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Faces of Migration

October 16, 2017 | Faces of Migration | Link to Article

“How good and how pleasant it is, when brothers* dwell together as one!” (Psalm 133: 1).

Accompaniment and support from his community made the difference between deportation and life in the United States Luis.⃰[1] Together with a group from the Indianapolis Congregation Action Network (IndyCan), a Justice for Immigrants (JFI) affiliate, Luis attended his immigration court hearing with the local community behind him. This support made all the difference. While Luis was charged with speeding and driving without a license, he was able to secure a pre-trial release, which meant the charges would not show in his permanent record. This result would not have been possible without the help and support provided to him from IndyCAN and the community.  Translation services were not provided through the court, but with IndyCan standing alongside him, translation was provided. Prior to his day in court Luis had surgery and therefore was unable to work to have money available to help in his defense. Members of the group generously offered to cover the extra cost of pre-trial on the spot. Luis was overjoyed by the generosity of those he just met.  The monetary and communal support of this group of individuals was something Luis never expected. After the trial, the group debriefed upon the event. This gave them an opportunity to reflect on what ways the court recognized or denied rights, constructed barriers, and how everyone felt participating in the process. The ability to pray together before and after the case allowed Luis to relate more closely to this community and share a little more of his story.  Luis is in the process of getting a U visa and will be moving forward with his case and his involvement with IndyCAN and the larger Indianapolis community.

 

 

[1] ⃰Name changed for protection.

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Ali was born in Somalia and was orphaned along with five siblings when his parents died. He left his country, journeyed through Africa and Europe, and finally ended up in Ukraine. He finally made it to the U.S., graduated from college, and is still working hard to achieve his goals. Living in the U.S. has been a series of challenges for Ali, but he has persevered and also has some advice for parents, teachers and other immigrant teens. He has an inspiring story and, earlier this year, Ali shared his resettlement journey and experiences on what it’s like to be a refugee teen in the United States.

To see more about Ali’s experience click here.

*Picture has been changed to protect identity

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As was the case 170 years ago with early Mormon pioneer families, Aden Batar and his family left their home – Somalia to resettle in a new area and faced the uncertainty of how they were going to re-establish their lives, build a home, and ensure a safe place to live. Batar, who was resettled through Catholic Community Services from Somalia to Utah in 1994 as a Muslim refugee, said the experiences of modern refugees are similar to those of the Mormon pioneers at the resettlement stage. “Same thing with the Mormon Pioneers — when they came to Utah, they found this new land, (start) a new life and make this their home. I consider myself as a pioneer coming to this new community in Utah. I consider this my home now. This is a state, a community that welcomed me and my family, took us in, and helped us to overcome all those challenges.”

Religious discrimination and sacrifice are also among the experiences shared by early Mormons and current “modern-day pioneers.” In the same way that Mormons were forced to flee their homes based on their religious beliefs, there are more than 65 million people worldwide who have been forcibly displaced as a result of conflict or religious persecution. This number includes 22.5 million refugees.

Read more about the refugee experience of Batar, who is also the Director of Migration and Refugee Services for Catholic Community Services in the Diocese of Salt Lake City, and the rest of the story at
http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865686025/Modern-sacrifice-carries-on-pioneer-legacy.html

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Because of DACA, I can “study / work in an area that I really want to / drive / help my family / travel / breathe / have a life.” These are some of the responses we hear from Asian American and other DACA beneficiaries. DACA refers to a highly successful program that allows undocumented youth who meet certain requirements to live and work in the U.S. temporarily. Since the program started in 2012, it has had a transformative impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of youth and their communities.

The threat of DACA cancellation moved us to action, bringing together immigrants, faith leaders, and other supporters to fight for our youth and future. NAKASEC and the Franciscan Action Network initiated a 22-day, 24/hour a day, picket in front of the White House since August 15th (fifth anniversary of DACA implementation) to call on the White House and Congress to defend DACA and promote citizenship for all. The action goes through 9/5. Many faith leaders and organizations have joined in the vigil, including Catholic groups that are part of Justice for Immigrants. The Justice for Immigrants campaign encourages you to review the following materials and support the vigil and other peaceful efforts to highlight the contributions of DACA Youth:

Faith communities are calling for seven-day fast from 8/30 – 9/5 https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdsuwsw5DL4u-hO9mQEJc2fzSABeldeD8WJb06ClRVd5yzp6A/viewform

For more information about #DreamAction17, go to www.nakasec.org/act.  Or www.Franciscanaction.org. If you’re in the D.C. area, join us at the White House. You can show your support also by signing the JFI petition here.

