News & Views

Weekly Wins Round-up: January 2021

January has already brought so much hope to the United States and to immigration organizations throughout the country, between the inauguration of President Joe Biden, myriad pro-immigration policies, and more. We would like to take a moment now to pause, take a deep breath together, and look back at HIAS Pennsylvania’s Weekly Wins from this new month, new year, and new era.


Advocacy ensures home healthcare worker gets vaccine.

Vaccine win!!! One of my clients in Montgomery County is a homecare worker who works with a 93-year-old. I helped her sign up for the vaccine through Montgomery/Chester County’s joint public health effort, and after some advocacy, she was able to get her first dose last Saturday!!!

-Emily Polstein, Immigrant Case Manager


It takes a village…

My weekly win is the compassion and speed with which the Newark asylum office responded to my call for help on behalf of a client in crisis. His asylum application was based on his status as a young homosexual male from a country known for its intolerance of those from the LGBTQ community. His fear of possible deportation consumed and haunted him in harmful ways. The asylum office responded to me in less than 12 hours to arrange an interview that was conducted within two weeks; a record! In addition, the asylum officer who interviewed my client did so empathetically, with tenderness and understanding. 

After further struggles that required my client to be hospitalized, he returned home to the best news in the world – the letter granting him asylum! Now he knows that his life has worth; that he is valued as he is; and that he is now safe. I have never heard my client as ecstatic as he was when he called me to share the good news.

As they say, “It takes a village”! My paralegals, Damaris Aguilar and Juliet Happy, provided exceptional  additional support to my client throughout the application process and beyond. Damaris successfully applied for emergency funds and food deliveries, and both checked in on him often to encourage him and keep him buoyed during his darker moments.

This case highlights the myriad ways we provide services to our clients and work in partnership to help them achieve their goals.

 -Ayodele Gansallo, Co-Director of Legal Services


HIAS PA’s Education Team leads nationwide and local trainings for Adult ESL and youth mentoring.

My weekly win was watching two of my Education Team members lead webinars!

Charlie Heil, Adult Education Lead Instructor, co-led a nationwide webinar on using technology in the Adult Education classroom! Charlie presented on an initiative that he worked on over the course for 2 years pre-COVID during which he explored how to use text messaging as a tool to help our preliterate and beginner ESL students practice English outside of class. The webinar participants were totally captivated and grateful for Charlie’s helpful insights. Go Charlie (and our colleague Jillian at the Garces Foundation)!

Michelle Ferguson, Education Access Coordinator, led an orientation for several newly recruited volunteer mentors for our High School Youth Mentoring Program for immigrant and refugee students. Michelle knows how to create such an engaging space–even on Zoom–and her passion for empowering youth is contagious. Grateful for all of Michelle’s hard work, and excited for the spring launch of the program this weekend!

-Valeri Harteg, Education Program Manager


Watch Now: HIAS PA’s Youth Team Superheroes!

Shout out to the Youth Team for being awesome, but I want to specifically acknowledge Immigrant Youth Advocacy Initiative Staff Attorney, Noelle Lemon, and Paralegal Deepti Sailappan for their creative work on our DACA presentation and materials! They prepared an interactive and fun Know Your Rights presentation for the students at Furness High School. Noelle did a fantastic job presenting to the students in an engaging way, and Deepti created a cool visual on DACA to hand out to the students (thanks to Know Your Rights Specialist, Tatiana A. Fisch, for the Spanish translation!). Job well-done, team!

My weekly win is also this fantastic video one of our partners at Furness High School created to advertise our DACA Know Your Rights presentation for students. 

-Stephanie Lubert, Immigrant Youth Advocacy Initiative Supervising Attorney


HIAS PA in the News!

We love seeing our staff and organization featured in the news! In December and January, Executive Director Cathryn Miller-Wilson spoke about changing people’s mindsets around immigrants and what the Biden presidency could mean for undocumented workers, while Citizenship and Family Unification Staff Attorney Pamela Roberts discussed the extension of Delayed Enforced Departure for Liberian refugees and shed some light on the Liberian Refugee Immigrant Fairness (LRIF) Act.

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!