AILA invited members to share stories of welcome with us as the past two years have brought opportunities to help people evacuating from Afghanistan, fleeing Ukraine, and parole-ing in from Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Haiti. AILA members and their communities have opened their arms and hearts to people who come to the United States through various ways, here are a few of their stories:
“I sponsored a Ukrainian woman and her two children. She is a friend of a friend, and we emailed and video chatted to ensure that our expectations were aligned before filing the I-134. In the year since her arrival, she has re-established her career and built a network here. Our children attend the same school, and it’s been a boon for us both to have an extra parent in the neighborhood who can help with pick up and drop off. As their home city has been increasingly targeted by Russian bombing, we are all thankful for the parole program that allowed them to quickly seek refuge in the United States.” – AILA member, New York, NY.
“I provided the I-134 for a family coming here under U4U and they arrived in February, 2023: mother, father, two daughters ages 10 and 3. I formed a ‘Welcome Circle’ with the assistance of HIAS and the umbrella of our synagogue (which had approached me with this idea), although not every person on our committee is a member of the synagogue. We raised funds, found housing, helped the family transition, enroll the daughter in school, helped them apply for benefits, and more.
It is a large commitment, and very difficult at times…but they are a great family and doing well under the circumstances. We are now transitioning to less financial assistance and it may be a challenge for them to stay in this area (central NJ). Certainly being an immigration attorney has helped immensely with the I-134, I-765, explaining the (limited) possibilities for the future, etc., but this is most definitely a group effort.” – AILA member, New Jersey.
“I have been able to sponsor my husband’s cousin and my mother-in-law. My husband has improved his character, his motivation, and everything since his mother arrived.” – AILA member, Tampa, FL.
“In May 2022, leaders at the inTulsa Visa Network – a talent matchmaking and corporate engagement nonprofit in Tulsa – and the George Kaiser Family Foundation began asking how they could leverage community resources to support those affected by the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. They wanted to help. As of August 2023, the initiative accepted and relocated 12 members, with 28 total when including spouses and children.
Building on the success of the program, the inTulsa Visa Network recently expanded its offerings to parolees from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, as well as supporting the relocation of more traditional employment-based foreign talent to Tulsa (e.g., H-1B, O-1, TN).” – AILA member, Tulsa, OK.
“It has been two years since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. As an Afghan-American attorney who has practiced immigration law and had been actively involved in many humanitarian and women’s rights programs, it was a life-changing event for me. For the first month of the evacuation, my life felt like I was working in a crisis center. I received hundreds of calls and messages of distress from Afghans across the country, asking for help. I had some extended family members who were living and working in Kabul and knew many women leaders personally, whom I had interviewed as a journalist or met at conferences or events…” – AILA member, Washington, DC. READ Mariam’s full blog post about all the ways she has helped welcome Afghan evacuees to the U.S.