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Last week, the Department of Homeland Security terminated the Central American Minors (CAM) parole program. This program provided critical temporary protection and a legal avenue for vulnerable children from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala to reunify with their parents in United States. Through this program, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops / Migration and Refugee Services was able to assist children like Lucia – whose story is below – escape violence and find safety in the U.S.

Lucia’s Story

Lucia* was living in El Salvador with her grandmother when, at the age of 16, she became a target for local gangs. After refusing to become a gang member’s “girlfriend,” the gang threatened Lucia’s life as well as that of her family. Facing daily harassment, Lucia lived in constant fear for her safety. She could no longer even attend school due to the danger posed by the gang. Through the CAM parole program, Lucia was able to find a safe and legal way to escape this danger and reunite with her mother who was living in the United States. Without the daily threat of violence hanging over her, Lucia is thriving. She is attending high school and maintaining a 4.0 GPA.

*Name and photo image changed to protection privacy.

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For several centuries, Our Lady of Guadalupe has offered her protection and sustenance to all the inhabitants of the Americas. The nations of the Americas are one, bound together by the presence of the Lady of Tepeyac. And as the world continues to come to this continent seeking a new home, the “Mother of the True God for whom we live,” calls us to become part of the divine family. For this reason, Our Lady of Guadalupe invites us to enter into solidarity with the migrant and the refugee. Guadalupe erases the divisions that exists between peoples and invites them to an encounter that establishes kinship. In Guadalupe we are invited to encounter those who are suffering, the persecuted, the forgotten. We are called to approach them not as “the other,” but rather as brother and sister.

The archdiocesan tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe is visiting parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Washington. The pilgrim tilma is bringing the message of Guadalupe to all those who profess the faith that makes us universal. At each parish, Our Lady invites the faithful to come together for prayer and reflection in solidarity with migrants and refugees. By the time of our annual celebration on December 9, Guadalupe will have visited 20 parishes. Each time planting a seed of hope in the heart of those who see the world branding them as a problem and a burden. Guadalupe offers hope for those who come to our parishes seeking restoration in the same way Guadalupe restored Juan Diego’s humanity.

The traveling pilgrim tilma serves as a call for all individuals throughout the Archdiocese of Washington to join in prayer and support for our migrant brothers and sisters. For more information, please visit the Archdiocesan website: http://adw.org/wwm/.

Thank you to the Archdiocese of Washington for helping with this story.

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In Cincinnati, a 78 year-old man who grew up and survived during the Jim Crow era of his native Georgia develops a friendship with a Syrian Muslim refugee father of five despite their 42 year age difference. What brings them together is hard work, finding refuge – five decades apart – in the same town, and a shared experience as newcomers to Cincinnati looking for a safe place to work and raise a family.

“When I met him, he reminded me of myself,” Clarence Howell said, 57 years after leaving the deep south. His friend, Bassam Osman, 36, came from Aleppo, where war has claimed 31,000 lives and destroyed more than 33,000 buildings. He worked in a shoe factory before it was bombed.

With the assistance of the local Catholic Charities agency and USCCB-provided refugee support funding, the two men work mending shoes at Howell’s shoe repair shop and developed a bond that is more than boss and employee.

“He is a great man,” Osman said. “I can tell he cares about me and my family.

To read more of this story, click here.

(Photo credit: Liz Dufour, The Enquirer)

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I have lived in the United States for 20 years as of this past December. I am 29 years old. My parents made a decision to bring my family here in an emergency because my father’s mother, who lived in the United States, was gravely ill and had not seen her son for more than 20 years or met his family. At the age of 10, I just thought I was visiting my grandmother. Six months later, my grandmother passed away. After this terrible tragedy, I realized we were not going back to my little hometown in Veracruz, Mexico.

