Islamic Relief USA hosted a Refugee and Recent Immigrant convening on Dec. 6-7, the first in-person meeting since 2019 on December 06-07. It brought together 28 agencies that work with refugees and recent immigrants.
Some of the notable speakers from the event included IRUSA’s CEO Sharif Aly; US State Department Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration Program Office, Kiera Berdinner; Immigration and Criminal Defense Lawyer, Hassan Ahmad; and Director of Social Services at Dar Al-Hijrah Community Center, Stacey Picard.
The event began with Kiera Berdinner discussing the US Reception and Placement (R&P) assistance program. This program, managed by the US State Department Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), provides initial support over a period of 30 to 90 days to help refugees begin their new lives in the US. The current goal of the program is to assist the President’s goal of 125,000 arrivals per year.
IRUSA’s Advocacy Campaign Specialist, Aseel Elborno and Jihad Saleh Williams, Senior Advisor for Public Affairs and Research Advocacy, both spoke on IRUSA’s advocacy priorities and lobbying activities. During her speech, Aseel Elborno shared their new grassroots advocacy initiative: “We have been in the field of direct lobbying and advocacy for over ten years. While our IRUSA supporters have been so generous in donating their money and time, they still wanted another opportunity to help us fulfill our mission. Alhamdulillah, we were able to launch our grassroots advocacy initiatives and went from 40 advocates to 800 within one year.”
The growing number of advocates for IRUSA was majorly due to their focus on refugees. IRUSA launched two major campaigns – the Afghan Adjustment Act and the Welcome Refugees 2023 – where advocates took over 2,800 combined actions to create a legal pathway for Afghans to remain in the US and to call on President Biden to rebuild the refugee resettlement program. “Our advocates wrote to their state and local elected leaders, participated in social media actions, and attended the annual refugee One Journey Festival,” continued Aseel Elborno.
The two day convening was a great success according to IRUSA Partner Services Specialist, Donia Abdalla, who shared: “We were able to host our first Refugee and Recent Immigrant Convening this past month that brought together 28 nonprofit organizations from across the country who work tirelessly, daily, so this vulnerable population can live with dignity and excel as our neighbors. It was a great opportunity for our partners to network, share successes and challenges, and hear from speakers who shared resources and experiences in their field regarding refugees and mental health, legal services, employment, advocacy, financial literacy, and more.”
There is still much work to be done in this line of work. To learn more about our programs, visit irusa.org/aid-for-refugees.