News & Views

Weekly Wins Round-up: December 2021

Dear HIAS PA Supporter,

Happy new year! I hope you and your family are doing well and having a healthy start to 2022.

As you know, here at HIAS Pennsylvania, we are still in the midst of myriad crises on the immigration front. Register here for our Annual Martin Luther King Day of Advocacy virtual event to learn about some of the more egregious crises and work with us to take action in support of policies to support immigrants.

Until then, please join me in celebrating our final wins of 2021 by reading the stories below. Here’s to a happier, healthier 2022!

HIAS Pennsylvania went to Harrisburg to “Drive PA Forward”

What a great day in Harrisburg with the Driving PA Forward campaign! We were there for an end of the year rally to continue support for HB279 which seeks to grant driver’s licenses to all residents of PA regardless of immigration status. Great energy from all over the state!

-Philippe Weisz, Co-Director of Legal Services

Generosity of Afghan evacuees brings people together at the lunch table

One of my former Afghan clients invited me over for lunch and had a feast prepared, and it was absolutely delicious! This family was one of the first arrivals from a military base and they have been incredibly patient with me and the Refugee Resettlement & Placement (R&P) team as we navigated many unfamiliar issues. Spending time with them was a wonderful reminder of the resiliency of all our clients who have seen unimaginable horror and spend years separated from their immediate family members. So many of our clients have offered to share tea and lunch with us and for that I’m grateful!

-Dzemila Bilanovic, Resettlement Case Manager

Liberian refugees receive green cards under the Liberian Refugee Immigrant Fairness (LRIF) program!

I am thrilled to say that two of my Liberian Refugee Immigrant Fairness (LRIF) program clients have their green cards in their hands! As a special benefit of the LRIF program, the legal permanent resident (LPR) cards are backdated to their dates of admission, one in 1999 and one in 2011, so we can move forward with naturalization applications promptly.

The client who has been here since 1999 is an essential worker who cares for people with developmental delays in residential settings. She has a 17 year old U.S. citizen daughter who is an excellent student and a junior in high school, and for the first time her mom knows she will be able to stay here in “my country” to see her graduate and go on to college. The client called me yesterday to tell me she is going to visit family and friends in Liberia early next year for the first time in 22 years. While she is there she will marry a “very good man who treats me and my daughter well and my whole family loves”, whom she has known since childhood and has had a long-distance relationship with for three years. She is just over the moon at the relief and joy she feels.

The other client is a male who counseled victims of domestic violence in Liberia. He has been here for ten years and was delighted to get work authorization as part of his LRIF application to return to social work. He, too, is so relieved to finally have his green card, and is eager to become a citizen of the country he has considered home for ten years. He is looking forward to voting in the next presidential election!

-Pamela Roberts, Citizenship and Family Unification Staff Attorney

Survivor of domestic violence gets a second chance at HIAS Pennsylvania

We just submitted an application for a client after working on her case for a few months. She had worked with a previous lawyer that told her she wasn’t qualified for an application for which she was completely qualified. When we began working with this client, she was desperate and deeply stressed. She’s been through A LOT, and as a survivor of domestic violence, has worked hard through her trauma to be able to provide the best life for herself and her children here. That’s not easy.

It’s a huge relief that we have finally been able to submit something for her, especially after she was denied the help so many times before. When I let the client know that everything has been sent to USCIS and now we just have to wait for the next steps, she was very happy. She even texted me the next day to thank us again, which I think means this was still on her mind, and the fact that she reached out with such sentiments gave me hope that we’ve done something very important and very good for her not just in her legal case, but hopefully in her overall sense of happiness and her wellbeing as well. She also sent me a sports jersey from her home country as a gesture of her appreciation. When clients get the help they need and realize their own power in this country, it’s always an amazing feeling and makes me really happy to do the work that we do here at HIAS Pennsylvania

-HIAS PA Domestic Violence Paralegal

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 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

Happy new year!

In health,

Cathryn Miller-Wilson