I learned to speak and write fluent English by 8th grade, and I was determined to excel in school. For survival, there was no other option. My parents struggled to provide the upbringing and education that most American children take for granted. In high school, I excelled in honors and AP courses and was fortunate to have dedicated, loving teachers who kept me on track to graduate and apply to college.

When it was time to fill out college applications, neither my parents nor I had a Social Security number. That meant that I could not apply for federal financial aid or grants. This did not stop me from going forward. I limited myself to three college applications because my parents could not afford more application fees. My great fortune in landing at Loyola Marymount University is due to a teacher who persuaded me to apply for the Social Justice Scholarship for undocumented students at LMU. Receiving my acceptance letter and phone call from LMU about my scholarship was like winning the lottery.

In June 2012, President Barack Obama instituted the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) policy. This provided me an opportunity to finally contribute and work in my field of study. I have renewed DACA twice and I work as an engineer.

Being able to put my degree and education to work has been the most rewarding part of this journey. I now am able to contribute to our community and provide for my family. I have two small children, and I am the primary breadwinner for my family. This could all disappear if the DACA program is not continued by President Donald Trump. The thought of taking my family back to my home country has been on my mind for many years. Yet moving my U.S.-born children to what to them is a foreign country would be heartbreaking. In many ways, they would be forced to experience the same sort of displacement that I did as a child. They know the United States as their home. It is, indeed, their only home.

My work permit expires next year, and my family’s security and peace are at stake. Without a clear path to legalization for me, we will continue to live in limbo, not knowing when I will be targeted for deportation, as many families are now experiencing. My parents made a decision for me 20 years ago because they believed in their hearts they were providing me with a better life. The American Dream was their hope. Yet in the times in which we live, I am not certain this dream still exists for us.

 

Thank you to LMU Magazine for letting us use this story. To read the full story, click here

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Photo Courtesy of Startingoverutica.com

My family was forced out of our home country of Bhutan for having a different religion, language, and being different. My family fled the country for safety leaving behind their home and life that they had that was of peace. They found themselves refuge in Nepal, and my older brother, myself, and young sister were all born there. After eleven and half years in the camp, we were in the process of being resettled. We didn’t know where we would be going, but we knew that we had something to look forward to and it had to be better than the life we were living. During the process, the small hut we had burned to ashes with thousands of others, so we lived under a plastic tent with the water rushing around us, and monsoon rains and wind pulling us. In hopes to have a life, our family set our foot forward blindly to the U.S., the country of hopes and dreams, to the land of freedom, and a land that promised a future that we never saw before. We were resettled in Georgia and so our life finally began and the hold button was uplifted.

Before coming here, I also wish I knew more of the culture, what I am expected to do, and how things flowed here in the U.S., especially with school and work. The hardest thing has been finding ways to be myself again. It has been difficult adjusting from the language to the simple motion of walking out of the house. But as hard as it is, it even harder to express who you are as an individual, your ideas, your thoughts, and your love to the ones around.

The friends and organizations that were loving and interested and did not seem to notice the differences have been the biggest help. They always motivated me and protected me with their care, love, and with their efforts. I will not forget, and I will probably fill countless pages, but they all know who they are. Everyone around me are the best thing that happened to me and made me feel like I belonged. They have made my experience, as well as my family’s, feel easier and gave hope that I can be safe and can have a life here.

*For privacy reasons we have changed the picture

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On Saturday June 17, 2017, Jorge Taborda spoke publicly for the first time since his wife, Francia Elena Benitez-Castaño, was deported to Colombia. Jorge, in addition to his wife Francia has also faced apprehension by ICE agents. Before the arrests, Taborda and his family lived in Las Cruces for nearly two decades, and the family grew and thrived. Taborda, a computer technician, and Benitez-Castaño, a housekeeper, were both self-employed, and had two sons. Last year, their oldest son, Jefferson, graduated from New Mexico State University with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

Four years after arriving in Las Cruces, Taborda, Benitez-Castaño and youngest son, Steven, received deportation orders when their application for asylum was denied by an immigration judge. But they continued to live in Las Cruces, building lives connected to their faith, church and community. The family was active with Our Lady of Health in Las Cruces.

