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Renewed violence in the Darfur region of Sudan has propelled Sudan back into the public spotlight. The newspapers and news programs tell of mounting violence, increasing tensions between the various factions in Sudan, civilian casualties and the threat of famine. Many people are just trying to survive each day by avoiding the violence and trying to find enough food and water. Families have been separated and many have fled to refugee camps. The current situation in Sudan is appalling, but unfortunately the impact on the citizens of the country is similar to the situation that has existed in Sudan since the 1980s. The precise problems and conflicts have changed, but the impact on the people of Sudan has remained horrific, resulting in more than two million deaths in the past 20 years of civil war. There has been an international movement to aid the people in Sudan, with assistance from the United Nations, individual countries, charitable organizations and the generosity of individuals. They have helped meet immediate needs such as clean water, food and safe shelter. However there are some less obvious, but also important, Sudanese needs. Between the fall of 2000 and throughout 2001, approximately 3,600 Sudanese youth and young adults were resettled across the United States. These young people, mostly male, were dubbed the “Lost Boys” and had spent their childhoods chased out of their homes, and between countries and refugee camps. These young people arrived in the United States with the hope of a better life. They were dedicated to completing their education, finding a job and becoming part of the American society and moving beyond their difficult childhoods. Approximately 55 south Sudanese refugees settled in the Philadelphia area, and a number of charitable organizations, such as Lutheran Children and Family Services in Philadelphia, helped them find housing, schools and employment. However, these young men were still left to navigate the perplexing immigration system, to try to obtain green cards to reflect their legal permanent status. Philadelphia VIP stepped in to match these young men with private attorneys who took these cases pro bono. Philadelphia VIP provides free legal services for income eligible clients, and assists a large number of clients with a wide variety of civil legal issues by pairing them with private attorneys. In 2002, when the Sudanese refugees arrived in Philadelphia, Lutheran Children and Family Services of Philadelphia contacted Philadelphia VIP about these young men who needed help acquiring their green cards. Philadelphia VIP organized a special training program and a number of enthusiastic attorneys attended. Since that training these volunteers have given generously of their time. They have completed the green card applications, followed the status of the applications on-line and through phone calls to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), arranged meetings with their clients, and ensured the client has attended necessary appointments for fingerprints. Most importantly, these volunteers have coached the young refugees through their first contact with the American legal system. The green card application cases were opened in December 2002, but there is such a backlog at the USCIS that the first green cards were not received until September 2005. The nearly three-year-long wait has been incredibly frustrating for the clients and the attorneys, but the attorneys have been dedicated to their cases and the young men and women, many of them in college, have been keeping track of their green card applications. Receiving a green card is the first step toward becoming a citizen, and many of the refugees plan on applying for United State citizenship. Many south Sudanese refugees have gone on to college, and becoming a citizen will enable them to receive more financial aid to finance their pursuit of education. Our clients are college students; they attend Widener, St. Joseph’s University and Penn State University, just to name a few. For many of these men and women, just receiving their green card allows them to apply to scholarship programs that will enable them to attend school and further their educations. Without the assistance of their dedicated attorneys these young men would be at a disadvantage in pursuing their best possible future. Despite their difficult childhoods, these young men have achieved a great deal. About half have received their green cards and the other half will probably receive their green cards soon. These south Sudanese refugees worked throughout high school as clerks at grocery stores, painters, maintenance staff and even as lifeguards. One is a champion distance runner at Widener, and a number of them play on soccer teams. Many belong to churches; often the same churches that helped them become established in their new life in Philadelphia. They work hard and place a premium on their education, because for many it has taken the place of their family. Most of these men have not known where their parents were since they were small children, and they have come to see education as a constant in their lives that will help them beyond their difficult early circumstances. Legal help is not the most obvious thing a refugee needs in this country. However, navigating the legal systems in place to gain permanent residency is very complicated yet completely necessary for any refugee. Thirty-six volunteer attorneys have helped 55 south Sudanese refugees obtain their green cards. The legal help given to these south Sudanese refugees by these generous private attorneys in Philadelphia has been absolutely vital to their success in the United States. For more information about Philadelphia VIP visit www.phillyvip.org. BRITTANY FRENCH is a paralegal at Philadelphia Volunteers for the Indigent Program.

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