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Hias Helps U.S. Government Process Refugee Green Cards

In one of the first partnerships created between a nongovernmental agency and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society has helped process green card applications for 10,000 refugees.

The Refugee Adjustment Project, which began Nov. 13 and was to end this week, is the society’s response to an INS request to provide much-needed space in the New York area to ease the backlog of refugees awaiting their green cards, which provide permanent residency in the United States.

“When the INS asked for help, we jumped,” said Martin Wenick, HIAS executive vice president. “It would have taken the INS three years to process the thousands of refugees awaiting their green cards.”

INS budgetary constraints were one of the causes for the backlog, Wenick said.

More than 250 people, mostly Jews from the former Soviet Union and Iran, have been processed daily at HIAS headquarters in New York, said Wenick.

Some non-Jewish refugees have been processed there as well.

To handle the large number of applicants, HIAS converted a large room normally used for board meetings and provided security and staff to assist the INS in preparing documents, translating information and taking photographs.

HIAS is one of 10 voluntary agencies that have cooperative agreements with the U.S. State Department to resettle refugees.

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