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Issue #42, August 2020
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We send this newsletter for two main reasons. First, we want to let people know of ways to get involved in helping and supporting the more than 80 people we are helping. Second, we feel it is very important to keep ourselves and others informed about the status of refugees in the world and in the U.S. Given that there are now 26.0 million refugees in the world, the highest ever engaged with the U.N.H.C.R. , it is hard for us to feel that helping 80 people is a large contribution. Of those 26.0 million who have fled their country to another and are seeking a new home, less than 0.25 percent are resettled in another country.

Recently, I read several opinion pieces in the press about the refugee crisis and the U.S. response to it. Refugees from Syria continue to be the largest forcibly displaced population in the world - more than 13.4 million people at the end of 2019 - more than half of the Syrian population. I was stunned to read that in 2018 the U.S. admitted only 62 Syrians. Of those 62 people, 3 came to be associated with LexRAP – almost 5% of the U.S. total. Last year, the U.S. took in 631 Syrians and of those 6 rejoined their LexRAP family from whom they were separated for five years – this one family represents 1% of those who came to the U.S. These numbers are so small, and with how close it touches LexRAP, resettlement in the U.S. becomes very real for us because we have met the 9 people who recently came from Syria.

LexRAP has tried to stay politically neutral at a time in our country when resettling refugees into the U.S. has become intermingled with politics around immigration policy. Refugees are different because they must prove that they are fleeing violence or persecution. A 1951 Geneva Convention defined refugees, their legal protection, social rights, and other assistance that they should receive from the countries that signed that treaty. Immigrants come to the U.S., seeking economic betterment, and/or are attracted by our way of life. In truth, the line between the two can seem very blurry. Politics has always played a major role in U.S. immigration. The treaty was supposed to remove politics from refugees by creating benchmarks and by having the U.N. first vet anyone seeking refugee status when coming from outside the country. Below are excerpts from an article that stood out because it was written by someone whose job it has been to interview those seeking refuge after being seriously vetted by the U.N.- he has been on the front line.

LexRAP News

Our families are surviving the pandemic as well as the rest of us. We are fortunate that the breadwinners are mostly back to work, but some do continue to need financial support. We do not plan to do fundraisers in the fall and certainly welcome needed donations on our website.

We are concerned about the children and we are trying to think of creative ways to tutor the children as they face at least another term of online learning. If you have the interest and ability to tutor online for school aged children in a specific area, please email Elizabeth and we will work on matching you with a family with children.

  • All Hand-in-Hand Dinners have been canceled for now.
  • Steering Meetings will be held using Zoom.  Next one is planned for August 19 and September 16.  If you would like to attend email Don.
  • Monthly lunch program "Building Bridges One Meal at a Time" is cancelled for now.
And, stay safe and well. Practice random acts of kindness, we certainly need all we can get right now. Visit www.lexrap.org for resources and more information.

As always, thanks for your support.
Marianne

The Washington Post August 7, 2020 The U.S. hired me to protect refugees. Now it tells me to abandon them. Jason Marks, an asylum training officer with USCIS  Full article here.

In ordinary times, my colleagues and I sit at our desks in places like Malaysia, Turkey and Nauru. Across from us, three feet away, sits an applicant for asylum — sometimes alone, sometimes with a spouse or children. Some have waited decades for this moment. We review their files — filled with detailed accounts of their lives, biometric data, family histories and more — and listen to their testimonies. They are the luckiest of the most vulnerable, because after the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees referred them for resettlement in the United States, they were granted this interview.

With the added danger of the coronavirus, and the Trump administration seizing the opportunity to impose even more restrictions, my colleagues and I fear that we won’t get to return to those desks — and that America has abandoned its promise to protect the world’s most vulnerable.

Across the previous five presidencies, three Republican and two Democratic, the United States has admitted more refugees than the rest of the world combined. Of the 4 million refugees resettled worldwide since 1980, we took in 3 million. These were people who had a well-founded fear of persecution or death in their home countries on account of a characteristic like race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group, and whose governments were unable or unwilling to protect them.

That all changed beginning in January 2017. One of President Trump’s very first acts in office was to
issue
Executive Order No. 13769, often called the “travel ban.” It suspended the Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days, drastically lowered the admissions quota and barred all individuals from seven majority-Muslim countries, including an indefinite ban on Syrian nationals. It unleashed extreme vetting measures, causing massive delays for thousands of vulnerable people in the refugee pipeline.

In 2019, the administration set the next fiscal year’s annual refugee quota at a historic low of 18,000 — down from 30,000 the previous year and 110,000 in the previous administration. The actual admissions numbers have been far lower. “

In closing Mr. Marks says,

Amid all this, in June, the administration proposed 161 pages of sweeping regulations that would gut asylum and refugee law. Certain provisions, for example, drastically narrow the definitions of persecution and torture; others raise certain burdens of proof to nearly unreachable standards and redefine what constitutes the protected grounds of political opinion and membership in a particular social group.

In the closing words of his farewell address, President Ronald Reagan described our country as a “shining city upon a hill”: “If there had to be city walls,” he said in 1989, “the walls had doors, and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.” That is still something most Americans believe in.

EVENTS AND AGENCY CONTACT INFO
 

De Novo (formerly called CLSACC) provides free civil legal assistance and affordable psychological counseling for people with low incomes. ASYLUM: Immigrants who have fled their home country because of past persecution or fear of persecution because of race, religion, gender, nationality, social group or political views may be eligible to apply for asylum. De Novo has free walk in legal clinic where people can talk to immigration lawyers on the 3rd Wednesday from 5:15 to 7:15PM. https://www.denovo.org/

Mission of Deeds Provides beds, furniture, and household essentials free of charge for people in need. Accepts donations of household goods and financial.  http://www.missionofdeeds.org/

Household Goods
Provides a full range of donated furniture and household items, free of charge, to help people in need make a home. Staffed by volunteers, depends on the generosity of community members for goods, time and financial support. Please support us so that together we can continue to help people make a home during their time of greatest need. https://householdgoods.org/

Political Asylum/Immigration Representation (PAIR) Project provides free legal services to asylum seekers and promotes the rights of detained immigrants.

Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program (HIRC), in partnership with Greater Boston Legal Services has focused on direct representation of individuals applying for U.S. asylum and related protections. https://hls.harvard.edu/dept/clinical/clinics/harvard-immigration-and-refugee-clinical-program/

International Institute of New England (IINE) Resettles refugees in Lowell, Manchester and elsewhere in N.E. and offers on-going services such as ESL and support. A lot going on!  Suitcase Stories, Annual Gala and more. https://iine.org

Catholic Charities has been providing services to refugees for more than 100 years. https://www.catholiccharitiesusa.org/our-ministry/immigration-refugee-services/

Ascentria resettles refugees and is the only agency that resettles unaccompanied minors in New England. https://www.ascentria.org/

NuDaySyria focuses on women and children and brings humanitarian aid inside Syria and to displaced Syrians in the bordering areas around Syria. http://www.nudaysyria.net/

Refugee Immigration Ministry (RIM) One of the few organizations to provide support to asylum seekers.  Volunteer opportunities for mentors and ESL teachers. http://www.r-i-m.net/
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