A MESSAGE FROM THE REV. LINDSEY ALTVATER CLIFTON: Settling in…
Someone recently asked me how our Afghan family was doing, and I realized it had been awhile since we shared an update.
In some ways, that’s because they’ve settled into rather normal (perhaps even mundane) routines and rhythms. Bahar and Taib are doing well at their respective preschool and elementary school, and baby Ayaz is sitting up, rolling over, and belly crawling here, there, and everywhere. We’re hoping the never-ending germs and colds of winter are behind all three kiddos now…
Baz continues to work at Cedar Crest Hospital (though he’s hoping to find better paying work sooner rather than later), and we’re beginning to help them think about applying for a childcare voucher for Ayaz which would enable Mursal to work, as well.
The family was able to join us for the church’s Easter Egg Hunt & Spring Festival which was fun! Mursal and I often laugh while calling the baby “President Ayaz” since he’s a tiny American who could someday become our first Muslim president; I explained that he’d need to know about egg hunts because of the big one hosted on the White House lawn each year.
Mursal and Baz have been busy fasting and praying throughout Ramadan which began on March 22, and ends on Friday with the celebration of Eid. There’s a guest Imam leading Ramadan prayers at Respect Graduate School’s masjid/mosque, so they’ve worshipped there some recently instead of at the Muslim Association of the Lehigh Valley where they have been going since arriving in Allentown. (Various MALV members have offered support to our family along the way: new furniture, baby items, help with taxes, etc. It has been a good source of Muslim community for them!) All in all, pretty typical week-to-week life stuff.
Then came some unexpected good news! In addition to Mursal’s asylum application, our church support team had also completed and submitted a Special Immigrant Visa application for Baz, given his supply technician work for a US military contractor. He had begun that process in Afghanistan back in 2017, but it was stalled because his supervisor couldn’t be located for a required recommendation letter.
We cleared that hurdle and got word last week that he has received the final approval needed to be granted SIV status! Now the family can complete their Green Card applications for permanent residency.
While there’s more work to be done – the I-485 application for a Green Card is 20 pages long without any of the necessary supporting evidence – this is such a relief and a big step forward for them! They may still be granted asylum, but this is actually a shorter path to permanent residency – after the asylum decision, they would have been asylees for a year before being able to apply for Green Cards. Our team is working on what we can of the paperwork, and we’re hoping to get them legal support again; this will require another USCIS interview, and it’s good to have representation present for those.
As I look at recent pictures of the kiddos, it is easy to see just how much they’ve grown. This family’s love and resilience are such a gift, and they share it so readily with those of us walking alongside them. Mashallah! Thanks be to God.