News & Views

Weekly Wins Round-up: February 2022

Dear HIAS PA Supporter,

We are devastated about the war in Ukraine, and all of the tragedy striking Kyiv and spreading rapidly throughout the rest of Ukraine in these moments. On top of everything that is happening, the Russian army bombed the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial, which honored the memory of the 34,000 Jewish Ukrainians who were slaughtered by Nazis over a two-day period in 1941. We are, however, bolstered by the Ukrainians who continue to put on a brave face in the fight for freedom against Putin and his army. Please read our statement on what is happening in Ukraine and find out how to advocate for Ukrainians. We are keeping all of the citizens of Ukraine in our hearts.

While terrible things are happening throughout the world, there are glimmers of hope all around us. As an agency, our daily successes, big and small, remind us to find joy in each new day. I am, as always, delighted and proud to be able to once again share our HIAS PA wins with you. Please join me in celebrating our successes!

School is back in session!

Every school year, HIAS PA’s Youth Team goes into 4 Philly high schools to give Know Your Rights (KYR) presentations to the newcomer youth, the majority of whom are from Central America and in need of immigration legal assistance. We partner with La Puerta Abierta, an organization who runs newcomer youth support groups at the schools.

We teach the students about their rights (i.e. the right to feel safe and not be bullied, the right to an education, etc.), we discuss what to do if students or their families encounter Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), explain immigration court, explain different types of immigration benefits such as Special Immigrant Juvenile Visa Status (SIJS) and asylum, and we end with a discussion about how to fund higher education as an undocumented student. We offer free consultations after each presentation, and we are ultimately able to take on some of the kids’ cases.

Last year we were totally virtual due to the pandemic, and it was difficult to engage with the students as many newcomer youth felt isolated and unengaged with school. This past month, however, we were able to return to giving in-person presentations for the first time in over a year, and we provided close to 100 newcomer students with valuable KYR information and resources! It was great for the entire team to finally get some face time with the kiddos, and we were ecstatic as always to provide this critical information to them about their rights as immigrant youths!

-Stephanie Lubert, Immigrant Youth Advocacy Managing Attorney

Wellness Wednesday cooks up success!

Every Wednesday, the Immigrant Health and Wellness Team partners with the Education team to provide wellness activities to our English as a Second Language (ESL) students. One Wellness Wednesday per month, we partner with the Free Library of Philadelphia to host a free cooking class. With the help of volunteers, we drop off ingredients the day before to our clients so that they can cook along – this week, we cooked pancakes! Cooking week is one of my favorites because of the way we can all unite over food!

-Anna Shaffer, Immigrant Wellness Case Manager

Husband and wife are one step closer to getting driver’s licenses

With today’s mail challenges, it can be a difficult process to ensure that clients get the documentation and information they need in order to apply for and obtain their driver’s licenses and/or state identification. After months of delays and a confirmation letter that never arrived, the Legal Presence Manager at PennDOT was able to help one of my clients obtain his State ID!

At the same time, we were having trouble obtaining a document for another client from the Social Security office. We were able to reach a representative who helped us obtain that document and went the extra mile to mail it not only to me at the office, but to the client’s home address as well. After a long wait, we are now only steps away from this client and her husband being able to apply for a state ID and/or driver’s license. Kind acts like that have made this week sweeter not just for the client, but for me as well!

-Michelle Nava, Immigrant Victims of Crime Case 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