HIAS has historically protected those fleeing violence, persecution and torture, defending them against deportation by securing humanitarian legal status and keeping families united through reunification. As refugees’ access to protection is increasingly restricted, HIAS’ U.S. legal program seeks to safeguard and increase rights for refugees and other displaced people upon their arrival to the U.S. and throughout their journey to citizenship.
Guided by our Jewish values and history, HIAS provides services to all immigrants in need of assistance, regardless of their national, ethnic, or religious background. Today, HIAS’ U.S. Legal Protection team seeks to provide various forms of humanitarian relief to our clients who arrive in desperate need of protection.
Our clients include refugees who seek asylum due to persecution or torture, and other displaced people who are victims of human trafficking and other violent crimes in the U.S., including gender-based violence and hate crimes. Many of our clients are children who have fled gang violence and familial abuse, neglect or abandonment, and whose governments have failed to protect them. Others are human rights activists from throughout Africa and the Middle East, and still others have been persecuted for their race, religion, sexuality, or nationality.
Though they have often suffered tremendously from trauma and torture, and have no way of paying for counsel, immigrants do not have the right to appointed counsel for their immigration cases. Without counsel, many immigrants represent themselves, or do not even know that they have rights and are eligible for humanitarian relief. HIAS’ U.S. Legal team provides pro bono representation in deportation proceedings and in obtaining humanitarian visas and asylum, while also providing holistic support to our clients through wraparound services.
Continuous Legal Protection from Arrival to Citizenship
To help our clients integrate and remain protected throughout their legal process, HIAS is dedicated to providing representation and wraparound support from their arrival in the U.S. all the way to citizenship. Through increased access to community services and opportunities for education and employment during the legal process, HIAS seeks to empower our clients so that they eventually become agents of change in their communities.
Holistic Services Model
Successful healing and integration can be a long process requiring the participation of many actors. While the goal of HIAS U.S. Legal Protection is to help our clients lawfully remain in the United States and keep families united, we go a step further by providing access to services that also help our clients thrive and fully integrate in U.S. society. In addition to having experienced forced displacement, torture, and severe and prolonged physical and psychosocial trauma, they face uncertainty due to fear of deportation, an inability to support themselves financially, systemic restrictions against obtaining medical care and other social services, and for many, they face the challenge of learning a new language in an unfamiliar environment.
HIAS goes beyond providing premium legal services in the following ways:
Social Services Partnerships
Many of our clients fear seeking assistance or accessing services. To enact our holistic services model, HIAS is building upon its strong history of collaboration with other legal and social service providers in the DC and New York areas who share referrals and collaborate on advocacy. Partnerships with medical, psychosocial, educational, vocational, dental, housing, and other social service providers allow our clients to access essential services after they have survived torture and trauma. At the same time, these partnerships enable other social service providers to better understand their clients’ rights, and refer to HIAS for additional legal support.
Economic Wellbeing and Access to Employment Opportunities
HIAS emphasizes the economic wellbeing of our clients by prioritizing their acquisition of work permits, providing small stipends to clients who qualify, and referring our clients to services and career coaches to help them find employment and gain self-sufficiency.
Wraparound Mentorship Program
Utilizing its 137 years of refugee resettlement experience, HIAS’ Mentorship Program provides an opportunity to work one-on-one with our clients in the DC and NY areas. Carefully vetted mentors –who have been extensively trained on everything from cross-cultural communication to Trauma Informed Care– are matched with individual mentees, our clients. Serving as career mentors, education mentors, English language partners, or cultural mentors, volunteers can assist their mentees with such tasks as resume building and professional networking as well as learning how to navigate healthcare, education, and public transportation systems in their new hometowns. In a mutually beneficial relationship, mentors offer HIAS clients foundational support that empowers them to work toward self-sufficiency, while mentees share their diverse skills, cultures, languages, and worldviews. We believe that this mentorship program will promote interconnectedness in our communities amidst a national climate of bigotry and hate, and ultimately create an atmosphere of public safety and tolerance.
Partnership with the Guatemalan Consulate
To best serve the vulnerable population near our Headquarters, our legal team has a special relationship with the Guatemalan Consulate in Silver Spring, Maryland, providing hundreds of consultations to indigent Guatemalans each month, referring them to legal and social services, and advising them on relief for which they may qualify.