Weekly Wins Round-up: November 2022
Immigrants are our country’s history and our country’s future. They bring with them the promise of what our democracy can be if we only fight for it. As they flee unimaginable tragedy, violence, or poverty, they also bring with them determination, courage, and a simple desire to contribute.
But some people in places of power insist upon using immigrants as political pawns and talking points. At least this time, they’re sending immigrants to places—like Philadelphia—that welcome immigrants with open arms and work with agencies like ours to provide support. Philadelphia welcomed its fifth bus from Texas this past Monday and HIAS PA, in collaboration with seven other nonprofit agencies, was there to welcome them. HIAS PA staff and volunteers provided the newcomers with critical legal information and advice so that these newcomers would not be trafficked or tricked into spending their life savings.
While the buses have been keeping us busy, we still found time to celebrate the newcomers that we welcomed this past year. Last week, we celebrated Thanksgiving. I had the pleasure and privilege of celebrating twice—once with my family, and once with my beloved HIAS PA community. We joined together with HIAS PA staff and volunteers, and our newcomer clients from the past year, and hosted our first in-person Thankful Together event since 2019. I was overjoyed to see everyone’s happy faces. For some of our guests, it was their first time eating turkey and for all of our client guests, it was their first time celebrating this uniquely American holiday! It always feels incredible to be able to share the joys, big and small, of daily life in the US with our newcomer neighbors.
As we begin this holiday season, please join me in celebrating our successes!
High school students dream of the future
The Young Adult Mentoring program began our school year with a tour and visit to CCP, the Community College of Philadelphia! It was great to see students get excited about a school, and really fun to get a tour of some of the more specialized programs that only CCP has to offer, like their culinary arts kitchen space. It was wonderful to be able to offer this experience to the students, including some older refugee clients, recent Afghan arrivals, and legal client referrals.
-Michelle Ferguson, Education Program Manager
After seven years in limbo, clients arrive in Philadelphia—and pay it forward
Our first Central American Minors (CAM) case has arrived in the US from El Salvador. This case was started by Director of Legal Services Philippe Weisz in 2016, but the case was closed in 2018 when the previous administration terminated the CAM program. When the program restarted in 2021, Philippe reopened the case, and they are finally here!!! Shout-out to Philippe for his work on this case and for helping to reunite this family.
When they visited the office, this family gave HIAS PA a donation. They glowed with pride at being able to complete the circle and give back for the next family that needs help.
-Marialejandra Bolanos Leal, Central American Minors Refugee and Parole Paralegal
Pictured above are (from left) Ping Ho Lee, Program Manager at PCDC; Mary Clark, PCAN Coordinator; and Pamela Roberts, Citizenship and Family Unification Staff Attorney; Lori Alexander, Director of Citizenship and Family Unification (seated)
HIAS PA teams up with Chinatown-based organization to provide citizenship resources
The naturalization (citizenship) team recently held a citizenship screening session in partnership with the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC). Twenty-eight individuals were screened for naturalization eligibility and given resources for moving forward in the process.
-Mary Clark (Pennsylvania Citizenship Action Network/PCAN Coordinator)
Survivor of domestic violence gets a chance to heal
“I got this sweet message from a client last week after she was able to travel to her home country of Mexico for the first time since she was a toddler. Her father, also my client, passed away suddenly a couple of years ago. I hope that returning to her home country will help her heal.”
I hope all is well with you and your little family. I wanted to just reach out and thank you again for all the hard work and time you put into my case and my father’s. I finally traveled to Mexico after so many years and I thought about you immediately, it wouldn’t have been possible without your hard work and dedication. God bless.
-Domestic Violence Program Co-Managing 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 the new year!