On May 9, Benitez-Castaño and Jefferson were arrested by immigration agents at their home. But Jefferson – who was eligible for an Obama administration program that shields young immigrants from deportation, DACA – was released three days later.

Benitez-Castaño, however, was deported one month later. Taborda has kept an extremely low profile since the arrests. But, on the day before Father’s Day, he broke his silence at the Holy Cross Retreat Center, pleading for a reprieve from the government and the reunification of his family. “I’m here praying to the Lord for his mercy on us,” Taborda said after Mass at the retreat center. “But (I’m) also asking for the community – for our bishop, for our church, for our friends – to ask the government of the United States (for) one pardon, one stay, one give to my family, especially to my wife (and) to my kids.”

Taborda’s supporters include Bishop Oscar Cantú of the Las Cruces Catholic Diocese and Father Tom Smith of the Holy Cross Retreat Center.

For more information about Jorge, read http://www.lcsun-news.com/story/news/local/2017/06/18/immigrant-father-sought-authorities-speaks-out/406647001/

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In Scarborough, Maine, Catholic and Muslim families are coming together in what they have termed the “Building Bridges Dinner.” The dinner at St. Maximilian Kolbe Church in late February.

For Abdullahi Ali, who is a native of Somalia and one of the organizers of the dinner, said breaking bread with your neighbors is important for the community.

“I think one of the best ways to show support is sharing a meal because, as they say, sharing is caring. I think dinner shows us a sense of family. That’s what families do. They sit together, share a meal, talk about their issues, and that is what this is about.”

There were more than 250 people who were in attendance for the dinner. The idea for the dinner was proposed by Monsignor Michael Hencham, more than a year ago. Monsignor Henchal said the idea came to him after he heard a story on the radio about the anxiety and fear that many Americans have about Muslims arriving in this country.

Members of both the Muslim and Catholic communities shared responsibility for cooking the main courses, which occurred in the parish’s kitchen. Others in attendance brought potluck style dishes.

Throughout the course of the evening, the new acquaintances talked and learned about each other’s lives and cultures and how perceptions of others changed.

“It’s very important because it’s not only what you watch or hear about people,” Zoe Sahloul, executive director of the New England Arab American Organization in Westbrook said.

Throughout the dinner, people asked questions, told stories, and shared words of welcome. Although there were some communication barriers, they were overcome with smiles and the assistance of those who spoke multiple languages.

Two hours after the dinner began, with plates cleared and even the dessert table bare, few had left, lingering to enjoy Middle Eastern music and the company of the new friends they had met.

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Edith is a 19 year old undocumented immigrant with D.A.C.A. status.  Edith, is a sophomore at the University of New Mexico (UNM). She has a double major in psychology and math, maintains a 4.02 grade average, and works in the University Library.  Her passion is helping others and volunteers at the Campus Agora Crisis Center, which handles crisis calls from the Albuquerque citywide area.

17 years ago, Edith, who was two, along with her mother and father immigrated to Santa Fe from Mexico.  She has 2 younger sisters who are both U.S. citizens.  Edith attended Santa Fe public schools.  Her highchool grades were outstanding and she graduated with  a 4.28 average. She was the senior class valedictorian and awarded several local scholarships.   Edith gained D.A.C.A. status in 2012.

Edith’s dream is to work as a Behavioral Analyst for the F.B.I. which will only be possible when she becomes a U.S. citizen.  She hopes to do private consulting for them until then.  Her plans after UNM are to do graduate studies to further her career goals.

Edith states:

 “America is my home. I have always considered America as being a place of freedom and acceptance. Despite being born in Mexico, I had always felt at home here, where I have grown up since arriving as a two-year old. Right now it’s heartbreaking to see the division and oppression that has emerged and is consuming the hearts of so many.  Still, I hold on to hope.  I am glad to see that a lot of people still have light in their hearts and are willing to fight with us to Keep America a free and accepting home for all who seek one.”

