News & Views

Weekly Wins Round-up: March 2023

Dear Friend,

Did you know that immigrants must wait for at least six months after petitioning for asylum before they can receive authorization to work?

This leaves those who have fled persecution with no ability to support themselves or their families—sometimes for as long as a year!

Join HIAS PA and a representative from The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia this Monday, April 3rd, at 12PM, for a virtual Ask Me Anything to learn about how granting immediate work authorization to asylum-seekers would help resolve our country-wide staffing crises, while rejuvenating our economy, increasing our tax base, and giving immigrants the chance to thrive.

Advocate for immigrants with HIAS PA, and read on to learn about our recent successes!

Volunteer tutors help clients pass their citizenship exams

I want to give a shout out to Adult ESL Instructor and Citizenship Instruction Coordinator, Eliana Stanislawski, and our volunteer Philadelphia Citizenship Action Network (P-CAN) tutors, who have been going above and beyond to make sure our naturalization clients pass their tests and become US citizens!

I recently had an older client from Togo who suffered a stroke and, as a result, had difficulty remembering certain things. He likely would have been eligible for a medical waiver to avoid taking the citizenship test, but his doctor wasn’t willing to complete one for him. With the help of one of our volunteer tutors, who studied with the client over Zoom; participation in our P-CAN citizenship class; and an extremely patient USCIS officer, the client was able to pass his test on his own.

Another client, a 76-year-old woman from Panama (pictured with me above), was eligible to take the citizenship test in Spanish, but needed someone to help her study because she has no one in the US to support her. Another one of our amazing volunteer tutors studied with this client in person and in Spanish. The client was so nervous that she barely slept at all the night before her test—but she passed! Thank you to one of our volunteer Spanish-English interpreters for interpreting for her during the interview and exam. Sometimes it really does take a village!

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

The healing power of parents’ love

My client, who has been severely physically and emotionally affected by surviving a horrible crime, recently got to see her parents! Their visitors’ visas were approved, and they were able to visit her from the Dominican Republic.

Having been so deeply affected by what happened to her, my client usually cries a lot during our meetings, but she has not been able to stop smiling since her parents visited. She told me she was very happy and kept saying how thankful she was for all the assistance. Her parents are planning to return in the summer.

-Vleidmy Velarde, Immigrant Victims of Crime Program Supervisor

A youth’s long journey from Ghana ends in citizenship!

One of my first clients from when I started back in 2018 just got his US citizenship! He is so happy, and thankful to us for the help on his case. He had been in foster care when he started working with us. He had a long journey and has overcome so much trauma. He left his home in Ghana, and then was alone and stranded in South America before he made his way up to the US-Mexico border, where he was put in the system as an unaccompanied minor.

Because he was from Ghana, we were able to file concurrently for his special immigrant juvenile visa and his legal permanent residency. The application and approval process took a few years, but he finally received legal permanent residency. He then joined the army, which helped him get his expedited citizenship. He wrote to me to let me know the good news and that he now has his US passport!

He has shared before how life-changing it was for him to have the support of the foster care program, and our support in helping him get status. He is a bright young man who has the desire to help others and make the world a better place, and he has wanted to become a citizen for a long time. My heart is so full from hearing his good news!

-Noelle Lemon, Immigrant Youth Advocacy Program Staff Attorney

Look out for more wins at the beginning of next month, and join us at our annual Golden Door Awards, happening this year on Thursday, April 20th, at 5:30PM, at the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History! Our annual fundraiser will celebrate those who work tirelessly in service of our immigrant neighbors. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Until then, I hope these wins from HIAS PA staff give you a lift, as they do me.

In health,

Cathryn Miller-Wilson
Executive Director