Five local organizations have come together to launch a major collaborative that is designed to help 350 Afghan ‘evacuees’ who will be settling in Buffalo as their cases for asylum are adjudicated. The Western New York Refugee and Asylee Consortium (WNYRAC) is made up of Catholic Charities of Buffalo, International Institute of Buffalo, Jericho Road Community Health Center, Jewish Family Services of Western New York, and Journey’s End Refugee Services. Together, these organizations will ensure that the Afghan evacuees have a place to live, and are acclimated to their new environs as quickly and as smoothly as possible.
In order to accommodate these new evacuees, WNYRAC has launched a campaign to raise $750,000 in funding to cover the cost of living. The campaign is imperative, because the evacuees are not being given access to services and programs funded by the US government. That means that funding must come from different channels, while the evacuees await the outcome of their petitions for permanent resettlement.
“It is estimated that up to 80% of the arriving Afghani evacuees are being admitted as Humanitarian Parolees (evacuees), not as refugees,” stated Karen Andolina Scott, Executive Director, Journey’s End Refugee Services. “Unlike refugees, asylees, and special immigrant visa holders, these evacuees will not have long-term access to public benefits, access to ORR funded services through the resettlement agencies like Journey’s End Refugee Services, nor a clear path to permanent residency and then citizenship. WNYRAC’s campaign will ensure our newest Afghan neighbors will not be forced to rely on charity, left on their own to navigate complex American systems, while being denied an opportunity to fully integrate as permanent residents. At the same time, it is incumbent upon each of us to reach out to our leaders across NYS, as well as our officials in Washington D.C., to let them know it is not enough to admit Afghan evacuees; there must be real immigration and social benefits in order for us all to succeed in our campaign.”
Once the evacuees are legally granted permanent settlement status, with work authorization, they can then become self sufficient and productive residents of Buffalo. Along with funding via an online and in-person community-based campaign, WNYRAC is looking for in-kind donations (goods and services) and housing set-ups, with the help of community volunteers. WNYRAC is also advocating for crucial federal support.
“The United States government must continue to do everything in its power to give refugee resettlement agencies the resources needed to meet this moment,” said Congressman Brian Higgins (D-NY26), seen speaking in lead image. “My hometown and the largest city in my district, Buffalo, NY, is a success story for embracing immigrants and refugees. Our nation needs the assistance of these agencies to help the Afghan evacuees who helped us, and these agencies need the help of the United States government to help us honor our commitment to them.”
Basic needs that must be met include housing, health care and nutrition, enrolling children in school, and providing financial assistance.
“Afghan evacuees caught in this humanitarian crisis deserve the same opportunities traditionally afforded refugees as they face the challenges of restarting their lives in a new country and culture,” noted Deacon Steve Schumer, President and CEO, Catholic Charities of Buffalo. “The Buffalo United for Afghan Evacuees collaborative effort will demonstrate the compassion and generosity of our community to these individuals and families, and give them hope and real help for long-term sustainability.”
“We are at a critical juncture in our country’s history. In this period of crisis for Afghans, both locally and internationally, I am grateful to my colleagues from our partner organizations for recognizing that we are stronger when we work together,” said Eva Hassett, Executive Director, International Institute of Buffalo. “Buffalo has a proud history as a welcoming community: businesses, nonprofits, elected officials, neighborhoods, ethnic organizations and individual Buffalonians care for each other every day – not just in snow storms. We call on the community once again to show our newest neighbors – who have already been through experiences we cannot imagine – that the heart and spirit of this community is the generosity of its people. We have deep faith that this community will continue to show refugees and immigrants that Buffalo truly is the City of Good Neighbors.”
“What we are experiencing now in this moment of crisis is a calling for the coming together of community. As an agency built upon the Jewish values of humility and compassion, we honor the principle of Pikuach Nefesh, the preservation of human life” said Dr. Molly, S. Carr, CEO of Jewish Family Services. “The evacuees that will be coming to Buffalo are in a state of shock and are traumatized. Along with our partners and the support from the Western New York Region, JFS is prepared to leverage our expertise to assist with this trauma to help these evacuees become whole once again.”
“For decades, Jericho Road and our four resettlement partners have been lifting the lamp for refugees and immigrants from all over the world,” said Myron Glick, MD, Founder and CEO, Jericho Road Community Health Center. “We are proud that Buffalo is nationally recognized as a welcoming community for people fleeing violence, oppression, and poverty and we are prepared to open our arms again in the coming months, this time to Afghan newcomers. Our organization is founded on the belief that God has called and is still calling us to love our neighbors. We look forward to acting out that love in very tangible ways for new Buffalonians – through safe housing, shared meals, healthcare, trauma support, access to education, and many other things most of us here take for granted.”
For details on specific in-kind needs, volunteer opportunities, advocacy information, and how to donate securely, visit the Buffalo United for Afghan Evacuees website: wnyrac.org.