May, 2021

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pittsburgh’s Christian Immigration Advocacy Center deserves help from other helpers

The Editorial Board

Listen to a tale that will make you feel good about this city and humanity in general.

It started on the North Side and grew out of the mission focus of the Allegheny Center Alliance Church.

It’s the kind of church that extends its mission to people its members can see, as well as the needy overseas — helping those who need help is seen as one mission.

It’s the kind of church that would buy a seedy neighborhood bar, where many troublesome things occurred nightly, just to close it down and help stabilize the neighborhood.

Its members walk the walk.

But this particular effort was spearheaded by the Rev. Glenn Hanna. He, and others, noticed how many immigrants from the African continent were living near the church and how many were struggling. He asked a simple question: What do you need most? The answer was resounding and nearly unanimous: Legal help. The Christian Immigration Advocacy Center was born in 2018.

CIAC provides low-cost and in many cases free immigration legal services to immigrants and refugees in the Pittsburgh region and beyond. CIAC estimates that there are some 67,000 people born outside the United States living in Allegheny County alone.

CIAC is small and personal. The immigration problems of many of its clients, who must apply to CIAC, are complex and profound, and take time to unravel. These are often further complicated by language barriers.

The original goal was to help 100 individuals, couples or families in a year. Last year, CIAC took 250 cases from Greater Pittsburgh and beyond

This was done on a modest budget and with little visibility or fanfare. CIAC is truly empowered by only one thing: the Christian imperative to welcome the stranger — a value most religions, most humanists and most Americans share.

CIAC says, “Our legal services range from obtaining/renewing a Green Card, filing for U.S. Citizenship, Family Reunification, Visas, Asylum, and pro bono representation in the immigration courts.”

CIAC primarily serves clients who are poor.

It doesn’t happen very often, but every once in a while, in the lives of individuals, neighborhoods, cities or human organizations, something happens — something is founded — which is wholly necessary and wholly good. CIAC is such an event, and such an organization.

Pittsburgh’s greatest citizen, Fred Rogers, used to say, quoting his mother: “Look for the helpers.”

There is a great deal of foundation and charitable money allocated in Pittsburgh every year. These organizations need to give some help to the helpers at CIAC.