*picture changed for security purposes

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My name is Hussain, I am originally from Afghanistan, I immigrated to the U.S. under special immigrant visa program about 3 years ago. In my home country I served as a linguist and cultural specialist for the U.S. Military for 10 years, I had the privilege and honor to serve alongside more than 10 different U.S. Military units who deployed to Afghanistan over the course of 10 years. During my tenure with the U.S. Military, I was mostly stationed in combat zones, where I worked and lived on base due to security concerns and threats. I participated to hundreds of missions and operations where I provided linguistic services, cultural orientations and other mission essential services for the U.S. Military units and United States Agency for International Development (USAID). In the beginning, when I started working for the U.S. Military, the security situation was satisfying and I had some freedom of movement with visiting friends and families, but when the U.S. started to decrease the number of its forces and gradually began to withdraw from Afghanistan, this was when I started to receive more threats in different forms asking me to either quit working for the U.S. or to expect to face serious life threatening consequences as a result, even threatening to harm my family due to my affiliation and work relationship with the U.S. military. When travelling to home and returning to work, I was always under constant fear and threat of being targeted and captured by the insurgents, also, I was concerned about my family’s safety. When I started working for the U.S. Mission, I didn’t know that one day my relationship with the U.S. military would endanger my life and my family’s life and nor I knew that I was going to find the opportunity to flee danger and violence and immigrate to the U.S. I and my family lived in constant fear and terror until the day I left Afghanistan. Nevertheless, even after my arrival to the U.S. my family continued to receive threatening phone calls and night letters intimidating to harm them for allowing me to work for the U.S. Mission, as a result they inevitably left my hometown and moved to a different and a little safer part of the country, I never had thought that my family would receive harm and threats because of my affiliation with the U.S. military and even to the point where that they would have to leave my hometown and getting apart from relatives,

Coming from a refugee background myself, and personally experiencing all the challenges and difficulties, I feel proud that I work for an agency who welcome and serve refugees, immigrants, other vulnerable populations who need the most help. I know that there are hundreds of people just like me who wants nothing more but to flee violence in order to live in peace and safety.

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On April 5th, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials detained Maribel Trujillo-Diaz as she prepared to go to work, taking her into custody for imminent deportation without having the chance to say goodbye to her children. Maribel is a wife and the primary caretaker to her four children, ages 14 to 3, and remains detained in jail facing an April 11 deportation.

Maribel is an active member and lay leader of St. Julie Billiart Parish in Hamilton, Ohio. Last year, when Maribel was close to deportation, thousands of supporters, organized by Archdiocese of Cincinnati Catholic Social Action Office, throughout Cincinnati sent letters, pleading for her to stay. Since then, Maribel has been reporting regularly to ICE, as instructed. At her check-in on Monday, she was told that she could remain at home as her asylum case was further reviewed.

During the April 5th meeting, Maribel was nervous, as was her pastor who took her to the meeting. They had told her to bring a deportation plan with her, which she did. Instead, they told her to go back home and report again May 1.

Not even 48 hours later, Maribel was detained.

Maribel applied for asylum on two different occasions and was denied. She fled Mexico after she refused to work for the cartels, but after her father was kidnapped last year by the cartels, Maribel again applied for asylum, in a case which is currently pending.

Maribel’s lawyer filed an emergency stay of that order, which is her last option. She hopes that her case will be heard and ruled on before next Tuesday. But there are no guarantees: ICE may deport her before that.

Archbishop of Cincinnati, Dennis Schnurr, has asked for the government’s leniency where he wrote, “Catholic teaching recognizes that the family unit is the highest organization of human society, and I do not believe that the common good is served at this stage by separating this wife and mother from her family. Our church and our community gain nothing by being left with a single-parent household when such a responsible and well-respected family can be kept together.”

