News & Views

Weekly Wins Round-up: June 2021

Dear HIAS PA Supporter,

On June 20th every year, we have the pleasure and honor of celebrating World Refugee Day, which highlights the strength and resilience of refugees in the United States. After celebrating Philadelphia World Refugee Day virtually last year, we were finally able to have an in-person celebration this year! Thank you to everyone who joined us on Sunday, June 20th, at Mifflin Square Park and Max Myers Recreation Center! Our team did such an amazing job creating an event that was accessible, inclusive, informational, and a whole ton of fun. It was such a joy to see clients and staff in person, enjoying the sun, games, balloon art, arts and crafts, and performances from around the world!

To continue the joy, I am pleased to share HIAS Pennsylvania’s June Weekly Wins round-up with you!

Organizations work together to keep immigrants out of citizenship purgatory.

A client came to us after getting her naturalization application denied. She had filed on her own and USCIS determined that she had derived citizenship through her dad. Except that the client had never lived with her dad after he became a U.S. citizen, so she actually didn’t meet the requirements for derivative citizenship. She tried to prove to the USCIS officer that she never lived with her dad, to no avail. She then applied for a U.S. passport, since USCIS told her she was already a U.S. citizen, but that was denied. The client then sought our help. We were able to get the case reopened, thanks to a wonderful USCIS Naturalization Supervisor. USCIS admitted their error and approved her naturalization application!

-Mary Clark, Philadelphia Citizenship Action Network (P-CAN) Coordinator

Green card, graduation, greatness.

My client got her green card and graduated from high school on the same day! It’s been a long journey for her. I first met this girl five years ago at the shelter, when she was just 14. She had been living in Honduras with her elderly grandparents, and had been forced to be the live-in girlfriend of an adult man. Talking about her experience was excruciating for this girl, and she was devastated when the asylum office denied her claim. I was also really frustrated. We had applied for Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) Status as well, and this application was eventually granted. But as a Honduran, my client faced a years-long wait for a visa number to become available. This girl really liked school and did well in her classes, but had a setback when she became pregnant. She was determined to go back to high school after her son was born, and, with her mom’s help, she made it work. SIJ clients have to wait in line (living in limbo for years), and last year she got to the front of the line. Yesterday, my client’s green card arrived in the mail, right before her 2-year-old son watched her graduate from high school.

-Mary McCabe, Supervising Attorney for the Detained Children’s Initiative

Going the extra mile by advocating for clients to get ID cards helps all immigrants.

This week, a client of mine was able to get a PennDOT ID after weeks of us hassling to get her one. I’ve been spending the last couple of months trying to figure out the proper protocol with Chester County to make sure our clients can get their IDs and licenses, and this has meant a lot of back and forth, a lot of the wrong letters, clients being turned away at PennDOT, and other issues. It started to get a bit stressful for me with clients having to call me to do damage control and translate last minute because PennDOT didn’t want to help them. But after getting creative with cover letters, advocating with offices, etc., it seems that we have made progress. When my client told me that she got her ID (finally) she was very happy and thankful for my help. Seeing her so glad to have an ID and grateful for my help really made it feel like the past couple of months of jumping through hurdles to get this figured out was completely worth it. I was starting to doubt my ability to get the issues with Chester County figured out because the offices were each being so difficult and reluctant to help, but now I really think going the extra mile was absolutely worth it!

-HIAS PA Domestic Violence Paralegal

Survivor of abuse helps others in her former situation.

I received a green card for one of my Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) clients this week, and I received this sweet email from her:

“Thank you for doing what you’re doing to help people like me. I remember the first time I came into your office lost and depressed. You’ve helped me in more ways than you know. I’ve been able to get my life back together and am now filing for a divorce.

I’m going back to school, I work, and I do volunteer work at a nonprofit who helps immigrant victims of abuse and gives US citizenship lessons. They have offered me the chance to become an accredited representative once I’m finished with school. Thank you so much again!”
-HIAS PA Domestic Violence Supervising Attorney

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!

In health,

Cathryn Miller-Wilson