March 2, 2022
To the volunteers, donors, and supporters of International Institute of Los Angeles:
It has been a little over six months since the fall of Kabul to Taliban forces and the subsequent evacuation of more than 120,000 people from Afghanistan. Over the past several months, International Institute of Los Angeles (IILA) partnered with the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) to resettle evacuated Afghan families through the Afghanistan Placement Assistance Program (APA), an initiative of the State Department’s Operation Allies Welcome.
This humanitarian crisis came during a time when resettlement agencies across the country were rebuilding their previously dismantled programs. Agencies’ limited capacity, bureaucratic delays, logistical difficulties, and the high volume of arriving cases presented nationwide challenges to resettlement efforts and to Afghans who were already suffering displacement, stress, and trauma.
Through the launch of our Act Now for Afghan Allies campaign, ramping up our staffing, and putting out a call to the community for assistance, IILA was able to resettle an unprecedented number of families in the Greater Los Angeles area. Now that the reception of new Afghan arrivals by IILA has formally ended, I am pleased to share updates on our resettlement efforts that have been possible thanks to the generosity of our supporters and volunteers.
AFGHAN RESETTLEMENT PROGRESS
TOTAL ARRIVALS: 889 Afghan individuals (298 cases) have been received in Los Angeles and provided with housing (temporary or permanent), groceries, initial hot meals, transportation, household items, clothing, and pocket money.
HOUSING: About half of all arrivals (436 individuals) have already been moved to permanent housing, while 453 are currently staying in temporary accommodations like donated hotel rooms. Finding housing for this many people has been an extraordinary collaborative effort. Finding safe and secure housing for all families will continue to be a major priority.
BENEFITS, HEALTH & EMPLOYMENT:
- Almost 100% of our arrivals have been enrolled in CalFresh and Medi-Cal.
- Arrivals through the end of January have received or been scheduled for a Refugee Health Screening.
- We have delivered Social Security cards and Employment Authorization Documents to nearly all arrivals.
- 240 individuals have been enrolled in Match Grant, an accelerated employment program to place individuals in jobs. The program is currently at capacity, so clients not enrolled will be signed up for Refugee Cash Assistance or CalWORKs.
SCHOOL ENROLLMENT: Over 50% of school-aged Afghan children are enrolled in a local school. Many school districts and families want to wait until children are in a permanent home, so we expect this number to quickly increase.
FAMILY SPONSORS: At least six churches, families, and other groups have stepped forward to sponsor families and individuals and work with them for up to a year. These include some of our most vulnerable non-English speaking large families.
DONATIONS: To date, we have raised over $438,000 for IILA’s Act Now for Afghan Allies campaign to address our clients’ most urgent needs. This funding has been used to secure housing, provide essential household items, and pay for expenses not covered by federal resettlement funds.
STAFFING: IILA has hired new staff, including case managers, housing coordinator, meals coordinator, call center operators, and other crucial support staff. Several of these new hires include Dari and Pashto speakers who are former Afghan interpreters and recent Afghan arrivals.
VOLUNTEERS: Volunteers have provided critical assistance, including receiving families at the airport (often with little notice and during all hours of the day, holiday congestion, and inclement weather) and delivering meals, groceries, pocket cash, cell phones, and documents all over Southern California.
- Our network of volunteers includes members of mosques, synagogues and churches, Afghan-American community groups, social justice and activist organizations, schools, groups of families and friends, and passionate individuals.
- Volunteers went above and beyond to support families, including providing transportation, applying for benefits, taking clients to appointments and for emergency medical treatment, hosting donation drives, and relaying urgent needs and concerns to staff.
ONGOING NEEDS & HOW YOU CAN HELP
ASYLUM & ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS APPLICATIONS: Almost all our clients will need to apply for asylum or adjust immigration status within the next six months. We are standing by to hear if Congress will allow humanitarian parolees to adjust their status to legal permanent residents (as refugees are allowed to do) and not go through the already overburdened asylum process. If there is no change to the current system, IILA’s Immigration Legal Services Division will begin processing applications. We will not be able to handle all cases, so we will make referrals to other agencies/pro bono lawyers to assist clients with immigration paperwork.
- IILA is joining resettlement agencies across the country to call on Congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act.
FAMILY SPONSORS: We are looking to identify additional groups to serve as sponsors for our most vulnerable families with their ongoing needs. This could be financial sponsorship or more involved volunteer assistance.
EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES: From mom-and-pop shops to large corporations, we are looking for employers with positions for refugees to gain skills and experience to support their families. While many refugees have education and work experience, entry-level positions can be important first steps to restarting their careers.
HOUSING: Affordable housing has been an enormous challenge to find in an oversaturated Southern California market. Credit checks, proof of income, and rent deposits present high barriers for refugee families seeking a permanent home. IILA provides temporary rental assistance, but we also need property owners willing to waive or reduce these requirements. Safe and stable housing is a critical first step for refugees to rebuild their lives. Learn more how property owners can rent property to refugees.
FINANCIAL RESOURCES: Monetary gifts provide IILA with the greatest flexibility to address our clients’ most urgent needs. Each individual is given a little over $1,200 by federal agencies to cover resettlement expenses, which is not nearly enough to cover Los Angeles costs. Make a secure, online, tax-deductible donation today.
CURRENT CRISIS IN UKRAINE
IILA is closely following the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ukraine and standing by for guidance from our federal partners. At this stage, the European Union is taking the lead on accepting refugees and it is still too early to know what the full extent of the refugee crisis will be. Please check our website for updates on Ukraine. USCRI has provided this document to address common questions for Ukrainian nationals in the US, those with family in Ukraine, and Ukrainians fleeing Ukraine into a nearby country.
While the past several months have presented unprecedented challenges to our clients, staff, and volunteers, they have also highlighted the extraordinary generosity and kindness of the Greater Los Angeles community.
To our donors, volunteers, and supporters, this work would not be possible without you. If you have signed up to offer your services, donations, and homes and have not yet been called upon, please know that your offers are invaluable and provide us with flexibility and options in urgent situations. There is still a lot of work to be done to welcome our new neighbors and ensure that they have what they need to become self-sufficient, support their families, and become full participants in our communities.
Alex T. Nguyen, MPA
International Institute of Los Angeles
For press inquiries, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.