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Five local organizations which comprise the Western New York Refugee and Asylee Consortium (WNYRAC) — Catholic Charities of Buffalo, International Institute of Buffalo, Jericho Road Community Health Center, Jewish Family Services of Western New York, and Journey's End Refugee Services — have launched a collaborative campaign, Buffalo United for Afghan Evacuees, to assist the 350 Afghan evacuees who will be settling in Buffalo while their cases for asylum are adjudicated.

WNYRAC's campaign goal is to raise $750,000 for the evacuees to cover the cost of living, along with gathering priority in-kind donations and providing housing set-ups with the help of community volunteers. This will ensure that Afghan evacuees have a soft landing in the City of Good Neighbors, while awaiting the outcome of their petitions for permanent resettlement.

Unlike refugees and Special Immigrant Visa holders (those who assisted the US military mission) from Afghanistan, the evacuees will not be given access to services and programs funded by the US government. Because of this, WNYRAC is organizing an online and in-person community-based campaign to ensure that their basic needs are met, including housing, health care and nutrition, enrolling children in school, providing financial assistance until work authorization is granted, and more. Advocacy for increasing federal support for evacuees will also be an important component of the campaign.

Congressman Brian Higgins (D-NY26) said, "The United States government must continue to do everything in its power to give refugee resettlement agencies the resources needed to meet this moment. My hometown and the largest city in my district, Buffalo, NY, is a success story for embracing immigrants and refugees. Our nation needs the assistance of these agencies to help the Afghan evacuees who helped us, and these agencies need the help of the United States government to help us honor our commitment to them."

Added Karen Andolina Scott, executive director, Journey's End Refugee Services, "It is estimated that up to 80% of the arriving Afghani evacuees are being admitted as Humanitarian Parolees (evacuees), not as refugees. Unlike refugees, asylees, and special immigrant visa holders, these evacuees will not have long-term access to public benefits, access to ORR funded services through the resettlement agencies like Journey's End Refugee Services, nor a clear path to permanent residency and then citizenship. WNYRAC's campaign will ensure our newest Afghan neighbors will not be forced to rely on charity, left on their own to navigate complex American systems, while being denied an opportunity to fully integrate as permanent residents. At the same time, it is incumbent upon each of us to reach out to our leaders across NYS, as well as our officials in Washington D.C., to let them know it is not enough to admit Afghan evacuees; there must be real immigration and social benefits in order for us all to succeed in our campaign."

For more information, visit https://www.wnyrac.org

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