The United States has helped, so far, tens of thousands of Afghans to flee the repressive Taliban government and other threats from within Afghanistan. In total, the U.S. is expecting to resettle some 95,000 Afghans in the next year.
Locally, Illinois has become home to a small but growing number of Afghan arrivals. From late summer into early fall, fewer than 100 Afghans arrived in Illinois. But that number is expected to significantly ramp up, over the weeks to come, with many hundreds more.
These evacuees are being provided protection and will be admitted to the U.S. under a variety of immigration statuses. The most complicated of these statuses is the "Afghan Humanitarian Parolee." A Parolee is provided protection in the U.S. while they apply for asylum based on demographics such as gender, race, religion, and political views, a process that can take several years. This class of arrivals is the most complicated because--until recently--these individuals would not have been eligible for any federal assistance.
The State Department has indicated that as many as 50,000 individuals will be granted Parolee status, with at approximately 1,000 Parolees expected to arrive in Illinois in the next several months.
At this early stage, JUF--through its JUF Refugee Resettlement Services department--is playing two primary roles in resettling Afghan arrivals. First, we are working with our partner agencies to prepare for the arrival of large numbers of Afghans in a short period of time. Second, we are advocating at all levels of government to increase and accelerate government aid and access to programs for all Afghan arrivals regardless of status.
These early efforts have already yielded results:
First, in September, the U.S. Congress passed--and President Biden signed--the Continuing Resolution that includes a change to the federal law enabling Parolees to access the full gamut of federal aid and services available to other refugees.
Second, the State of Illinois will allocate up to $1.5 million dollars to help with the resettlement of Afghan refugees on a short-term basis, which will be disbursed through JUF to our partner agencies.
Finally, staff from JUF and our affiliated agencies have heard from many community members asking how they can help. We are working on ways to accommodate these generous offers individually and collectively.
The Jewish people have faced thousands of years of persecution and displacement, and so we empathize with the plight of refugees fleeing atrocities in their native countries. That is why for more than 40 years, JUF's Refugee Resettlement Services department has played a key role in successfully welcoming over 130,000 refugees from a range of faiths and countries to Illinois. Since 1980, JUF has served as the administrator of the Illinois Refugee Social Services Consortium-made up of 10 partner agencies and funded by the federal government through the State of Illinois.
JUF's direct service partner agencies are assisting Afghan arrivals. These robust and comprehensive services-including employment and case management assistance, mental health counseling, K-12 resources, youth mentoring, and senior services-offer initial support to newly arrived families and extend out to five years for those who have been here longer. These resources aim to help refugees find work, stability, ongoing support, and positive momentum toward financial self-sufficiency.
The Refugee Resettlement Services team has been working across JUF departments-including Campaign, Communications, and Government Affairs-to help raise awareness, provide volunteer opportunities, and keep the wider community informed. We remain at our best when we work together to help the most vulnerable among us. You can count on your JUF team to continue to do so.
For more information on refugee resettlement in Illinois, visit bit.ly/idhsrefugees.
The Illinois Refugee Social Services Consortium is made up of 10 partner agencies: Catholic Charities-Chicago, Catholic Charities-Rockford, Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago, Heartland Health Alliance, Heartland Human Care Services, Middle East Immigrant and Refugee Alliance, RefugeeOne, Rock Valley College, World Relief Chicagoland, and World Relief Quad Cities.
Marc Adelman is the Associate Vice President of Refugee Resettlement Services for the Jewish United Fund of Chicago.