Our third installment of refugee resettlement deals with the rhetoric that refugees are a drain on our society. There is a lot in the media at this time about this subject. Politicians and newscasters alike are spreading a lot of misinformation and making assumptions about refugees receiving government assistance in our community. A lot of accusations are made about how they “aren’t contributing to our community” or how they are just “taking from our government and community and not giving anything back”. There is a lot of hatred and mistrust of refugees and their use of government assistance.
Misconception: Refugees are a burden to society.
Fact: Refugees enrich their new communities.
“The U.S. has a long tradition of offering refuge to those fleeing war and persecution. And these new Americans repay the nation’s generosity, becoming taxpayers, homeowners, entrepreneurial employers, valued employees, and even public servants. “New immigrants bring new energies and have the ability to revitalize our communities and our economies,” says Ruben Chandrasekar, director of the IRC office in Baltimore, Md. "Refugees receive limited cash support from the U.S. government for the first few months after they arrive, along with services from partner agencies like the IRC that help them acclimate to their new communities. They are encouraged to find work quickly and stand on their own feet — and most do. Refugees even pay back the loans they take for their plane tickets here.”
International Rescue Committee (IRC)
Previously, I worked for a real estate agent who primarily helped refugee families find and purchase their first home. One family I worked with stands out in my mind, they were a family that resettled here from Burma (Myanmar). They arrived in the United States in 2010, a family of seven and they were trying in 2015 to qualify for a home loan. I was helping them clear up some of the outstanding debts that showed up on their credit report that were hindering them from getting a home loan. One debt was to the IOM (International Organization for Migration). The IOM is an intergovernmental agency that helps in the resettlement of refugees to the United States. The IOM will pay for the plane tickets for refugees to leave their home country and fly to the United States, but this is a loan that the refugee must pay back. This family of seven flew from Thailand to the U.S. (not a cheap trip) and since the time they arrived in 2010, they had moved, they had limited English and were unable to communicate to the IOM that they had moved and needed their billing statement sent to their new address. They had not been paying their travel loan for five years. I was able to help them contact the IOM and update their address information. In 2015 they began paying off the travel loans for their family of seven. The father was heartbroken, he told his daughter who interpreted for me, “If I had been able to communicate with the IOM in 2010, we could have already paid off our travel loan to them.” This is just one of many stories of our refugee friends and how they want to pay off their debts and contribute to our society but are thwarted by language and other barriers.
“Refugees enter the United States with authorization to work. The U.S. government expects a working-age refugee to find a job within six months of arrival. Resettlement organizations often have employment specialists who help refugees with their job search. Many states have a designated agency that receives state funds to help refugees find work. This function is usually coordinated by the State Refugee Coordinator.”
United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)
The majority of our male refugee friends who are of working age (and many of our female refugee friends) are employed at full-time jobs; working at factories, farms, and other places. These jobs pay a decent wage; but without the language, education, and citizenship needed to advance to a higher paying job opportunity they are stuck in factory work that while it helps, does not give them a livable wage. Often refugee women stay at home to raise their children, because daycare for their children is not an option culturally or economically. Most of our refugee friends are one income families, so government assistance is needed to help supplement their food, medical, and housing budgets. They work, they pay taxes, and they richly contribute to our community.
"Once they acclimate to their new environment, refugees often thrive and contribute to their communities, building their careers, purchasing homes, gaining citizenship."
IRC (International Rescue Committee)
Mission Adelante played a role in supporting Ram Rai, owner of RG Asian store in Kansas City, Kansas when he opened his store in 2012. We continue to encourage and pour into Ram Rai and others as they continue to make RG Asian successful in our community. Community development and leadership development are something that we are passionate about at Mission Adelante, as we seek to equip and empower emerging leaders from our community. There are two refugees who are currently employed at Adelante Thrift, and we try and find other ways to partner with local businesses in our community to help find employment for our refugee friends. We want our refugee friends to succeed and feel like they are participating in the economy of our community.
Farming, while seasonal is also a huge part of how our refugee friends contribute to our community, while doing something they know and love. They provide a service, a new variety of fruits and vegetables, and an economic boost to our community with farming through local organizations like, New Roots for Refugees.
“New Roots for Refugees, a program started by Catholic Charities in partnership with Cultivate KC, helps refugee women put down new roots by helping them to start their own small farm businesses growing and selling vegetables. New Roots builds on the strengths and experience that the refugees already possess. Farming is a familiar livelihood that offers them some measure of self-determination and self-sufficiency, healthy food for their families, extra income, and a context for settling into their new communities. Agriculture allows them to put down new roots, metaphorically and literally, and to become citizens who produce and give to their new communities. In the New Roots Program, participants start farming with significant training and support from Catholic Charities and Cultivate KC staff. As their farm businesses become established and they develop more skills, they move to greater financial and managerial independence. Eventually they are able to move onto their own land and operate independently.”
New Roots for Refugees
At Mission Adelante our heart beats for people from other places, we welcome the stranger and work to help our refugee friends feel like they belong, working to equip and empower them to lead in our community. We love, help, and encourage our refugee friends because God commands us to; “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt”. (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)
- Halloween is a BIG deal in our neighborhood. Pray for fun and safety for our kiddos and community members.
- Observation Nights: Have you ever wondered what goes on at Mission Adelante during a typical program night? Latino Observation Nights - November 3, 10; 6:30 - 8:30 pm. Bhutanese Observation Night - November 8; 6:30 - 8:30 pm