Finding Support and Kindness at an Afghan Support Center

In August 2023, I had the privilege of attending an event organized by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to support Afghan refugees in Seattle. As a Legal Services Coordinator for Human Rights First’s Project: Afghan Legal Assistance, it was a heartening experience to witness the collaborative efforts of numerous organizations and individuals coming together to help hundreds of Afghans seeking refuge in the United States. The event showcased the resilience and hope of these families as they embark on a new chapter in their lives, and it underscored the need for continued support and legal assistance for all refugees.

The Support Center Event in Seattle was a testament to the power of collective action. The event was part of the Department of Homeland Security’s commitment to Operation Allies Welcome (OAW) parolees and demonstrated their support for those who have risked their lives to seek refuge in the United States. Over four days, the event drew 200 to 300 people per day, highlighting the immense need among Afghan refugees for support and resources. Various government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and volunteers joined forces to provide crucial services and resources to Afghan refugees.

One of the most touching moments during the event was reuniting with a family that had been our clients since their arrival at Fort Dix in New Jersey. They have since resettled in the Seattle area, and it was heartwarming to see them thriving. The young couple we met in Feb 2022 while our team was supporting legal intakes of newly arriving Afghan refugees in the military bases where they were being housed is now expecting a baby, and they have successfully won asylum and obtained their green cards. They built a new home and are building a hopeful future for their family in the United States. This heartwarming success story reminded us of the incredible impact legal assistance can have on the lives of refugees.

As I watched families approach our legal table seeking assistance with their immigration paperwork, it struck me how our work is not only about legal processes but also about offering a helping hand in a challenging journey. Many refugees must navigate a complex web of laws and regulations, much like my own parents did when they arrived in the United States from Afghanistan. My parents often share stories of the people who were kind and helpful during their early days in this country and emphasize the profound impact of the compassion and support they were offered. This made my work at the support center all the more meaningful, as I saw firsthand the positive changes we were bringing to the lives of those we served.

A significant number of refugees we saw had crossed the U.S.-Mexico border and are now in need of legal assistance. While the event focused primarily on aiding OAW parolees, there was a clear need for resources and support for those in defensive asylum postures. Many individuals and families at the support center were struggling to find the legal representation they required. This highlighted the need for a more comprehensive approach to refugee services – it must ensure that legal aid is accessible to all who need it.

One of the major questions asked by Afghan refugees who visited our legal table was, “How can I bring my family members still in Afghanistan here to the United States?” Refugees have a profound desire to reunite with their loved ones, it’s a fundamental human need that transcends borders. The question also emphasizes the importance of family reunification in the lives of these refugees and the need for clear legal guidance and support.

Another important element of the event was USCIS acknowledging its increased commitment to connecting with Afghan refugees and debunking misinformation about immigration processes. This is vital to ensure that refugees are well-informed about their rights and the legal processes that protect those rights. Additionally, preventing the spread of misinformation can protect against confusion and anxiety.

The USCIS Afghan Support Center Event in Seattle was a remarkable showcase of solidarity and support for Afghan refugees. It underscored the importance of legal assistance in helping these families build stable and secure lives in the United States. It also served as a reminder that, in these challenging times, every small act of kindness and support can make an immeasurable difference in the lives of refugees.

As we move forward, it is crucial to continue advocating for comprehensive support systems that address the diverse needs of all those seeking refuge in this great nation. Together, we can create a brighter future in the relative safety of the United States for these resilient individuals and families who have fled violence, persecution, and other dangers.



  • Fatima Safi

Published on December 6, 2023


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