On Wednesday, November 16, 2022, the City of Philadelphia welcomed its first bus of individuals seeking asylum who were sent north from Texas. This started the first wave of bus arrivals that lasted until January 2023. A second wave of people seeking asylum in Philadelphia started in May 2023. Since November 2022, the Philadelphia Office of Immigrant Affairs (OIA) and Office of Emergency Management (OEM) have received 71 buses and 2,905 people seeking asylum.
Of these arrivals, 2,302 people (1,448 adults and 854 children) have registered at the Welcome Center, the reception hub on the front lines of receiving asylum seekers bused to the City from the United States southern border.
With OIA and OEM’s collaboration and management, as well as robust support from Philadelphia immigration social and legal services providers and community leaders, the Welcome Center has welcomed them with dignity and respect.
Volunteers Make A Difference
While the majority move on to other destinations to reconnect with family and friends, about 15% of those arriving have chosen to make Philadelphia their new home. Some who have settled here dedicate their time as volunteers at the Welcome Center to support more recently arrived migrants find their footing.
Jordan, a volunteer at the Welcome Center, arrived in Philadelphia during the first wave of buses.
“The first time that I heard of the Welcome Center was when I arrived there on a humanitarian bus. The staff at the Center welcomed me very respectfully and helped me orient myself in a new city,” he said. “When I arrived here, I started a new adventure with the Welcome Center. I met amazing people who have continued to help me, who have reached out to include and welcome me as a member of an extended family. Thanks to the Welcome Center, I am still here volunteering and trying to do good.”
The services that Jordan received inspired him to help other new arrivals as a volunteer. He wanted to share his experiences arriving in Philadelphia with them.
“I arrived here completely blind without a clue about what to do or where to go next. For me, my volunteer work is all about extending a friendly hand and some helpful advice to new arrivals when they arrive at the Welcome Center after their long journey,” Jordan said.
When people seeking asylum meet Jordan and hear his story, just a few months removed from their own journey to the country, they see the possibilities available to them here in Philadelphia.
“The community of volunteers that comes together to receive people knows that kindness and respect can be conveyed in every interaction no matter how small and is instantly felt. Whether people are in Philadelphia for two hours, two weeks or to make it their home, we are here to welcome them,” says Caroline Cruz, Director of Immigrant Inclusion and Language Access in OIA.
With City and community partnerships, plus the dedication of volunteers like Jordan, the Welcome Center can support people seeking asylum in choosing the next steps on their immigration path.
Support the Welcome Center
Philadelphians can help new arrivals at the Welcome Center in two ways:
Donate to the Philadelphia Welcoming Fund
OIA and the Philadelphia City Fund have launched the Philadelphia Welcoming Fund to allow Philadelphia residents the opportunity to participate in and contribute to local efforts to welcome immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers arriving in Philadelphia.
Purchase Items from the Amazon Wish List
Catholic Social Services , Nationalities Service Center, Concilio, New Sanctuary Movement and a collaborative of immigrant serving organizations are working together to integrate newly arrived families to the City. Support their efforts by purchasing much needed items from the Center’s Amazon Wish List.
Thank you to Caroline Cruz, Zuhail Corro-Vazquez, Jordan, Iris Angulo, Clara Jerez, and Angel for sharing your experiences at the Welcome Center, and for the important work you do helping Philadelphia live up to its Certified Welcoming designation!