#NeighborsWelcome: Action & Update Series – Your Voice Makes a Difference!
As Christians, we know that we are called to welcome the stranger and care for the immigrant, and work to build communities of care and kinship. For EMM, this is the guiding light of our ministry.
Our 24-hour national news cycle highlights so many ongoing issues and sometimes wading through mountains of stories and updates is overwhelming. We want to help, but we may not know where to start, which can lead to us feeling powerless, or feeling stuck, or feeling emotionally fatigued.
With tangible action items and updates in this post, we can work to overcome this feeling and invest energy into initiatives that make a big difference, such as the Afghan Allies Fund. Your voice continues to be absolutely critical in the welcoming and assistance of our newest neighbors, and EMM wants to provide you with concrete, concise, action items you can take, and tools that can help you and your communities help our new Afghan neighbors.
OVERVIEW: CURRENT STATE OF AFFAIRS
EMM and its local affiliates are working diligently to resettle more than four times the amount of individuals coming to the US per week, than in the past year combined. This, on top of complications due to COVID-19 and staff shortages, makes our mission to offer support and welcome to all new neighbors seeking resettlement an urgent, yet daunting task, and we would not be able to do it without the outpouring of love and support from our adjacent communities, individuals, and parishes who are passionate about this work. Your support has been and continues to be a critical piece of our success during this resettlement crisis.
As it stands, the majority of our Afghan neighbors are entering into the country on parolee status (which you can read more about here and here.) With parolee status, they can access Afghan Placement & Assistance, a 30-90 day program that assists with resettlement and offers a direct per-capita assistance amount of just $1,225 for related services. Once the 30-90 day time period passes, and the $1,225 is depleted, these individuals still need considerable assistance, such as:
Basic needs assistance
Legal Assistance to adjust their status
Without a mechanism for adjustment from their parolee status, individuals will have to apply for asylum inside of an already majorly backlogged asylum application system, which is incredibly time-consuming, and can be harder to achieve without an immigration attorney to provide adequate support (an additional expense.)
WHAT IS THE STATE OF AFFAIRS IN CONGRESS RIGHT NOW?
There is a considerable gap between the individuals who are coming in with parolee status and the amount of assistance that is available to them. To combat this lack of support from the federal and state levels, we are asking that folks engage with this Action Alert, which calls for “Congress to authorize [Afghan parolees] to receive benefits and have a pathway to apply for legal permanent residence so they can become full members of our communities.”
The advocacy community has clarified this pathway, which consists of 3 A’s: Appropriations, Authorization, & Adjustment. Appropriationsrefers to those finances that will be set aside to be able to support Afghan arrivals & resettlement
Authorizationsare needed for those coming through the parolee process to be able to actually receive the benefits
Adjustmentis needed with an Afghan Adjustment Act, which will work to “hold the Biden administration accountable to ongoing evacuations to the US for those overseas, including in Afghanistan and other host countries, creating a categorical parole program for Afghan nationals, and waiving all application fees associated with humanitarian parole applications.” To achieve this, we need folks to contact their senators & representatives & support bipartisan efforts to pass legislation that: – sets aside congressional appropriations to fund Afghan resettlement – authorizes Afghan parolees to receive resettlement benefits – allows Afghan parolees to adjust to permanent status through an Afghan Adjustment Act.
EACH ARE IMPORTANT
We need resources to do the job well. If they don’t have access to authorization, it puts strain on resettlement agencies. It also adds undue stress to an already back-logged asylum program & immigration system that has been struggling and stretched thin prior to Afghan evacuations.
THE GOOD NEWS?
Since our last update, we have seen an increase in bipartisan support on these issues, with continuing resolutions incorporating more about appropriations & authorization, with a possibility of adjustment language to be included in later resolutions. As of October 5th, EMM commended the passage of a FY22 Continuing Resolution (CR) and resettlement benefits for Afghans.
This legislation includes $1.68 billion for Afghans arriving with humanitarian parole, $2.5 billion for unaccompanied children, an additional $2.2. billion for the State Department’s humanitarian assistance accounts, and an additional $193 million related to Operations Allies Welcome. This additional funding will provide essential benefits, including Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) assistance, reception and placement, food assistance, and additional necessary services for Afghan individuals and families. But there is still more to be done.
HOW CAN THE CHURCH ENGAGE THROUGH LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Encourage your parish to lobby your governors, lobby your state senators, your county and city leadership to help with supporting the federal efforts. It is also a good idea to look around within your state to see what resettlement agencies are available, what help they are seeking, and find information about how you can get involved.
HOW HAS EMM BEEN ENGAGING WITH THIS ONGOING ISSUE?
EMM has been working diligently to stay on top of an ever-evolving situation. We are still encouraging local congregations and branches of the church continue with their support in these areas: HOUSING – Does your congregation have a vacant rectory or other properties that congregants have access to that may be unused? Let us know! This could be a very useful form of housing to welcome our Afghan neighbors,
COMMUNITY SPONSORS – Community sponsors are critical for EMM right now. This is when a group of individuals come together to sponsor & walk alongside an incoming family for a number of months as they acclimate and get settled into their new environment
FINANCIAL SUPPORT – This remains one of our biggest needs. All of the private support we have received thus far through our Afghan Allies Fund is being deployed directly to our local affiliates to offer on-the-ground support for housing for newly arrived individuals. As you can imagine, the aforementioned $1,225 provided through the Afghan Placement & Assistance program goes towards funding for housing and basic needs, with rent dominating a significant amount of those funds. The Afghan Allies Fund is a direct response to this obstacle, and we are appreciative of any amount that individuals are able to give. (Click here to donate today).
ADVOCACY – Raising awareness of these issues, encouraging others to be involved, and staying up-to-date on important developments within this current crisis is critical. We have been empowered by some amazing partnerships and opportunities doing great advocacy work, such as the Welcome.US campaign, which is a national, cross-society, cross-sector, bipartisan effort to “welcome and support Afghan families as they build new lives in communities across America.” Another big part of this advocacy comes from you and your voice, through the Office of Government Relations’ Action Alert, which takes just minutes to complete (it sends a note to your senator and representatives based on your zip code).
Here are some additional resources for education & advocacy:
VOLUNTEERS – This year has seen a lot of changes within EMM, and staffing shortages remain one of our biggest obstacles. If you are interested in volunteering in any way, or if you would like to offer your expertise in the following areas to forward the many branches of our mission, we are always deeply appreciative:
Pro-bono legal support for resettlement affiliates (in-person or virtual)
Volunteer management & coordination support (in-person or virtual)
Project management or general managerial skills (in-person or virtual)
There are many different ways that individuals can get involved, and we are so thankful to our partners, our donors, and all who are engaging with this work. Your voice is already making a difference.
EMM is committed to assisting arriving Afghans through a network of 11 affiliate partners across the U.S., and works to welcome refugees, educate communities, and mobilize congregations to advocate for the protection and rights of all migrants.