With the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan last summer, the crisis of Afghan evacuees cried out for a humanitarian response.
And, as it has in the past, Connecticut’s Jewish community stepped up to the plate.
The Jewish Community Alliance for Refugee Resettlement (JCARR)—a partnership of six local synagogues and the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven, formed in 2015 to help new refugee and immigrant families resettle in the New Haven area—immediately began preparations to welcome the partnership’s seventh immigrant family in seven years.
Then, on February 16, JCARR volunteers moved furniture and household supplies into an empty apartment, transforming it into a warm and lovely new home for an Afghan family seeking a safe haven. Unfortunately, the family—a mother and her three young daughters and teenage nephew—were not accompanied by their father, who had fled to Dubai after receiving death threats from the Taliban and was unable to reenter Afghanistan in order to board the plane that brought the rest of his family to the States. He still has not been reunited with his family.
Escaping from their country was only the first step in the family’s long journey. Like other refugee families, they arrived on American soil in October 2021 and were housed in a military camp in Virginia until January 2022, at which time they were transported to Connecticut and rinto the care of IRIS (Integrated Refugee and Immigration Services) in New Haven. In February, IRIS asked JCARR to assist with their resettlement.
JCARR’s goal is to enable refugees to become self-reliant within a year by providing assistant in securing clean, safe and affordable apartments; providing household supplies, clothing, cell phones, internet service, medical insurance and healthcare; enrolling adults in ESL programs and children in schools; navigating social service networks; coordinating transportation and coaching family members to use public transportation; supporting job searches; providing cultural orientation; and more.
JCARR encountered unusual challenges in preparing for this family. They confronted a severe housing shortage, extraordinarily high rents, and other difficulties resulting from the COVID pandemic. They also had to recruit translators who speak Pashto. Mom doesn’t speak English and is responsible for four children. Yet, she is expected to work to pay the family’s expenses.
Like many other Afghans, the family was allowed to enter the U.S. on ‘Humanitarian Parole,’ a process that allows refugees to enter the country without a visa and reside here for two years with permission to work. Once here, most Humanitarian Parolees must apply for asylum.
Currently, however, there is a significant backlog of 400,00 applications for asylum. Fortunately, JCARR’s Legal Services team has lined up an immigration lawyer willing to work on this family’s case pro bono. It may take a long time to resolve their legal status, but JCARR is committed to helping them build a life here. JCARR anticipates needing $ 25,000 to help this family, and contributions are urgently needed.
To make an online donation, visit: jewishnewhaven.org/refugee-resettlement/give Or, send a check to the attention of Amy Holtz, payable to the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven (with JCARR written in the memo line), at 360 Amity Road, Woodbridge, 06525.