News & Views

Weekly Wins Round-up: January 2023

Dear Friend,

This month we observed International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It was, in large part, the fact that six million Jews were murdered by their own governments while the world stood by that the Geneva Convention was created and ratified in order to establish an international process for aiding and resettling refugees. Today, that process is needed more than ever as worldwide displacement surpasses 89 million people.

HIAS PA was established 140 years ago by Jews to help persecuted Jews, and today it continues to help people from every faith and background apply for asylum and resettle refugees in our country. Never again means never again.

Read below to see how we put these inspiring words into action.

“After 25 years in the US, my client received her green card in the mail yesterday.”

Of all of the injustices of our immigration system, the one that hits me the hardest is the inhumane separation of families. After 25 years in the US, my client—one of the first cases I took on when I joined HIAS PA—received her green card in the mail yesterday. She called to thank me and to tell me that she had already purchased her ticket to return to her home country to visit family and friends she has not seen in a long long time. When I asked her when she was leaving, she said, “tomorrow!” I could hear the disbelief in her voice as she said those words: “I am going back tomorrow”.

-Philippe Weisz, Director of Legal Services

National organizations team up with HIAS PA to bring freedom to immigrants

My client, Mamadee Kaba, was recently released from immigration detention after nearly two and a half years. He was originally detained at York County Prison, but was transferred to Stewart Detention Center in Georgia when York County ended its contract with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in August of 2021. We filed a petition in federal court, along with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), challenging Mamadee’s detention as unconstitutionally prolonged. 

Ultimately, ICE agreed to release Mamadee, and he is now back with his family in Southwest Philly, where he met his three-year-old daughter for the first time.

Crucial to convincing the government to release Mamadee was a public pressure campaign that the New Sanctuary Movement helped us get off the ground. They worked tirelessly with us to organize Mamadee’s family and community. We presented a public petition to ICE with hundreds of signatures from the community, and were able to get Senator Casey’s office to contact ICE on our behalf to inquire about Mamadee’s case. Mamadee’s case has taught me that securing the release of a client from detention can require many partners in order to advocate for justice.

Mamadee knew that he could have been released from detention sooner if he had accepted his deportation back to Liberia, but then he would have continued to be separated from his family in the United States. He said the following to the SPLC while they were working on his case with us: 

“I had lost hope so many times, but I never stopped fighting, and I know I still have more to do. This injustice is not right. For ICE to take us away from our families and hide us in their sick system is outrageous. We belong at home with our families. Thank God we have people in this world that refuse to sit by and do nothing, as many do. They will be the heroes when it’s all said and done.”

-Chris Setz-Kelly, Asylum and Removal Defense Program Manager Attorney

Newcomer children enjoy their first day of school

Education Program Manager Michelle Ferguson and I recently accompanied a Guatemalan refugee family to their first day of school. It was a long, rainy morning, but the family was incredibly patient and remained consistently excited throughout the day. The kids are returning to school after a few years of interruption, and the teachers shared this message with me:

“Both kids came to school today with big smiles on their faces and seemed very comfortable even though it is only their second day of school. Maria* was clapping and singing along with the class.”

-Parisa Khoshnood, Youth Education Case Manager and PreK-8 Program Coordinator

*name has been changed

A family shares their first hug in 15 years!


My client and her daughter went to Mexico for the first time in 15 years—just a few days after they received their legal permanent resident status in the United States! She shared a video with me that captures the moment they surprise her son in Mexico, and the first hug the family has shared together since her son left the US in 2014.

-HIAS Pennsylvania Attorney

Thank you for your continued support of HIAS Pennsylvania and the immigrant families we are privileged to serve. I hope that these 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 come celebrate a year of wins at our annual Golden Door Awards, happening this year on Thursday, April 20th, 2023, from 5:30PM to 8PM, at the National Museum of American Jewish History. Looking forward to seeing you there!

In health,

Cathryn Miller-Wilson
Executive Director