2022 Impact Report
July 2021 - June 2022
Regional Director's Note
Mid-Atlantic Regional Director
Wow! What a wild year. Back in June 2021, a few of us were setting up our new office in Durham for what was then a team of about 16 people. I remember this sense of excitement amongst the team as we knew that change was on the horizon, but we didn’t know exactly when or what that growth would look like – the situation was very much, “hurry up and wait.”
Just a couple of short months later, Kabul fell to the Taliban, and we spent the next several months in crisis-response mode. We hired rapidly – more than doubling in size over the next six months - and our newest team members joined the CWS veterans to meet the moment. As I reflect on this crisis, what will always stand out to me is the incredible way our community responded to this pivotal time in our nation’s history. With your help and the support of hundreds of volunteers across the state, we secured refuge for over 400 of our Afghan allies in NC.
Over the last year we’ve also opened a new office in Charlotte to respond to the needs of unaccompanied immigrant children and added an office in Wilmington to expand our network of refugee resettlement communities across the state. Our Durham and Greensboro offices have dramatically expanded their immigration legal services to meet the needs of resettled Afghans and unaccompanied children.
None of these accomplishments would have been possible without the unwavering support of our partners like you. Thank you for everything you do to welcome refugees and immigrants to North Carolina – we absolutely could not do this work without you.
We absolutely could not do this work without you.
Why is it important to support refugees? Because if the world is okay, we will be okay.
Our New Neighbors
CWS Refugee Client
In early May 2022, with the spring season in full bloom, Carmen, her husband, and their son stepped off the plane into their new home of Greensboro. After two days of flights from Ecuador, Houston, and Charlotte, Carmen and her family finally landed in Greensboro, welcomed at the arrivals terminal be CWS Greensboro case manager, Sara and case aide, Gapasi. Carmen described their day of arrival as a whole range of emotions: "I felt a whole bunch of things. I was scared. I was homesick. I was excited at the same time, but very overwhelmed with everything. Very, very overwhelmed."
Now, a few months later, Carmen does feel "a little excited." But, "for the most part," she says: "I just feel blessed and grateful to be here. Sometimes, we ride the bus and then we say, 'Oh my God. Oh my God. We're here! Oh my God. I can't believe it!'"
Welcoming Evacuated Afghans
Our Employments Specialists work with refugees and immigrants for up to five years after they arrive in the U.S. to support their personal career goals and their family's financial well-being.
Our services include federal and state funded programs that enable our team to support clients with a variety of employment related services, including English language classes, vocational training, budgeting, interview training, and application assistance.
[Community Sponsorship] is really welcoming people to your community, being their friend, helping them make that transition.
Linn is a member of Christ Church Greensboro, a local congregation with a long history of support for refugees in Greensboro. Members of Christ Church Greensboro answered our calls for help following the Afghan evacuation and said "yes" to becoming a Community Sponsorship group. Community Sponsorship is still a new opportunity for many people. For those unfamiliar, here is how Linn describes sponsorship:
It's really welcoming people to your community, being their friend, helping them make that transition. You're just taking what you already know how to do, which is live in Greensboro, North Carolina, or wherever you are, and giving them that knowledge too.
COmmunity Sponsor Teams
Individual Community Sponsors
Being able to offer somebody the privilege of legal representation without the cost… it’s a big thing.
Seeking Asylum through Storytelling
Originally destined to practice real estate and estate law, Iva switched paths when she was introduced to the world of resettlement and immigration law during a summer internship with the CWS Immigration Legal Services office in Durham. Inspired by her internship experience, Iva joined the CWS Greensboro team just over six months ago as a staff attorney and focuses primarily on asylum cases for Afghan evacuees. She describes her approach to asylum cases as a form of storytelling:
Then you go into asylum land where it's all about the story—can you convince the audience, which is not a jury, but an officer of the government that you're worthy of something. You really have to kind of craft a narrative there. You just help [the client] tell it in a way that, you know, gets to the officer.
This challenge of convincing is made even more difficult, Iva says, because you never know which officer you’ll get, how they’ll hear the story, or how the politics of the moment may influence the perspective and decisions of the asylum officer. Meanwhile, the biggest burden of this long and arduous systems is felt by the clients. Our U.S. allies who fled Afghanistan have already experienced so much turmoil in their lives, often leaving their loved ones behind, and now, Iva says, after finally arriving in the U.S. they must endure this asylum process.
You [the client] think you get a breather and then you get hit with the knowledge of you're here, but you're not here. You're in no man's land because your future is still not certain. You have to go through all this process so you get an answer—Can you stay, or do you have to go back to the nightmare you just left, which is only going to get worse if you're made to return because now, the Taliban saw you leave.
Much of Iva’s work with our Afghan clients is listening; listening to the details of their work with the U.S., their lives and family left behind in Afghanistan, and their often-dangerous journey to safety in the U.S. so that she can help them compose the story of their journey that will help them build a new life in their new community. Listening takes its own toll and Iva admits that “sometimes you just have to take a breather and step away… You're the one immersing yourself in the horrible things that happen to them, so you have to make sure that you don't let it consume you because then there's nobody to help.”
Yet, in the midst of these challenges, there is hope. On the day of the interview Iva was having a “very happy day” as she with the guidance of Managing Attorney, Elizabeth DeFrance, mailed out her first asylum application, one that took months to complete. Adding to Iva’s hope is the recent news that the much-anticipated Afghan Adjustment Act has finally been introduced in the U.S. Congress. This legislation, if passed, promises to clear some of the legal hurdles that make the immigration process so uncertain for many of our Afghan allies now residing in the U.S.
Iva loves her new role with CWS Greensboro and finds daily motivation for her work in the connections she makes with her clients and the impact of the work. She is grateful to provide the vital services of our office at no cost to our Afghan clients saying: “Being able to offer somebody the privilege of legal representation without the cost… it’s a big thing. I wish for all of the resettlement agencies to have legal offices—that would make life so much better for so many people.” We are grateful for Iva and our entire Immigration Legal Services team for working tirelessly to help our new neighbors begin their new lives with us in Greensboro.
Immigration Legal Services
Afghan Legal Services
Immigrant Children's Program
NC-Immigrant Solidarity Fund
The NC-Immigrant Solidarity Fund (NC-ISF) is a statewide, grassroots effort to support undocumented and mixed status families facing financial hardship due to a recent ICE detention & deportation, emergency, or natural disaster.
The ISF launched in the Triangle at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic for undocumented immigrants facing pandemic related financial difficulty. After a short pause, the NC-ISF relaunched in the spring of 2022 as a collaborative state-wide effort for ongoing emergency financial assistance. The fund began fundraising and administering grants in the Triad in April 2022.
This past year, CWS issued a total of 4 one-time direct cash assistance grants in the Triad area to undocumented households. A majority of households faced a financial crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic and needed assistance with rent or utility payments. CWS Greensboro is actively recruiting additional grassroots partners to increase our impact in the Triad. Across the state, the NC-ISF issued 102 financial grants totaling $96,415 of direct cash assistance to undocumented households.