News & Updates
Opening Doors Blogs
Breaking New Ground: Pro Se Asylum Approvals
By Melissa Stratton, Pro Bono Coordinator
and Sarah Torres, Managing Attorney
In September, Opening Doors received an exciting call: a client who participated in one of our pro se asylum clinics for Afghan evacuees was granted asylum. Since July 2022, we have hosted 15 pro se asylum clinics, and this was the first decision we received from a clinic participant. It was the first of many, with four more families notifying us of their approvals since September.
Paying it Forward: The Story of an Afghan Immigrant Family
By Abdul Qadeer Rahmanzai, Loan Specialist
Mohammad fled Afghanistan with his wife and three children in 2010 and stayed in Turkey until he was resettled in the United States in 2018. Despite the hardship he initially faced in the first two years, he built a successful family tailoring and alterations business in his new home of Sacramento. Mohammad overcame economic, cultural, and language barriers to find stability and build a home for his family. “I had hope that tomorrow would be better,” he remembers.
An Asylum Seeker’s Journey to Self-sufficiency
Serhii and his family crossed the U.S.- Mexico border in 2021 and sought asylum. Originally from Ukraine, the family spent about a month at the border until they found a sponsor in the Slavic community who helped them find housing in Sacramento.
While waiting for a work permit, the family survived on their savings. Serhii has a Computer Science degree and worked as a system administrator in Ukraine. After waiting so many months to receive their work authorization, Serhii could not find a job in his profession despite his experience.
By Iuliia Statnyk, Loan Officer
A Story of Resilience
Arsen and his family escaped the war in Ukraine and came to the U.S. on April 2023 under the Uniting for Ukraine (U4U) Sponsorship Program. They received a warm welcome, and their sponsor helped them to find an apartment in Citrus Heights.
Once settled into their new apartment, they were enrolled in Opening Doors’ Preferred Communities Program for Ukrainian Humanitarian Parolees. The program assisted them in accessing needed benefits and basic services.
By Sofiia Fedotova, Refugee Resettlement Caseworker
A Survivor’s Courageous Journey
Diego was labor trafficked at a young age and forced to work in an auto body shop without proper safety equipment. By the time he came to Opening Doors to seek services, he had severe health conditions and was unable to work. He was living at his friend’s house, sleeping on a couch, and struggling to move out.
Diego’s story is like the story of many victims of human trafficking, a modern-day slavery affecting millions of people worldwide.
By Emily Zelaya, Survivors of Trafficking Program Manager
My Karmic Path to Opening Doors
When I joined Opening Doors a few months ago as a staff attorney, it felt like a calling.
I first came across Opening Doors while I was searching for pro bono legal representation for Lorena and Maria, two young asylum seekers that my partner and I sponsored for a year. I contacted and coaxed over 25 lawyers and organizations in the area. Opening Doors was the only organization that said YES, they could take both cases. I was impressed to find an organization that provides client-centered comprehensive services and walks alongside them on their path to stability, self-sufficiency, and belonging. What a relief!
By Christopher Argyros, Staff Attorney
Giving Life to Your Dreams
Brenda is a firm believer that with faith and hard work, anyone can bring their dreams to fruition. A native of Mexico, Brenda ran a small business that included a fresh fruit shop and a video game outlet. She has always been a driven entrepreneur to build a better life for herself and her four children.
In 2003, Brenda relocated to the United States and landed a job in a fruit warehouse. Over time, she switched between various professions but found her true calling while working at a hair salon.
By Mohammed Al Salloom, Senior Loan Officer
The Human Cost of Immigration Process Backlogs
Compared to recent years, 2023’s immigration headlines seem dull. In 2018 we saw images of children in camps, separated from their families. In 2021 we watched Afghan families running to catch evacuation flights. Today, we see headlines like “Processing Times Continue to Increase,” “Backlogs Mean Long Waits for Visas.” It’s easy to gloss over headlines like that, assuming the story is simply about administrative delays.
By Sarah Torres, Managing Attorney
Opening Doors in the News
Walking Alongside our Newest Neighbors
Comstock's Magazine, May 1, 2022 – Opening Doors is dedicated to making Northern California a safe and accepting place for immigrants, refugees, and survivors of human trafficking to build the lives they deserve. Founded in Sacramento in 1993, this nonprofit organization enriches our communities by welcoming and supporting our newest neighbors on their paths to stability, self-sufficiency, and belonging. “For someone escaping human trafficking or a newly arriving refugee or immigrant, their first need is stability – physical safety and basic needs met,” says Jessie Tientcheu, CEO.
California Needs Volunteers: How You Can Help
SACRAMENTO (CBS) – The holidays have been dubbed the, giving season — a time to give back to those who need it. In Sacramento, the needs of Afghan refugees are only growing. While home goods, clothes, and pantry staples are important, one organization needs help to bring holiday joy to refugee children.
Sacramento’s Afghan Community Fears For Friends, Family As Taliban Take Over Afghanistan
CapRadio, August 23, 2021 - Naweed Yousufi’s phone hasn’t stopped ringing over the last couple of weeks. “I have hundreds of messages in WhatsApp,” he said. The Afghan American, who immigrated to Sacramento in 2017, played one audio message of a Kabul resident trying to get a visa for her father who aided the U.S. Military.
I feel so helpless.’ Afghans in the U.S. worry for friends and family back home
PBS News Hour, August 20, 2021 - Andisha Shah has not slept since Afghanistan’s government fell. From her home in California, where she is caring for relatives, all she can think about is whether or not her sister and nephews will make it out of Afghanistan safely. They are among tens of thousands of people hoping to evacuate the country following the fall of Kabul to the Taliban last week.
Local organization helping Afghan refugees
Fox 40 News, August 20, 2021 - Travis Air Force Base is providing support for the ongoing operations in Afghanistan. Recently, airmen moved into the country to facilitate the safe departure and relocation of U.S. citizens, special immigration visa recipients and vulnerable Afghan populations.
Tension mounts as would-be Afghan refugees await evacuation to safety
The Press Democrat, August 17, 2021 - Petaluma resident Abdul Pazhohesh hasn’t spoken for the last few weeks with his friend in Herat Province — a man who once worked as a driver for the U.S. Army and was trying to leave Afghanistan with his wife and two children.
Nor has he had recent contact with another friend who asked him for a letter inviting him to the United States and stating that Pazhohesh agreed to sponsor the man’s immigration.
Afghan immigrants fleeing Taliban are coming to Sacramento. Here’s how to help them
The Sacramento Bee, August 18, 2021 - Already home to one of the largest Afghan communities in the country, the Sacramento area is receiving an influx of refugees displaced by the Taliban’s swift takeover of Afghanistan in the wake of the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
'Like a horror movie.’ Sacramento Afghan community fears for friends, relatives in Kabul
The Sacramento Bee, August 17, 2021 - Besmellah Khuram didn’t sleep on Saturday night. Anxious about the swift Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the 36-year-old Sacramento man flipped between news clips and tried to make sense of what was unfolding in his home country. He’d been in touch with his brother and his mother, who live in Kabul. Their collective panic deepened with every passing hour as the Taliban encircled their city, then overtook it.
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