A Clear Distinction

Often lumped into an ambiguous pool of people titled “immigrants”, refugees are not like everyone else interested in calling the US their home. Vetted for 18-24 months before they are allowed entry, refugees have distinct reasons for coming here.

Last week, the International Rescue Committee – one of five refugee resettlement agencies in Georgia in the Coalition of Refugee Service Agencies (CRSA) – spoke to a small group at Jewish Federation of Great Atlanta about refugees and the “acceptance” and transition process. It was an eye-opening discussion that clarified the difficulties these sufferers survive before, and after, they arrive.

Unlike others who often come to the US on their own free will, refugees are “fleeing their homeland because of persecution: they are invited by the American people”. Referrals are made by the UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency who cares for the most vulnerable populations around the world, and then the 1 ½ year+ process begins. Refugees are subject to the most rigorous background, security, and medical screens of any other immigrants…clearly proven successful in that not one in 3 million refugees resettled in the US since 1980 has ever conducted a terrorist act here.

Arriving with refugee status, refugees are entitled to work, but not allowed to travel internationally unless they have a special waiver. After one year of arrival, refugees must apply for lawful permanent residency (a green card) and are then eligible to become US citizens four years later.

Representing diverse countries and faiths, refugees are grateful to be here. They begin learning English immediately. 91% of Georgia refugee households work and pay for their own expenses within 6 months of arrival. Although the state of Georgia does not fund any programs specifically for refugees, we welcome 2,500-3,000 new refugees each year, providing funding by voluntarily administering federal pass-through dollars.

Those are the facts, now here’s the rub. #1 – refugees and their communities are not respected for the hard-working, contributing citizens they are. #2 – the number one impact on refugees is family separation. #3 – new federal laws have cut back the number of refugees allowed into the US in fiscal year 2017 from 110,000 to 50,000. Since 35,000 refugees have already entered the US since the year began in October, only 15,000 slots are left until this October…separating even more families and leaving the people who need exile the most to continue suffering.

We are a country of immigrants. Let’s help the people who need our help the most. Here are a few ways you can get started:

Learn more by contacting the International Rescue Committee in Atlanta at atlanta@rescue.org or call 678-636-8930 for more information.

Be a part of the action. Learn ITP. Live ITP Atlanta.