June 17, 2022
This World Refugee Day, the Arab-American Family Support Center stands with our community members in New York City and throughout the United States who identify as refugees, asylees, and displaced individuals. This year, the world will focus on “the right to seek safety” for all humans – regardless of race, sex, sexual identity, immigration status, gender, religion, and economic status.
This past May, the number of forcibly displaced people globally surpassed 100 million, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. From Afghanistan to Ukraine – people have been forced to leave their homes due to natural disasters, war, genocide, abuse, anti-LGBTQIA+ laws, and economic turmoil. The US State Department set a fiscal year cap of 125,000 slots, dictating how many refugees can be resettled in the United States, but there’s much more that needs to be done to secure a safe future for newly arrived refugees, asylees, and displaced individuals.
Anyone fleeing persecution, conflict, or human rights abuses has a right to seek protection in another country. As we saw in August of 2021 when the US government admitted Afghan migrants through humanitarian parole, the designation allows individuals to temporarily remain in the U.S. but does not provide a guaranteed path to lawful permanent residence or eventual citizenship. Facing an existing backlog of nearly two million cases, the asylum system is already overburdened. Further, in response to refugee cap reductions made by previous administrations, the Biden’s DHS is in the midst of scaling its operations to accommodate a 730% increase in the number of refugees allowed in the US over the past two years. Whether it be through humanitarian parole, TPS, or the asylum system, refugees, many of them unaccompanied minors escaping dangerous circumstances, are expected to navigate the U.S’s onerous and complex legal system without adequately available legal resources to support them through this process.
AAFSC continues to be committed to our refugee and asylee community members, working alongside refugee resettlement agencies, elected officials, and partners to provide trauma-informed, social services to support the well-being of newly-arrived families. Through our Emergency Fund, we have distributed over $800,000 to help pay rent, travel debts, and purchase emergency furniture items to alleviate the stress of arriving and resettling in a new place. AAFSC collaborates with our community to provide wrap-around support to immigrants and refugees, spanning all stages of the migration journey — from ESOL and Citizenship Prep Classes to culturally appropriate mental health counseling services, we are dedicated to strengthening families and helping them achieve long-term well-being.
Through our work, we advocate with policy members to promote budget equity for Arab, Middle Eastern, North African, Muslim, and South Asian communities who deserve linguistically appropriate and culturally responsive programming in healthcare settings, education, and more. We center linguistic competence in our programming, where our staff speak 36 languages, enabling our health insurance enrollment services, domestic violence case management, mental health counseling, gender-based support groups for youth, and other initiatives more accessible to groups who mainstream providers struggle to reach. Our organization stands strictly against racism, colorism, classism, segregation, homophobia, xenophobia, sectarianism, sexism, ableism, ageism, and all other forms of oppression. We are just not allies; we stand in solidarity with immigrants and refugees from around the world, and vow to advocate, uplift, and provide platforms for those who identify as black, as Muslim, as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, and others who have experienced systemic discrimination. We look forward to continuing our advocacy, centering community-led, equitable COVID-19 response and recovery that will build a safer New York and United States for all immigrants and refugees.