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Wilmer Garcia landed in Kentucky at the end of January 2012 through the Cuban Medical Parole Program of the Department of Homeland Security. With no family or acquaintances in Kentucky, he counted from the first day with the assistance of the Catholic Charities of Louisville and the help of a solid and organized Cuban community in town. He began to study English since his arrival, in the ESL School of Catholic Charities, receiving in two months the last level of ESL. His effort to learn the language quickly allowed him to begin work only two months after arriving in the country, as a Nurse Assistance at Windsong Group Home, an institution run from the State of Kentucky for adults with cognitive disabilities. At the same time that he improved the language, he began to study on his own to present himself to the National Boards of Medicine and to receive his certifications as an MD here in USA. In October of 2015 he began to work as Case Worker in the Catholic Charities and six months later he was promoted to the position of Case Manager of the Cuban-Haitian Team. Last February he received the news that he passed the last Board Exam and the Certificate approved by the Educational Commission of Foreign Medical Graduates.

Since 2015 he has been a volunteer Spanish interpreter at the Family Community Clinic in Butchertown. He is currently studying and preparing to apply for US Residency Programs in September of this year.

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An interview with Javier:

Why did you migrate?

The 1980’s and early 1990’s was a tumultuous time in Peru. Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), a Maoist revolutionary group, and the Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru – MRTA (Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement), a Marxist-Leninist group, wreaked havoc in the Andean region and the capital city in its attempt to overthrow the government. Bridges, power plants, tunnels and buildings were constant targets of terrorist events. Thousands of innocent people died as a result of an escalating war between these revolutionary groups and the military. Curfews and blackouts became common, and schools and universities were often closed as the government attempted to “keep terrorist propaganda” from infiltrating young minds.

In this climate, there was little hope for young people to get an education, and young men feared turning eighteen because of the mandatory conscription laws in effect. As a twelve year old boy, my future at home looked bleak.

A relative of mine had migrated to the United States in the late 80’s and in 1994 obtained my father’s permission for me to move with him. So, at the age of 12, leaving family and friends behind I boarded a plane headed northward. As I crossed the continent my father’s words reverberated in my heart, “you leave as the hope for our family. Do not let anything get in the way of your education.”

How has your faith sustained you during your transition?

Leaving my entire family left a huge void in my heart. The emptiness and loneliness experienced were slowly overcome by the consolations that God sent my way through the Church and friends that surrounded me. Soon after arriving, I became involved in the church, assisting as an altar server with my friends. I met a couple priests and lay women who invited me into small leadership roles in my parish. These experiences nourished my faith and allowed me to see that with God nothing is wasted.

All the obstacles in life I have faced them head on because my faith strengthened and grounded me. To this day I stand because God filled the void in my heart with his overflowing love.

What is your hope?

My hope is that together with my wife we will be able to pass on the faith to our children. God has sustained us both through difficult moments. God has done wonders in our lives, and our son and daughter are the prime examples of God’s tremendous love for us. I hope the love we give them will transmit our faith and help them overcome any and all obstacles in her life.

En Español

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Catholic Charities of Arlington/MRS Fredericksburg initiated a women’s empowerment initiative to help homebound women to supplement their income and to gain English skills and cultural understanding. 15 donated sewing machines were distributed and a training class was provided to 14 women and one male. The women formed a group and selected products to create and sell. MRS employment program assisted the women with identifying local craft fairs where they could display and sell their handmade products. The women hope to grow the business and to develop a website for sales.

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I’ve been waiting all week for today—my opportunity to sit with Syrian refugees. My cab picks me up early in the morning as to avoid the unbaiting traffic in Beirut and beyond. We quickly scale the smog of Beirut and pass through the snowcapped Lebanon mountains. On the eastern side of these peaks lies the Bekaa valley, and less than 20 kilometers further, the boarder with Syria.

I meet with Ramzi Abou Zaid, the Project Coordinator for Caritas Migrant Center in Bekaa.  With over two million Syrian refugees living in Lebanon (a country with a total population around 6 million), Ramzi is overt as he explains the tension between the Lebanese government and the Syrian migrants—the closed boarder, the discontinuation of UNHCR registrations, the raising rent costs and state taxation on the newcomers.  Even with the Caritas programs such as psychosocial support, medical access, cash and in-kind assistance and livelihood projects to increase self-sufficiency, he remains pessimistic that the situation for Syrians will get worse before it ever improves.

