Each day, the staff at HIAS Chicago uses their expertise in immigration and citizenship toward reuniting families.
Julia came to HIAS in 2003 seeking help to bring her daughter's family to the U.S. from Russia. We helped her file a Relative Petition for her daughter Natalia, husband and two children. After ten years, and complex document processing with the Russian Consulate, their Visas came up for review and approval. So much time had passed that Natalia had a third child, so we quickly added the baby's documents to the process. In May 2014, Natalia, her husband and three children were interviewed in Moscow and received their immigrant Visas. They arrived in Chicago in July 2014 to Julia's open arms. A family is reunited in 2014
I taught a citizenship preparation class to a group of immigrants from the FSU around 1998. The group of adults in the class, including some grandparents, were clearly very conscientious and determined to get everything right. After they passed their tests, we had a party. There was a cake with an American flag on it. The students came with family members. We said the Pledge of Allegiance. They were so proud. The party was extremely moving.
In 1995, Dara came to the United States in her early 30’s as a refugee from the Former Soviet Union. Two filings of the application for US citizenship failed due to the applicant’s inability to pass the test on US history and civics. Before filing for the third time, HIAS Chicago referred Dara for psychological evaluation where she was diagnosed with a number of conditions that prevent her from being able to sufficiently learn and demonstrate the knowledge of English language and US Government. This made her eligible for the Medical Disability Waiver, and her third application for citizenship was submitted with the waiver. At her interview, her medical waiver was denied. After lengthy advocacy by HIAS Chicago with USCIS, Dara’s case was reassigned to another officer, who accepted the medical waiver. With assistance from the HIAS Chicago interpreter, Dara passed her naturalization interview, succeeding in her more than ten-year journey of becoming a US citizen! A 10-year journey to become a US Citizen
More than ever, I appreciate the diversity & acceptance that is at the heart of Chicago & realize that my immigration story is like that of many others in our city. HIAS Chicago helped my family immigrate & gave me a chance to grow up healthy & free to develop into an adult who appreciates their country and community, and enabled me to live out my dreams. I volunteer with HIAS Chicago because I want to pass on some of the same love that welcomed my family, and so many others. To be able to share my skills and in some way pay forward the gifts I received is a blessing. Thoughts from a volunteer who joined us in 2013
Anita had a fairly straightforward application for Citizenship and was a very self-motivated applicant. She asked all of the right questions and prepared herself accordingly. We went back and forth via e-mail and phone after the workshop to finish her case. She had traveled a lot so I wanted to be sure to include all of her trips and make sure she didn’t travel more than half of her time in the US during the past 5 years. After submitting her application she called a few times because of the confusing language in the USCIS correspondence. Again, she was fully prepared but a bit anxious. Later, we had a volunteer provide her a mock interview. A few weeks later she called and shared the good news. She had passed her interview and after her oath ceremony would be a citizen! A month later I called her and asked her to tell her story at one of our citizenship classes and ease the anxiety of the students. She was so gracious and excited to be able to tell her story and encourage the students. She could not thank HIAS Chicago and all of our staff and volunteers enough for helping her through this scary and time consuming process and being there each step of the way. She said she could not do it without us! 2013: From citizenship client to HIAS Chicago advocate
Thank you for taking the time to help me with the citizenship application. You help me to open new chapter in my life, one of the most important, to become citizen of United States of America. 2014: An appreciative client thanks her caseworker
The pursuit of higher education is a dream and a passionate desire that has propelled many Jewish families to emigrate from their countries of origin. A common thread woven through the heartfelt scholarship acceptance speeches we hear at the annual awards ceremony is the appreciation of the support HIAS Chicago provides to make such dreams a reality. The scholarships recognize the academic talents and civic engagement that immigrants contribute to our country and the award helps students plant their feet more firmly on the path to Tikkun Olam through the power of education. Irena Persky, HIAS Chicago Board President, on 2014 HIAS Chicago Academic Scholarship winners
I cannot thank you and HIAS enough for all of your efforts. Last year I was able to graduate with an MSW, continue to develop a Learning Exchange that will open in Rogers Park in the Fall, and pay my bills. It was an incredible honor to be supported by all of you. Currently I am working as an Outreach Specialist for the AIDS Legal Council of Chicago and would never have achieved a position where I can assist others without a whole group of people coming to my own aid. Former HIAS Chicago scholarship winner, sharing her success in 2013
Irma came to our workshop in July 2013 and was assisted with her citizenship application and a fee waiver for the application fees. In December 2013, she was interviewed and sworn in. She was very happy and called HIAS Chicago to share her feelings. In January she called to get assistance in reuniting with her parents. First citizenship, then reuniting her family
In Hebrew mitzvah means commandment. One of the most significant commandments is to make the world a better place by helping others. Becoming a bat mitzvah means demonstrating that you can handle the responsibilities of becoming a Jewish adult by putting the commandments into action. This includes a service project. I raised $1,500 dollars for HIAS Chicago. I want to thank everyone who bought these jars. HIAS Chicago helps immigrants become a part of their community. For example, if immigrants do not speak English HIAS directs them to English classes, or helps with job training. HIAS also helps immigrants apply for citizenship or a green card. HIAS makes a huge impact on the immigrants’ lives and really sets the immigrants up for success. This organization is very close to my heart because both of my parents’ families benefited from HIAS Chicago when they immigrated to America. HIAS helped my family, so they could have the opportunity to build a new life. I hope that with our donations newly immigrated families can be provided with the same opportunity as my family. An emerging leader in our community with her 2014 Mitzvah Project
The 2014 Youth Philanthropy Initiative, Chicagoland Jewish High School
I would like to greatly thank you for all of your work in helping me to attain my citizenship. I finally became a citizen last month and I couldn't be happier. I truly appreciate all of your follow- ups and the fact that you took it upon yourself to speak with your lawyer and inquire USCIS regarding why it was taking so long to receive any sort of update. A few weeks after this inquiry, I received the letter telling me that I was scheduled for an oath ceremony. You went above and beyond, and I am sincerely grateful for that. A heartfelt thank- you to HIAS Chicago for helping her gain citizenship