Haroon is Afghan by birth. A fluent English speaker, he was working in Kabul for a major U.S. news network on 9/11 when almost overnight his country was plunged back into war. For the next decade, Haroon worked for the U.S. and U.K. governments, putting his advanced language and logistics skills to use. In 2009, he got his law degree from Kabul University and went on to support coordination between Afghan government agencies and the U.S. But in a time of war and sectarian divisions, working for the U.S. government put Haroon and his family at serious risk for retaliation and harm.
Meanwhile, Haroon’s wife was forced to stay at home, held back from pursuing her education by the Taliban Regime, and fearing for her daughters who faced the same fate.
But in 2014, Haroon and his family got lucky. They were granted Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) through a program that gives permanent, legal resident status to Afghans and Iraqis who have aided the U.S. overseas. Haroon and his wife were overjoyed.
The SIV program for Afghans has thousands like Haroon on the waitlist. But the program’s funding has been cut, and will effectively end this year. And even for those who make it, life in the U.S. brings its own stark challenges, especially when it comes to finding work.
Just ask Haroon. With 18 years’ experience and an advanced degree, he came to the U.S. jobless. Soon he was on public assistance and driving for Uber to pay the bills. Each night, his kids would come home from elementary school exhausted by the strain of fitting into a new language and culture. His wife, still working to learn English, struggled to keep life running at home. “As a husband and father, it was so hard,” Haroon remembers. Where was this better life they’d hoped for?
Beyond basic refugee assistance, there are very few ways for men and women like Haroon to find support with things like a professional job search. Haroon found Upwardly Global. UpGlo has been working with Special Immigrant Visa holders since the program began in 2008, often referred to us by refugee resettlement organizations. Many of these individuals served as translators, interpreters, and support staff for the U.S. government and armed forces. They come to the U.S. with specialized skills and years of professional experience.
With support from UpGlo, Haroon was able to revamp his resume, brush up his interview skills for an American audience, and have an all-important belief in his potential, in 2015, Haroon found a good job with a government contractor that provides support for U.S. global missions. His wife is now pursuing higher education and mastering English. Their kids are settling in at school.