On World Refugee Day, Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services staff who came to this country as Special Immigrant Visa holders speak about their experiences as newcomers to the U.S.
My name is Monica. I am a college junior and I’ve been working this summer as an intern for Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services in Arlington. Catholic Charities’ work with refugees reflects Catholic teaching that we protect the dignity of all people and welcome the stranger. We’ve been doing it since 1975.
Before I came here I had a minimal understanding of what forced migration entails and what we at Catholic Charities do to serve those migrants legally entering the U.S. as refugees and asylees. I thought we would serve their immediate needs – securing housing, furniture and household goods, for instance – and that after a few months, we’d be done. Instead, we help with clients short-term and long-term needs – for up to five years! I began to understand the realities and opportunities of long-term relationships with clients.
There is such a difference between reading news stories about refugees and personally interacting with a person who is a refugee. Take, Mahmoud, an Afghan who served alongside U.S. armed forces and was resettled here with his family for their safety. Before he migrated to the U.S., Mahmoud (his name has been changed to protect his privacy) worked as a security and investigative officer for the U.S. embassy. He and his wife came here with nothing. They started their lives over with the help of Catholic Charities. We provided funding for his English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. We helped him prepare for and supplied transportation to job interviews. He got a security job, and soon was making more money. Mahmoud says his favorite thing about America is the number of jobs. Refugees often struggle to find the same type of employment they held in their home country. Mahmoud speaks wisely about the frustration of job hunting. He uses his personal experience to reassure others that finding a job is possible — and worth it, especially after working with Catholic Charities.
In FY 2017, the U.S. admitted 53,716 refugees of seventy-six different nationalities. The ceiling for refugee admissions was lowered to 45,000 in FY2018. [i] As of mid-July, with two-and-a-half months remaining in the fiscal year, the U.S. has only admitted 17,024.[ii] Despite the fluctuating numbers, we continue to work with refugees for the long-term, helping them improve their English speaking, find better employment, engaging their children in enrichment activities, and assisting them on the road to U.S. citizenship. As the social arm of the Catholic Church, Catholic Charities is humbled to participate in this work. We invite you to join us.
In our next installment we’ll highlight the dedicated parishes prioritizing their support of refugees!
[i] USCIS Francis Cissna Testimony on Oversight of Refugee Program, 10/26/17
[ii] Arrivals by Region, Refugee Processing Center , http://www.wrapsnet.org/admissions-and-arrivals/