Preparations are being made to provide translators, access to services and familiarize them with the Spokane area.
Author: MacKenzie Belley
Published: 3:28 PM PDT August 18, 2021
Updated: 3:50 PM PDT August 18, 2021
SPOKANE, Wash. — Refugee Connection Spokane is making plans for Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants that will be coming to Washington.
The situation in Afghanistan has spurred Congress to allocate visas for people who helped the U.S. war effort in the country, some of those people will be headed to Spokane. Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program is available for those fleeing from the Taliban.
Refugee Connection is gearing up to incorporate the arrivals into their Elder Program and their Refugee Kids Connect program. These programs are aimed to help people adjust to life in Spokane as easily as possible.
The refugees will have to deal with a variety of challenges having to completely restart their lives in a foreign country. Refugee Connection will offer help getting access to services and resources, interpreting
as needed, familiarizing them with different aspects of the Spokane
community, offering ESL and civics classes and doing regular check-ins
Refugee Connection says it is especially important to form a sense of community among the children that will be arriving to keep them active,
help prevent the "summer slide," with their education and help them thrive and feel confident as Spokane community members.
Military officials are hurrying to orchestrate dramatic evacuations from Afghanistan, where the Taliban quickly regained control of the country following the exit of U.S. troops.
Heartbreaking photos and videos from the ground show thousands of Afghans desperate to exit their country at all cost. Many expect the militant group will reinstate its former violent and severe religious rule of the late 90s and early 2000s.
Thousands of U.S. troops are now guarding the airport in Kabul and will be overseeing the evacuation of potentially 22,000 at-risk Afghans over the coming weeks. Those Afghans have served as interpreters, drivers, or civilian advisers to the U.S. military.
Refugee Connections Spokane announced Kathryn Garras has been named executive director of the nonprofit devoted to supporting and empowering refugee and immigrant communities in the Spokane region, effective July 6th.
Garras joins the organization with a background in local and state advocacy work, leadership and administrative expertise and a history of working with refugees and for refugee and immigrant-centered organizations.
Amina Fields, chairwoman of RCS, said, “Kathryn has demonstrated compassion and dedication to the refugee and immigrant community. I am looking forward to working with her to help the community and expand its programs.”
"I am honored to have the opportunity to lead Refugee Connections Spokane," Garras said. “I am excited to build on the incredible programs in place and to work with our community to expand our capacity to serve more people. With the strong vision of the board, I am confident that we can continue to strengthen and grow.”
Garras joins the organization from her role as a project manager at a network of local nonprofits, including Washington Childcare Centers Association. She holds a degree in Political Science with a focus on International Relations from Western Washington University.
In her role, Garras will work closely with the board and staff to maintain and grow existing programs offered by RCS, including Refugee Kids Connect and the Refugee Elder Outreach Program. One of her first actions as the executive director will be to rebuild momentum in programs that were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Inlander Article Shares: Refugees face many COVID-related obstacles and are often left wondering when they can be reunited with their families abroad
To reach the July article, go to: https://www.spokanejournal.com/local-news/refugee-connection-spokane-pivots-services/
To view the July news story regarding Refugee Connections Spokane, go to: https://www.kxly.com/local-groups-helping-refugees-navigate-pandemic-challenges/
Senator Murray Introduces Bill to Prevent Benefits Gap for Elderly Refugees and Refugees with Disabilities
The Protecting Benefits for Elderly Refugees and Refugees with Disabilities During COVID-19 Act will ensure elderly refugees and refugees with disabilities will remain eligible for vital SSI benefits during the on-going pandemic
Without a Congressional fix, thousands could see SSI benefits terminated
Senator Murray: “Terminating this critical support and leaving these individuals out in the cold—in the middle of a pandemic—undermines public health and basic decency”
(Washington, D.C.)-- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, introduced new legislation to ensure elderly refugees and other refugees with disabilities who are in the process of applying for American citizenship remain eligible for the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits they are entitled to, in spite of delays at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). While generally immigrants with legal status are not eligible for SSI benefits, refugees, asylees, and other humanitarian immigrants are allowed to receive SSI during their first seven years of residency while they are applying for American citizenship. The Protecting Benefits for Elderly Refugees and Refugees with Disabilities During COVID-19 Act of 2020 would extend the eligibility period for SSI benefits for these individuals through the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“SSI benefits are an essential lifeline to thousands of elderly refugees and refugees with disabilities who fled persecution, torture, and other horrors from around the globe to make a home here in the United States,” said Senator Murray. “Terminating this critical support and leaving these individuals out in the cold—in the middle of a pandemic—undermines public health and basic decency, and I’m going to do everything I can to fix this oversight in Congress’ next relief package.”
Continued delays in USCIS processing times—which have been exacerbated, in part, due to the on-going pandemic—have caused delays that have left many refugees with naturalization applications pending for longer than seven years. Accordingly, many refugees and asylees, who are elderly or who have a disability and are waiting to become American citizens, have already seen their SSI benefits terminated, and thousands more will soon: as of 2019, there were an estimated 46,000 refugees, asylum seekers, and other humanitarian immigrants nationwide who receive SSI benefits.
The loss of these benefits can be devastating; the current maximum monthly Federal SSI benefit still only reaches 75% of the Federal Poverty Level, and for many elderly refugees and refugees with disabilities, it is their only source of income. Moreover, the termination of SSI benefits may cause some to lose Medicaid coverage—which could be particularly harmful in the middle of a global public health emergency. In 2011, Congress temporarily extended the statutory cap to accommodate for similar application processing delays at USCIS. Without additional, urgent Congressional action to respond to the current backlog, thousands of refugees and asylum seekers who are eligible for U.S. citizenship could see their benefits terminated at a time when they are needed most.
"It is unfortunate that federal law places time limits on how long people with disabilities or who are elderly and who have been granted humanitarian protection are able to receive crucial economic support. But it is particularly egregious that they would be deprived of these benefits because of the pandemic and due to circumstances beyond their control. We are therefore grateful to Senator Murray for leading this effort to provide temporary protection to thousands of individuals around the country as we work to achieve long-term solutions to these issues," said Jorge L. Baron, Executive Director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.
Read the text of the bill HERE.
Bystander intervention training focuses on anti-Asian discrimination - interview with Pui-Yan Lam, RCS Board Member, in The fig Tree Newspaper, May, 2020