News & Views

Weekly Wins Round-Up: August 2021

Dear HIAS PA Supporter,

The last two weeks of August reminded me, as if I could ever forget, that we are on the front lines of every worldwide crisis. As usual, HIAS Pennsylvania’s incredible staff has handled ourselves with dedication, compassion, grace and expertise. We have mobilized AILA to take on many humanitarian parole cases immediately so that Afghans living in the US can petition to get their relatives out of Afghanistan, and we are hoping and praying that the folks there will actually get out. We quickly published an op/ed to get USCIS to waive their restrictive fees for humanitarian parole; Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan has already contacted USCIS to get them moving on this, as have Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon and Connecticut Congressman Jim Hines, who both picked up our advocacy efforts!

Our Refugee Team has jumped in feet first to help two large Afghan families and two other refugee families while continuously reacting to the evolving crisis in Afghanistan, putting together an important and successful community solidarity event, and working weekends and evenings to ensure the safety and security of our clients. We have fielded hundreds of calls and emails from anxious and devastated Afghans, reporters, volunteers, and donors. Thank you to everyone who has reached out. You can learn more about how to help here.

And, finally, a huge thank you to Sadiq Sadeed, who has–on top of his work for HIAS Pennsylvania–been a national spokesperson for Afghan refugees and Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders in the US and Afghanistan, all while dealing with unimaginable personal issues as he feared for his loved ones’ health and safety. Don’t forget to hear from Sadiq and our Director of Social Services, Lucy Rabbaa, at our Ask Me Anything TODAY, Thursday, September 2nd, at 4PM on Facebook Live.

You all are the greatest and the work you do and your support is so critical. It’s so hard to feel like you are moving from crisis to crisis but remind yourselves that you are making the world a better place – one individual at a time. It’s so important.

With love and respect, I am delighted to share our August Weekly Wins with you!

Community rallies together to help Afghans share their stories
I want to thank every HIAS PA staff member who worked with Nationalities Service Center and Bethany Christian Services to organize the community event in support of the Afghan community this past Sunday. Thank you to Office Manager Sadiq Sadeed, former Refugee Case Manager Said Hashemi, and all others who shared their stories with the group and encouraged everyone to speak up and speak out. Thanks to everyone at HIAS PA who has been mobilizing so quickly to respond, making time for and often setting aside other daily work these past two weeks to respond. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed myself, but I feel grateful that I have some next steps to offer Afghan families who are reaching out.
-Valeri Harteg, Education Program Manager

Mother and son reunited after ten years
Leah*, a former citizenship client, filed relative petitions in July 2011 for her two children who were still in Liberia after she naturalized. As her daughter was under 21, she was able to be processed much faster and arrived in the US in 2014. However, because her son, Joshua*, was over 21, he was under a different visa category (unmarried adult son of a citizen), which had a very long waiting time. His documentation for his immigrant visa was approved in March 2020, but due to COVID-19, he did not receive an interview at the US Embassy until late April 2021. Leah called this week to say that Joshua received his immigrant visa and has arrived in the United States, over 10 years from the original filing of his petition! Leah is ecstatic!
-Lori Alexander, Director of Citizenship and Family Unification Program

*names have been changed

Students in college prep program tour Temple, discuss their dreams for the future
I want to give a big shoutout to Education Access Coordinator Michelle Ferguson and our wonderful Drexel Co-op, Kejsi, for successfully organizing our first in-person experience with our high school youth since the pandemic began! Yesterday, we took a safe, socially-distanced tour of Temple University with nine of our Summer College Prep Program participants. It was so great to talk with them about their impressions of the campus and share some laughs with them in person instead of through a screen. Thanks to COVID Outreach Specialist Jana Lenart for helping with drafting our COVID safety plan and waiver and to Director of Social Services, Lucy Rabbaa, and Executive Director, Cathryn Miller-Wilson, for the support!
-Valeri Harteg, Education Program Manager