After a drive across town, we visit a makeshift camp (called Mataz Camp after the camp’s leader: Mataz) which houses approximately 30 families.  Mataz and his family are Sunni and lived in Aleppo before departing in 2012; in sum, they are a family of 14 (this excludes his mother and sister who were taken by ISIS and have not yet been found).  The consistent airstrikes made them question their presence in Syria and the struggle to keep the family safe eventually forced them out.

As we engage in conversation, Mataz and his father state that they are eager to resettle to the west, but their first choice would be Canada because they’ve heard from friends and seen on the news that the Prime Minister is very welcoming to Syrians.

As Mataz sits in front of his home, which is constructed of brick and plastic UNHCR tarpaulin, he states that his family feels less than human because the very basic needs that they struggle to fulfill day in and day out.  Nonetheless, in a place where hope is in short supply, regardless of what happens with his application for resettlement, Mataz is clear that he still has a dream to return back to Syria one day.  As we drive off, Mataz and his family wave goodbye, continuing another day of waiting for an uncertain future in the Bekaa valley.

-Darwensi Clark, Associate Director, Processing Operations, USCCB/MRS

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Refugees and asylum seekers often witness torture and murder of their families– like Aime Kalangwa, a 21-year-old refugee from Congo who witnessed the slaughtering of his family when he was 14 and narrowly escaped. He wandered through Uganda for two years before finding a refugee camp where he lived for another three years before being registered as a refugee by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and undergoing comprehensive screening by the U.S. Government. He arrived to the U.S. at 17, knowing little English and having minimal formal education.  He was placed with a foster family through USCCB’s Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program which provides safe housing for unaccompanied children who are refugees, asylees, and victims of trafficking in settings tailored to each child, from small-scale shelters or group homes to foster care families.  USCCB works hard to not only to protect them and ensure their rights, but also to help each rebuild their lives and achieve their full potential.

Aime studied every day until midnight, graduated from high school with a 3.8 GPA, and now has a dual degree in political science and criminal justice, mentors at-risk youth, and founded a NGO in Uganda to protect refugee children. He finds strength in his faith, and loves America. For the past two years, he has been a youth delegate to the UNHCR-NGO Consultations in Geneva, serving on panels and providing valuable feedback on how to improve the humanitarian response to identification and protection of other child refugees.

-Kristyn Peck is the Associate Director of Children’s Services for MRS

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Cabdi* is from Somalia. He and his family arrived in New York this past summer. Cabdi is fluent in English and worked as a nurse in a medical clinic in the Kenyan refugee camp he and his family lived in prior to resettling in the U.S.  Eager to find a job in the U.S., within days of his arrival, Cabdi began volunteering at the Catholic Youth Organization in Syracuse, helping the Refugee Health Coordinator and employment specialists with clients’ job interviews, by working as an interpreter. In the fall, Catholic Charities received a call from Wilson Dental, a local dentist office looking for refugees who spoke English to work in their clinics. Wilson Dental wanted to hire Cabdi as a way to better serve the growing number of refugees utilizing their clinics. Cabdi was a leading candidate of the employment specialists, and after interviewing, he was offered the job of dental assistant. The staff at the dental office helped Cabdi learn to use the bus to get to work, and he has worked at Wilson Dental since. He still comes to CYO on his days off to volunteer, and his family is in school, learning English and integrating into their new home in Syracuse.

⃰Name and picture changed to protect confidentiality.

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Pierre* A recent client, is a 21-year old refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who had worked as an English teacher with his church prior to his resettlement. Near the end of April 2016, he arrived in Baton Rouge with his mother and two younger siblings. Given his young siblings needs, Pierre knew he must take the necessary steps to support his family. In less than two months, after resettling in Baton Rouge, the employment counselor was able to place him in a full time job at a printing company. Pierre completed cultural orientation and easily learned the bus route to and from work. With work going well at the printing company, Pierre felt confident to help assist others. He helped his siblings improve their English over this past summer and has also helped the Baton Rouge resettlement staff with interpretation. Pierre’s story demonstrates the self-sufficiency and resiliency of many refugees who come the United States, as well as the importance of welcoming communities.

*Name changed to protect identity