Dear friends,

We had a very good meeting Thursday evening with three representatives from New American Pathways, the refugee assistance agency. I am happy to report that we have a family assigned to us.

Here is what happens next: Those who attended Thursday’s meeting filled out forms for a background check. The check is needed for anyone who may have personal contact with the family. (For example, if in the future you plan to help set up an apartment for a newly arriving family, you don’t need a background check. If you want to help tutor children, teach English, provide transportation, etc., you do). I have a stack of forms for those who are interested. We also need a copy of the front of your driver’s license. We can do that at church.

Once the background checks are completed, we will meet the family. This will probably happen the end of this month or the first of April. That initial meeting will include about five people from St. Dunstan’s. We’ll have a translator present. We’ll begin the process of getting to know the family, and get an idea of where they could use our help, support, and friendship. Some of the things that will probably include are teaching English to the adults (who are taking classes, so this is extra tutoring), tutoring the kids, taking them to doctors’ appointments and other meetings.

Once we’ve had the initial meeting we’ll come back to St. Dunstan’s and organize ourselves. Thanks to Mary Alice Armstrong, who has volunteered to be our coordinator of schedules and volunteers.

The New American Pathways workers also gave us an update on the current political status of refugees hoping to enter this country. The president’s latest travel ban has once again been delayed by the courts. But even if that travel ban is overturned, as I pray it will be, there will likely be few, if any, more refugees entering the country until late fall. That is because the president has the authority to set the ceiling on the number of refugees allowed into the country per year. For many years that number was set at 85,000. In response to the Syrian refugee crisis, President Obama raised the number to 110,000. Trump has lowered that number to 50,000, the lowest it has been in decades. Since the fiscal year begins October 1, the 50,000 number is already close to being reached.

We also received a “Refugee 101” lesson Thursday night.This information is helpful in understanding the plight of refugees and perhaps in countering those who think we should not allow any refugees into the country.

As of 2015, the last year for which statistics are available, there were 65 million displaced people in the world. Of those, 21.3 million were refugees. What’s the difference? A displaced person is anyone who has been forced to leave their home because of war, persecution, famine or other outside forces. Many times they may go somewhere else in their country. Refugees are those who have fled to another country.

One in every 113 people in the world is a refugee. Only 1 percent of refugees will ever be accepted to go to another country, such as the United States, to live. Many spend years living in refugee camps hoping to go home. Right now 1 million Syrians are living in refugee camps in Lebanon; 600,000 in Jordan, and 2.5 million in Turkey.

The United Nations defines a refugee as “someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence.” It continues:

“A refugee has a well-founded fear or persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, the cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.”

  • Eight government agencies — including the National Counterterrorism Center, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and State Department
  • Six security databases
  • Five separate background checks
  • Four biometric security checks — that means fingerprints, checked against databases
  • Three separate, in-person interviews
  • Two interagency security checks running data against criminal, intelligence, and terrorism databases

Here is a very informative article about the current refugee situation worldwide and how refugees come to this country

If you are interested in working with the family, please see me tomorrow for the background check forms.

See you tomorrow,

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