Article by Katherine Lewin, The Florida Times-Union Link to Original Article
Catholic Charities Jacksonville’s refugee resettlement program received a $50,000 donation this week to support the influx of Afghans arriving on Special Immigrant Visas and humanitarian parole after the fall of the previous government to the Taliban.
The donation came from the Law Firm of Pajcic & Pajcic.
Since last month, Catholic Charities Jacksonville has welcomed eight people on Special Immigrant Visas between three families, and anticipate up to 200 Afghans on humanitarian parole between this month and March 2022. The organization also expects up to 50 total Afghans on Special Immigrant Visas over the next year.
That’s in addition to another 100 refugees expected from other countries.
Special Immigrant Visas are part of a program set up specifically in 2006 to allow Iraqis and Afghans to flee to the United States with their families if they helped the government with translation or logistics during the war. The Afghans who were evacuated from the country but are not eligible for a Special Immigrant Visa can apply for humanitarian parole for two years. After arriving in the United States, a parolee can apply for a more permanent way to stay, including asylum.
“I've worked for the agency for four and a half years and in that time I've never seen a gift this large from an individual family or an organization for our refugee resettlement program,” said Nicola Barnack, director of development at Catholic Charities Jacksonville.
The money from Pajcic & Pajcic will go toward supplementing rent, buying furniture, providing workforce development and English language classes.
Seth Pajcic, one of the partners at the firm, said he first heard about Catholic Charities Jacksonville’s refugee resettlement program after representing several families resettled by the organization with legal cases. He represented a family from Asia after a car crash and another from Kenya when their son drowned in a swimming pool.
Through that, he saw the “great work” that Catholic Charities does.
“They left Afghanistan and all they had was the clothes on their back," Pajcic said. "So to help them get on their feet and have some housing, have clothes put on their back and food put on the table until they're able to get settled here, find jobs and earn their own way. It's just a little part we can do to help these people out.”
The sizable donation to Catholic Charities Jacksonville is a welcome and necessary addition to the “outpouring” of support the organization has received over the last month, according to Barnack.
The last four years saw historically low numbers of refugee arrivals and deep staff cuts to local resettlement programs because of former President Donald Trump’s reduction of the number of people seeking asylum allowed into the country each year.
“These funds will help us through December and we are working to obtain even more to make sure that we have all of the funds to keep this program going until all of our Afghan families are self-sufficient,” Barnack said. “There were dark days for a while there. I feel like this made up for some of those hard days.”