Welcoming Our Afghan Neighbors on World Refugee Day
This week we celebrate World Refugee Day, organized by the United Nations to honor the struggles and perseverance of people who are displaced around the world by conflict and persecution. While we see a tremendous increase in refugees around the globe due to many crises, here in Madison we can be proud of our role in supporting refugees.
In August and September of 2021, the United States evacuated more than 80,000 Afghans from Kabul, Afghanistan. Most ended up at U.S. military bases across the country as they passed security and health checks. More than 13,000 Afghans received services at Wisconsin’s Ft. McCoy, and many in the Madison area donated clothing and supplies to these families. Over the past months, the Afghan families have been resettled across the United States.
Jewish Social Services (JSS) has helped to organize and lead the effort to resettle these almost 100 Afghan refugees in our community. Through a 90-day intensive case management program, JSS helps to find housing and work for these families. They also assist by providing job training and social services. Many faith groups and community organizations have been assisting JSS in this effort.
These families are in the process of acclimating to their new homes, learning to navigate our community, studying English and resolving their uncertain legal status. The Community Immigration Law Center (CILC), which has for years provided legal support to new immigrants in Madison, has been leading the effort to resolve these Afghans' immigration status with support from the City of Madison. Because they had to be evacuated so quickly, they could not go through the normal refugee process, which can often take years. The federal government only granted them a 2-year period to stay in the United States.
Some are eligible for long-term Special Immigrant Visas based on the support they provided to the U.S. and international organizations in Afghanistan. But the majority of Afghans are required to file applications for asylum to prove they were or would be persecuted if they were forced to return to Afghanistan under Taliban rule. Unfortunately this is often a long and very complicated legal process with uncertain outcomes. CILC has been recruiting, training and supporting Madison lawyers who normally do not practice in the immigration area to represent these families to give them the best chance of success. I want to thank CILC and all the volunteer attorneys who are aiding with this effort.
Madisonians should be proud of the enormous efforts community organizations and volunteers have made to create a new home for these refugees in our beautiful city. On this World Refugee Day, we welcome all refugees, past and present, to Madison, and recognize the members of our community that support them. If you’d like to get involved, you can donate your time, talent or treasure to JSS, CILC, or other organizations in Madison that support refugees.