Campaign for Resilience

I want my neighbors to know that the moment I arrived to the US, I was received with good hands, from NSC to neighbors, to case workers, the passion on their faces gave us hope that this is the great place we have always dreamed of. - NSC Client

“I came to the USA with an olive leaf in my hand, which in my culture is a symbol of peace and love. I would love to hold olive leaves in my hand everyday to show the amount of love we have for this great country.”
- NSC Client

As Nationalities Service Center (NSC) celebrates its 96th year of serving immigrants and refugees, we face a world that, despite so many advancements, hasn’t changed in many ways. When NSC was founded in 1921 to assist immigrant women in acquiring language proficiency and gaining citizenship, fear of newcomers was common and institutionalized through legislation like the 1924 Quota Act. Today, we see the same fear in our nation’s mixed response to immigrants and refugees in need of a safe place to rebuild their lives. Since its founding, NSC has expanded and transformed to meet the changing and increasingly complex needs of immigrants and refugees, but our dedication to serving all immigrants and refugees and the philosophy of providing comprehensive services in one location have remained the same.

As the needs of the vulnerable people we serve have become more complex, the services at NSC have evolved and expanded to meet those needs with dignity and compassion for every individual who walks through our doors. Our long history of adaptability in the face of social and legal change has readied us to meet the challenges facing immigrants and refugees in the years to come and to continue as part of a U.S. tradition of freedom and opportunity. Today, NSC is the largest non-sectarian organization in the Greater Philadelphia area to provide more than 5,000 clients annually with comprehensive services in the areas of language access and proficiency, legal protections and remedies, community transition and integration, access to health and wellness, and job readiness training. As such, we need to ensure that we are prepared to help bridge the transition of these individuals to a new self-sustaining and dignified life in the United States.

In recent years, NSC has weathered federal shutdowns, budget impasses, and federal spending freezes, but this current operating environment, quite frankly, has left us exasperated. We began this federal fiscal year anticipating that we would resettle 565 refugees, responding to the global refugee crisis as the United States has done for nearly 40 years. However, in today’s reality, that figure is still yet to be determined. We have not been exempted from the chaos and confusion that permeates Washington, and we need to fight for our clients. Given the already drastic reduction in the refugee admissions ceiling, NSC is faced with the need to continue providing high-quality services to those immigrants and refugees who are still in need here in Philadelphia as well as stand ready to be of service to those who are permitted to enter, despite diminished federal resources. Refugees and immigrants who are already living in the United States could be at risk if their legal status is not adjusted appropriately and in a timely manner, and those refugees who have recently arrived are still in need of core services. This reality presents a unique quandary to an organization like NSC as to how to plan effectively. NSC only began the business of building temporarily restricted reserves several years ago, but given the immediate cascading consequences that we are now experiencing as a result of abrupt changes in resettlement, the need for pre-emptive planning and the development of adequate resources at the ready is critical now more than ever before.

Currently, 56% of NSC’s funding originates with federal government grants and contracts to provide services for refugees and immigrants. These services include resettling refugees, helping refugees secure employment, connecting them with appropriate physical and behavioral healthcare to address injuries resulting from war or ethnic violence, and assisting survivors of torture and ritual mutilation. Due to the integrated nature of our core services, the sudden and significant changes to resettlement that we are beginning to experience will ripple throughout the entire agency with unforeseeable impact on a range of program areas against the background of the greatest humanitarian crisis since World War II. Since January, we have received conflicting messages from the federal government about whether refugees would be arriving and if so, when. We’ve been forced to reduce staff capacity only to be told later that a limited number of refugees would, in fact, be arriving. Though we now know that the Supreme Court has upheld the stays on the injunctions on the “travel ban” and refugee resettlement, we are still uncertain about the full impact of this ruling and how many refugees will be resettled, given the added uncertainty regarding what qualifies as a “bona fide relationship.” Conversely, we have seen a 300% increase in legal consults, leading to the challenge of maintaining high-quality and low-cost services to all who need to access these services.

These are extraordinary times, and while the definition of American values are reimagined on a national scale, we are emboldened in our belief that immigrants and refugees are a critical part of the fabric of life in the United States. As such, we will continue to strive to provide client-centered services that help those we serve build a solid foundation for a self-sustaining and dignified future here in Philadelphia. We know that now is the time to strengthen NSC so it is nimble and adaptable in keeping with our 96 year history.

Nationalities Service Center (NSC) launched our Campaign for Resilience in January 2017 to honor our history and to safeguard our legacy and the futures of our clients in response to an increasingly uncertain operating environment. The intent of this campaign is to provide NSC with the resources, at the ready, to respond in real time to shifts in federal policy and funding as related to refugee resettlement and immigration. In the event of sudden cuts, reductions, or extended delays in federal or state pass-through funding, the resources from the Campaign will help keep needed program areas afloat and will allow us to continue offering needed services to clients while the agency regroups and redeploys resources based on these changes. In a time when a return to empathy and decency is deeply needed in our country, the Campaign for Resilience is a constructive vehicle for concerned citizens to show their support for keeping the Philadelphia region a warm and welcoming community for those in critical need who make their way to our region from across the globe. 

The main goal for the Campaign for Resilience is to carry NSC and its clients through abrupt changes in policy and the attendant impacts, and to have, at the ready, rapid-response funds to keep programs afloat if needed in our core areas. The funds from this Campaign will enable NSC to continue offering needed services to those refugees who have already arrived here in Philadelphia despite a pause on resettlement and associated funding.