News & Views

Weekly Wins Round-up: April 2022

Dear Friend of HIAS PA,

On April 21st, President Biden announced the “Uniting for Ukraine” program; this will institute a streamlined process for Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion, and is intended to expedite refugee processing. Please read our updated statement on what’s happening in Ukraine for more information, and know that we remain ready to welcome Ukrainian refugees.

In the week before President Biden’s announcement, HIAS PA staff joined together with Interfaith Philadelphia to present Immigration Advocacy from a Faith-Based Perspective, a virtual panel discussion where Imam Basheer Bilaal, Reverend Josh Blakesley, and Rabbi Jill Maderer spoke about the religious value of welcoming the stranger.

Coming up next is our 2022 Golden Door Awards: We Are America, our annual celebration where we honor the amazing people who lead the way in support of immigrants and refugees. The Golden Door Awards will take place on Tuesday, May 24th, from 5:30PM to 8PM at the National Constitution Center (just around the corner from our new office on Independence Mall!).

Please join me in celebrating our successes, and I hope to see you at all of our upcoming events!

HIAS PA Drives PA Forward!

I participated in Driving PA Forward’s Interfaith Day of Action in Harrisburg this month, where HIAS PA, along with more than 100 community members, faith leaders, and community organizing groups from around the state lobbied in favor of House Bill 279: Driver’s Licenses for All.

HB 279 would allow all Pennsylvania residents, regardless of their immigration status, the right to apply for a state ID or driver’s license. The courage and determination exhibited by the affected communities who spoke directly to the legislators was inspiring.

Rabbi Freedman from Rodeph Shalom prepared the following remarks:

“Good morning. My name is Rabbi Eli Freedman and I am from Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia. We have a long history of partnering with the immigrant community including with HIAS PA and New Sanctuary Movement. I am here today to speak in favor of HB279 which will ensure that all Pennsylvanians have access to drivers licenses.

Last week the Jewish community just finished celebrating the festival of Passover, commemorating our redemption from slavery in ancient Egypt. Once free, our people were given laws which make up much of the basis of our western moral code. No less than 36 times in the Torah it states, “Do not oppress the stranger/foreigner for you or strangers in the land of Egypt.” And in no uncertain terms we are commanded in Exodus 12:49, “There shall be one law for the citizen and the foreigner that resides with you.”

We are taught on Passover that each of us should empathize and personally understand what it means to go through the Exodus from Egypt. In ancient times our ancestors were refugees fleeing persecution for The Promised Land in hopes of a better life. My own ancestors came to Philadelphia from Ukraine over 100 years ago in search of that same better life. They came at a time with different immigration laws; and although life was not easy, they were afforded opportunities that migrants today do not have.

Because of this and my belief that all human beings are created in the image of God and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity which that entails, I came to Harrisburg today to encourage our elected representatives to support house bill 279 and ensure that all Pennsylvanians have access to driver’s licenses. Thank you.”

-Philippe Weisz, Director of Legal Services

Future Drexel Dragon’s hard work earns him a lauded scholarship!

One of the students in our Young Adult Mentoring program just told me that he has been awarded the Liberty Scholarship at Drexel!!! The scholarship is extremely competitive, as only 65 students get it each year, and it provides full-tuition funding.

This student is extremely bright, hard working, and diligent with his studies, his after-school jobs, his extracurriculars, and responsibilities with his younger siblings. Our team has known for a while that he would have some amazing doors open for him with his college choices, but this is still really exciting. He is our first HIAS PA Mentoring student to go to Drexel, and the first who will live on campus. We are so proud of him!!

-Michelle Ferguson, High School and Post-Secondary Lead Instructor

Afghan refugee shines as a leader in his community

A parent of Afghan refugee youth formerly enrolled in our youth education programs applied for the Dari-speaking Bilingual Counseling Assistant (BCA) job at the school district and got it! He has been a contract interpreter with us, has facilitated a wellness group for Afghan men through our Immigrant Wellness Program (IWP), and did the voice-over for Dari in the digital literacy videos that we created for national HIAS, Inc. All that is to say that he is a really involved and committed individual in the community (with 5 young children at home!), and I am really excited for him to work with school district families in such a direct way.

-Valeri Harteg, Education Program Manager

Thank you for your continued support of HIAS Pennsylvania. I hope that these Weekly Wins from HIAS PA staff give you a lift, as they do me. Look out for more wins at the beginning of next month—and we hope to see you at the 2022 Golden Door Awards!

In health,

Cathryn Miller-Wilson