In 1941, a group of 25 concerned citizens deeply committed to helping refugees find a meaningful vocation in America came together to form JEVS. 80 years later, and we are still providing refugee and asylee assistance through JEVS Center for Americans program. Program client numbers have been down in recent years, but we are ramping up our team and services for the individuals who desperately fled Afghanistan.
While details are fluid at this time, according to PA state officials, Philadelphia is the only region that has been designated to receive Afghan arrivals. Other cities across the state might get a few family ties or secondary migrants, but Philadelphia will receive the bulk of newcomers. Right now we are expecting around 250-300 SIVs (that is Special Immigrant Visa status that allows eligible applicants to resettle to safety in the United States). These individuals will come already eligible for benefits and services through the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). These include cash and medical assistance, employment preparation and job placement, and English language training.
The PA Refugee Resettlement Program is currently working on an accurate Pennsylvania-specific guide for Afghan arrival benefits eligibility information. Meanwhile, at JEVS Center for New Americans, we are building up programs and supports related to employment, skills training, job placement, and vocational English development. JEVS is in touch with prior Afghan clients—to help with translation services and connections to communities already settled in the Greater Philadelphia region—in order to assist the new arrivals. While JEVS is not the first stop for refugees (they are first referred to other agencies, such as HIAS Pennsylvania, for services such as housing, schools, medical assistance, etc.), individuals will need jobs in the near future and that is when they will become JEVS clients.
“JEVS is no stranger to those fleeing persecution in their homelands,” said program director Zoya Kravets, a former refugee herself. “We have provided resettlement services to thousands representing nearly 43 countries over the last decade.”
Philadelphia is also expecting approximately 1,000 Afghan arrivals with humanitarian parolee status, however this group is not currently eligible for ORR programs and services. There is legislation currently on its way through Congress that could change this so that they would become ORR eligible.