Wanted to share some updates on our most recent activities, which are keeping immigration committee members very busy! Thanks to all who have participated in so many ways!
We are thrilled that during the pandemic we have been able to utilize our guest suite at Kehilla to host 4 different immigrants who needed a safe place to quarantine or regroup after being released from jail, prison or ICE detention. We have previously written about our first two guests. Our third guest was young man who came to the US from Central America as an unaccompanied minor and was detained for over 2 years, first in a juvenile facility, and then in an adult detention center. After many valiant efforts by his social worker and lawyers at Legal Services for Children, he was finally released on bond. He was able to stay at Kehilla for several days before moving to a supportive program for youth. Our most recent guest was a young woman who was at risk of being transferred to ICE after being paroled from prison. Thankfully, she was released without incident. She was sheltered by another wonderful faith community and then came to Kehilla for 10 days. She has now moved into long-term housing and has a job. When she left, she said, “I’ll be forever grateful to you and all of Kehilla. Thanks. I mean it from the bottom of my heart.”
Our accompaniment program is currently working with 9 individual asylum-seekers (mostly LGBT) and 6 refugee and asylum-seeking families, ranging from 3-8 people each.
Two of the individuals in our program recently won their asylum cases, which will allow them to stay in the US and eventually become citizens!! Under current conditions, these are truly amazing victories.
A lot of accompaniment work involves helping to connect folks with desperately needed free or low-cost resources, which isn’t always easy! One of our accompaniment coordinators, Lili Shidlovski, says, “I feel like our mission is to find the needle in the haystack. There always is one, but sometimes very hidden, and the search takes all our time and ingenuity.”
These are some of the needles in the haystack that we’ve found during the past month:
- legal representation to handle a difficult appeal for an immigrant who was unfairly denied asylum
- free short-term housing for an individual transgender woman and free short-term housing for a family of 4
- acupuncture sessions for a woman who has carpal tunnel syndrome because of repetitive stress at her low-paid job
- psychotherapy for an immigrant who has gone through unbelievable suffering.
- potential union membership and jobs for 2 Central American men in the trades.
- a tutor for a group of Spanish-speakers who are preparing for their driver’s license tests
Accompaniment team members (including a Kehilla teen) have also been working with children from newly arrived families to interface with their schools and participate in online classes. Teams have also assisted people to get new glasses, access needed medical and dental care, apply for social service benefits, obtain needed items such as laptop computers, clothing and warm blankets, diapers, paper goods and so much more.
There are many ways to get involved, with Kehilla’s immigration work and to support our accompaniment program and our guests at Kehilla. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org