigration system. Immigrants are the ones who are going to bring us out of the economic depression caused by COVID-19, immigrants are the ones whose tax dollars will help us pay for improved health care, and immigrant voices and perspectives of racial inequality and injustice will help us gain equity and justice for our children.
Thank you for your continued support of HIAS Pennsylvania.I hope that these Weekly Wins from HIAS PA staff have given you a lift, as they do me. Look out for more wins at the beginning of next month!
P.S. If you have the ability, please consider donating to the Immigrant Relief Fund so that the most vulnerable have income support and our agency can continue to provide critical services to the community.