Article by Scott Phillips, Ph.D.
Field Office Director, USCRI
USCRI – the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants – provides support and assistance to refugee families arriving in the Triangle. We work with them to get settled, enroll in education, find employment and begin the processes of integration. Our work is supplemented by the amazing work of volunteers and donors. That is why I was very excited when Glenwood Gatherings reached out to discuss the sleeping mat project. While living overseas, I saw similar sleeping and sitting mats (although never so ingeniously done from plastic bags) in various homes. We are looking forward to sharing these with the numerous refugee families that have been resettled here in the area over the past year and who are continuing to arrive.
Thank you to all of those who have provided their time, resources and passionate commitment to make this project a reality. This generous donation will be well received and well used. I am looking forward to attending the collection and celebration event at Stags Head on March 22 to thank you all in person.
Some of you may be wondering about who is it that we are welcoming into our community and what brought them here. A refugee is someone who has had to flee their country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. These are some of the world’s most vulnerable individuals.
For over 100 years, the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) has advanced the rights and lives of those who have lost or left their homes. We believe we have a shared responsibility to clear obstacles and uncover opportunities for people everywhere. So, when lives are uprooted by force or by choice, we fight alongside those on the path to independence.
In the ten years that USCRI has been operating a field office in North Carolina (USCRI NC), we have helped around 3000 refugees resettle in the area. These individuals have become part of the fabric of our communities, schools and workplaces. We are dedicated to ensuring that newcomers to NC are given support and opportunities to find their footing.
Given the present political climate, we want to assure citizens that the process of gaining Refugee Status in the US includes a very rigorous (some could say extreme) two year long vetting process. (For more information, go to Security Screening of Refugees Admitted to the U.S.. If doubts arise during the continuous rigorous security screenings that include in-person interviews, trained U.S. personnel reject the application. When finally, candidates are selected, the government tracks where every refugee is placed. Reviews and updates to security measures in the U.S. admissions program have occurred and can continue to occur without suspension of admissions.
How can you let your elected officials know that you believe America should continue to welcome and resettle refugees?
- Request a meeting with your district Congressional office. They need to see support in their own district.
- CALL CONGRESS – Your senators and representatives can be reached at (202) 224-3121* (Please call this line 3 times to be connected with your 1 representative and 2 senators.)
- Contact your local elected officials: state legislators, county commissioners, city councils, mayors, and governor. Given current efforts to stop resettlement in certain states and localities, this makes it more important than ever for us to ensure support for resettlement among communities, and state and local policy makers.
- Collaborate with USCRI NC to ensure that we can continue to serve the refugee population in our community. Besides continuing to advocate and spread the word about the refugee program, we need your support to maximize our capacity. Join in our efforts by contributing items, donating, volunteering, or becoming an employer, a landlord, or a pro bono attorney.
Again thank you for your support that has come in the form of creativity, time and concern for others. Your mats will continue to carry this message of comfort and caring for years to come.