News & Views

Weekly Wins Round-Up: June 2022

Dear Friend of HIAS PA,

Imagine having to rush to the Kabul airport on a moment’s notice, and amidst the chaos of thousands of fellow Afghans fleeing to safety onto military planes, your 2-year-old child, in the arms of your brother, doesn’t make the plane. Imagine waiting more than eight months as HIAS PA, and a network of lawyers and government officials, works relentlessly to bring your child back. 

This is a true story, and, despite a tragic start and too many months to resolve, there is a happy ending. One of our clients, an Afghan family who was separated from their 2-year-old son at the airport in Kabul last September, was made whole again when he arrived in June to be reunited with his family in their new home in Philadelphia. Having the privilege to see these parents as they reunited with their son brought tears to my eyes and filled my heart with hope and joy.

And in case you think history doesn’t repeat itself, a few weeks after this joyful reunion we commemorated the SS St. Louis, a ship carrying more than 900 Jewish refugees from the Holocaust that was turned away from the United States in 1939, and returned to Nazi Europe. Hundreds were separated from their families as the Nazis captured and killed many in concentration camps. Our virtual event commemorating the SS St. Louis featured Gratz College Professor Paul Finkelman. During the Q&A we discussed how to keep history from repeating itself with regard to damaging immigration policies today.

Finally, we ended the month by joining with other resettlement agencies at Philadelphia World Refugee Day! World Refugee Day is a day when we celebrate the courage and resilience of refugees and express gratitude for making our city and our communities better. This year, we enjoyed a beautiful day at the Philadelphia Zoo. Refugees from all over the world came from all over the city to celebrate and be celebrated together.

During challenging times when we can feel discouraged and powerless, please join me in celebrating our successes and our upcoming events, including our advocacy family picnic on August 3rd and our Open House on August 17th.

Another Afghan family reunited!

An Afghan client of mine recently naturalized and we filed a petition to bring his fiancée to the US from Afghanistan. I had filed a humanitarian parole application for the fiancée in the fall, but given the delays within the system I remained anxious about the approval. I was nervous about submitting the petition because I had to compile evidence explaining why the couple has never met in person (he is a refugee from Afghanistan and she hasn’t been able to leave Afghanistan, plus his mother had health issues, etc.). Anyway, I did what I could and sent off the petition, warning the client that there might be a long wait ahead. Less than a month later, my jaw hit the floor when I saw the approval notice in my mailbox! The petition was processed and approved in less than three weeks, which is absolutely unheard of. My client and I are both ecstatic and can’t wait for his fiancée to be able to join him in the US.

-Chloe Walton, Philadelphia Partnership for Resilience Legal Coordinator

Long-term client becomes a citizen!

My client, a 78-year-old Liberian woman who has worked with HIAS PA on different matters since 1998, was approved for naturalization! She received her green card in court in 2002 as a battered spouse. She has long wanted to become a U.S. citizen but lacked the language skills. Due to a multitude of serious medical issues, including a stroke in 2018, late-stage kidney disease, dementia and much more, we were able to obtain a medical waiver for her naturalization exam. I made arrangements in advance for her to have her oath ceremony on the same day as her interview, as she was brought in from a nursing home and it would be difficult to bring her in a second time. I represented her remotely at the interview and the officer told me that she started clapping and her daughter started crying when he told them that she was approved!

-Lori Alexander, Director of Citizenship and Family Unification

HIAS PA helps 100 Ukrainians learn about immigration options.

HIAS PA, in conjunction with AILA Philadelphia, Mazur Law Firm, and the Philadelphia Bar Association, hosted an information session and legal screening clinic for 100 Ukrainians this month. Legal Specialist Marina Merlin and I were there to provide legal advice, and one of our new interns was a huge help by directing attendees to attorneys and answering questions. Five families contacted HIAS PA in the days after the clinic, and some became new clients. This event was a success!

-Jessica Oliff Daly, Pro Bono Coordinator

Thank you for your continued support of HIAS Pennsylvania. 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 we hope to see you at our advocacy family picnic on August 3rd and our Open House on August 17th!

In health,

Cathryn Miller-Wilson