Afghan Family of 6 Arrives in Ithaca to Warm Welcome

An Afghan family of six arrived in Ithaca last week under a Special Immigrant Visa — the first family resettled in Ithaca by Catholic Charities of Tompkins and Tioga since the charity received a grant from the U.S. Department of State.

The immigration status of the family is different than families who have been classified as refugees, but they are resettled through refugee resettlement agencies like Catholic Charities with help from Ithaca Welcomes Refugees. The special visa is given to families who have worked for or on behalf of the United States and who are facing “an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of their employment.”

“We are excited to share that a family moved in just days ago,” Ithaca Welcomes Refugees said in a Facebook post on March 3.

“IWR volunteers stocked the cupboards with coffee, lentils, rice and yogurt, and filled the freezer and refrigerator with several homemade entrees and desserts such as dal, Sabzi Challow (spinach and rice), Qorma-e-Lubia (bean stew), sweet rice pudding and Kulche Badami (Afghan almond cookies),” the post said.

Sue Chaffee, director of CCTT’s Immigrant Services Program, previously told The Sun that the charity has been working with the Ithaca City School District, local doctors and volunteers “to help ensure this family will have a warm welcome and a smooth transition to our community.”

The charity was approved for a State Department grant late last year under which it hopes to resettle up to 50 refugees — between 10 and 12 families.

Two Syrian families who had been approved to resettle in Ithaca are in jeopardy as they wait in a refugee camp in Jordan to see how the legal battle over President Donald Trump’s executive order indefinitely banning Syrian refugees plays out, The Sun previously reported. Trump is expected to issue a second executive order on Monday after a federal court stayed the first, multiple news outlets reported on Sunday.

Chaffee previously told The Sun that the charity was even more confident in the family’s abilty to acclimate to Ithaca because they have a friend in the area who can help them with interpretation, travel to the grocery store and other initial tasks.

In a thank you note republished by Ithaca Welcomes Refugees, CCTT said the Afghan father told the charity he was grateful for the dishes volunteers prepared.

“As long as I live here, having those foods waiting for my family is something I will remember,” he said, according to the post.

Catholic Charities hopes to resettle at least 10 additional families in Ithaca, which Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 has said is continuing a decades-long Ithaca tradition of welcoming families from unsafe areas and providing them with refuge.

“Removing six people from a warzone is a blessing to be able to do that,” he said in January, when it was announced the Afghan family of six would be the first to arrive.

“And I’m excited for our city that we’re going to continue in what’s now becoming a pretty long tradition of being a sanctuary for people fleeing oppression and violence all over the world.”

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