The American Civic Association (ACA) is partnering with the United Presbyterian Church in Binghamton to help bring Afghan refugees to the United States.
Due to the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s government takeover, a large amount of Afghans have sought to flee to the United States. The ACA, a nonprofit dedicated to helping immigrants and refugees, and the United Presbyterian Church are helping local families undergo the application process to bring Afghan family members to the United States. The I-131 form, a humanitarian parole application, costs at least $575 per person and requires the applicant to have a sponsor that can financially support the family member.
Reverend Becky Kindig, an associate pastor for the United Presbyterian Church, described the application process and how the church will provide assistance.
“The process the U.S. government has set up to apply for family members to come here is the expedited humanitarian parole process,” Kindig wrote in an email. “With help from the [ACA] and the immigration lawyers at Journey’s End Refugee Services, we have learned more than we ever dreamed about how to fill out these complicated applications.”
Kindig said that the application can be a large responsibility for family members living in the United States.
“The local person fills out an application and names the individual family member in Afghanistan for whom they want to apply for the humanitarian parole,” Kindig wrote. “Each person also needs a U.S. sponsor that meets financial minimums to be able to support them. Each and every person in the family — man, woman, and child — needs a separate application, and every application costs $575.”
Kindig said her church is open to help refugees and their family members fill out the application and complete any other steps needed to finish the process.
“For the last two weeks, volunteers from many different houses of worship, including many from Temple Concord and several Presbyterian churches as well as some Binghamton University faculty, have come to help,” Kindig wrote. “We have submitted 70 applications so far, and still have 80 to go. We have also been accepting donations of $575 money orders to attach to the applications.”
Renelle Pereira, a volunteer at the ACA, said her group and the United Presbyterian Church are in need of volunteers with more applications coming in and described how students and other people can help.
“[United Presbyterian Church] has already sent out a number of humanitarian parole applications to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), but as you might imagine, there is currently a consistent flow of applicants and clients that need assistance,” Pereira wrote in an email.
Pereira said it is important that the group get as many volunteers and financial help as possible for the refugees.
“We are in need of volunteers, sponsors and donations — financial assistance is crucial right now to help pay the fees required by the [DHS],” Pereira wrote. “A way for students or really any individual to help would be to donate their time in assisting [United Presbyterian Church] and other faith-based organizations involved with filling out applications, monetary donations to cover the application fees if they are able and sharing information about the work that’s being done so others are able to help as well.”
John LoBello, a sophomore majoring in mathematics, said he supports the initiative taken by the ACA and the church given what has happened in Afghanistan over the past decades.
“Knowing about the whole situation with Afghanistan, it’s important that these groups are working to help those that are displaced,” LoBello said. “The [United States] has been involved in a conflict for 20 years with Afghanistan, and nothing has changed about the oppression that Afghan citizens are facing, even after the [United States] has withdrawn their troops from the country. It’s important that groups like [ACA] and [United Presbyterian Church] help these refugees, and I support them in encouraging students to help get involved.”
Alaina Brown, a sophomore majoring in integrative neuroscience, praised the work the ACA and United Presbyterian Church are doing and said it is important that Americans continue to help refugees following the U.S. government’s departure from Afghanistan.
“These groups’ work is phenomenal,” Brown said. “Afghan refugees are coming to America due to the faults of our government. The least the government can do is hold out a reaching hand and help our Afghan brothers and sisters in need. I’m glad to see these groups working with [Afghan] refugees since the past years were riddled with xenophobia toward immigrants and refugees from other countries.”
Students who are interested in donating to the efforts can either Venmo the ACA @AmericanCivic or donate to their GoFundMe here.