TASK FORCE INFORMATION: Our next meeting via zoom will be held on Monday, January 10, 2022.  We will be joined by Metro West Legal Services for a discussion of how you can help that organization.


(I am attaching the full article rather than a summary and then a source)IINE  Reports Mass. Refugee Resettlement Agencies, the nonprofits tasked by the federal government with welcoming and resettling hundreds of Afghan immigrants, praised the inclusion of $12 million in the $3.65 billion House spending bill that draws from last year’s state budget surplus and over half of the American Rescue Plan funds. We are hopeful that the Senate will be equally supportive of this funding as the budget process moves forward.

Massachusetts is in the process of welcoming hundreds of Afghan citizens who were hastily evacuated from that country. Resettling refugees and providing the services that are needed to ensure their safe and effective transition to the United States is carried out by the Commonwealth’s refugee resettlement agencies with financial support from the federal government. However, in order to rapidly and effectively resettle the hundreds of individuals arriving to Mass. from Afghanistan, agencies have sought dedicated and robust funding from Massachusetts’ state government.

“We are incredibly grateful to Speaker Mariano, House Ways and Means Chair Michlewitz, and House Division Leaders Ruth Balser (D- Newton) and Jim O’Day (D- Worcester), who championed this request, for their collective commitment to welcoming these new immigrants to our Commonwealth,” said Jeff Thielman, President and CEO of the International Institute of New England (IINE).

Refugee resettlement agencies in Massachusetts have been extremely heartened by the outpouring of support from House and Senate leadership, the Governor, and the public at large for the effort to welcome Afghan evacuees to our Commonwealth.

While some federal funding has been allocated to support Afghan evacuees coming to Massachusetts and other states, our Commonwealth’s high cost of housing and cost of living has posed a significant challenge to the emergency resettlement of these individuals. The scarcity of affordable and available housing in many cities and towns is contributing to financially untenable situations for new arrivals.

“Individuals arriving in Massachusetts, especially those arriving quickly and as humanitarian parolees, need strong wraparound services, including housing, legal assistance, childcare, and job training,” said Aimee Mitchell, Chief of Community Services for Ascentria. Agency officials note that while there is some federal money that will come to the state to accompany these parolees, it is not nearly enough to cover the full cost needed to resettle them in any community in Massachusetts. “It goes to the very core of our mission and values to welcome and assist these individuals facing such hardship and danger in their native land, who hope to create a new life in our state and country,” added Mitchell.

 >> Temple Aliyah, Central Ave, Needham seeks furniture and furnishings (bedding, small appliances, kitchenware, etc.) for an  apartment. That will house two Afghan evacuees. It can be new or in reasonable condition. Please consult this list and let us know if you have anything you would like to donate by emailing us a picture and dimensions (if applicable) with the subject line “furniture”.  For more information contact Judy Sacks (judysacks@verizon.net) or Aviva Jezer (avivajezer@gmail.com)
>> USCIS has reported on several programs involving humanitarian relief:

·       Operation Allies Welcome: USCIS set up temporary field offices and mobile biometrics processing stations in eight federally approved facilities to process arriving Afghan nationals and family members who assisted the United States in Afghanistan. At these facilities, Afghan nationals applied for employment authorization and have been referred to resettlement services, if they are eligible. USCIS personnel are adjudicating applications for employment authorization and conducting other immigration processing. During FY 2021, USCIS collected biometrics for more than 52,000 individuals and adjudicated more than 28,000 applications for employment authorization. 

·       Asylum Processing: This past year, USCIS completed approximately 39,000 affirmative asylum cases, 44,000 credible fear determinations, and more than 4,400 reasonable fear determinations. On Aug. 2, 2021, USCIS opened a new asylum office in Tampa, Fla., in response to an increasing asylum workload in Florida.

·       Adjudication by Asylum Officers of Protection Claims after Positive Credible Fear Determinations: On Aug. 20, 2021, a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was published that would amend regulations so that individuals in expedited removal who are found to have a credible fear of persecution or torture could have their claims for asylum, withholding of removal, or protection under the Convention Against Torture initially adjudicated by a USCIS asylum officer through a nonadversarial proceeding, rather than in immigration court by an immigration judge. If implemented, this rule would allow for more efficient adjudication of the protection claims of individuals who establish a credible fear while in the expedited removal process, while ensuring fairness and safeguarding due process. The 60-day public comment period ended on Oct. 19. 

·       Refugee Interviews: USCIS expanded its capacity to conduct certain refugee applicant interviews remotely using video-teleconferencing, which enabled USCIS to mitigate the impact of COVID-19-related restrictions on international travel for much of the year. USCIS also deployed officers to 12 overseas locations to conduct in-person initial refugee interviews or to provide support for video interviews conducted remotely from the United States. USCIS interviewed approximately 6,600 refugee applicants in person and over 3,300 refugee applicants remotely in 23 countries.

>> Roll Call reports  on the struggle of the Afghans who have applied for humanitarian parole with USCIS, one of very few options for escape for those who were not able to leave on the heavily publicized flights out of the country. At least 30,000 people have applied for humanitarian parole, but lawyers involved in the process say the government has provided few details on how to mount a successful bid for relief — and has issued multiple denials.

 >> AILA provides a short flyer about obtaining derivative citizenship for Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR) children.   SEE: https://www.aila.org/File/Related/flyer-DerivCitiz-Children-Dec-2021.pdf
>> Needham will celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, January 17, 2022  via  Zoom from 10:30 AM– 11:30 AM. Zoom Link will open at 10:15 AM .  Free Registration: Here.  The event is co-sponsored by the following Needham organizations: Diversity Initiative; Interfaith Clergy Association; Human Rights Committee; Public Schools and its METCO Program.  For further information contact Cynthia Ganung (cganung@gmail.com).

 >> At My Neighbor’s Table will present a community conversation entitled: “Leaning into Challenging Conversations: How to Listen, What to Say, How to Say It” Presenter: Liora Norwich. Executive Director at Network for Social Justice.  The event will be held on January 23, 5-6:30 pm (virtual)The event is free and open to the public. Details to follow.  The Needham Human Rights committee is one of the sponsors. For further information contact Cynthia Ganung (cganung@gmail.com).

 >> The Metro West Worker’s Center has published an update on its work during the past year, including Food Distribution, Access to Vaccines, Illegal Evictions; Workplace Injuries; Wage Theft; and Accompaniment needs.  SEE:  https://mailchi.mp/b967b1fe1bf2/casa-2021-update-and-year-end-appeal?e=8316703924
That’s it for this year.
Wishing you happy holidays and a peaceful, safe and fulfilling New Year.  See you all next year!

 Gerry Rovner