October 2018 Newsletter

In this issue:
  • Pondering Patriotism
  • Emotional Ceremony Welcomes Forty New Citizens
  • English Conversation Time gets off to great start
  • Advocating for Refugees
  • This American Life Podcast: Let Me Count the Ways
  • Upcoming Events
  • Lutheran Social Services Corner
"3rd Wednesday"
Introductory Meeting

Wednesday Oct 17, 7:00-8:30 pm
Trinity Lutheran Church
1904 Winnebago Ave
Madison 53704

Want to get involved?
Come and learn how you can!
Pondering Patriotism
By Ken Baun
Co-Founder of Open Doors
I’ve been musing about patriotism the last few weeks, ever since witnessing the recent Naturalization Ceremony orchestrated by Open Doors in which 40 people from 23 countries became U.S. citizens (see the following article).  It was a powerful, uplifting ceremony.  I then posted about it and said the initiates were “basking in the glow of patriotism”, which prompted someone to say I should “shed patriotism… which only serves to enforce divisions along national borders and cultures”.   Ah, the horns of the dilemma – is patriotism itself unpatriotic?
It’s Columbus Day as I write this, a day that deeply divides the country.  Many would celebrate the man who supposedly discovered America, while many others decry the man and the holiday because his “discovery” devastated the people who had lived here 30,000 years before he stepped ashore.  This day is perhaps a fitting backdrop for these reflections on patriotism, which the country is also divided about.  Many effectively claim “my country right or wrong” and “love it or leave it”, while on the other hand, in these days of racial divisions and disparities, pervasive assaults on women, constricted borders, and mass detentions and deportations, many don’t really believe there is liberty and justice for all, and that unabashed patriotism dismisses, masks, or contributes to these problems.  The schism is best exemplified when NFL players “take a knee” during the National Anthem.  Witness the support for and outcry against it!
Our friends at Miriam-Webster define patriotism as love for or devotion to one’s country.  So then, does a lack of patriotism mean one doesn’t love one’s country?  Or does love of one’s country imply a level of jingoism or alienation of other countries and cultures?  Many I think equate the two, though I would submit that you can love your country and whole-heartedly welcome and embrace other countries and cultures!   And, is devotion to one’s country the same as allegiance to it?  Maybe not.  When do you say no, as in, no I’m not going to fight this war (I’m a Vietnam era vet who served until I didn’t).
Someone else once defined patriotism “as the absurd notion that yours is the best country simply because you happen to have been born there”.  Think about it.  Does the shoe fit?  If we love our country, why?
The Naturalization Ceremony last month was replete with all the trappings of patriotism – the National Anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance, flags-a-flying, speakers stirring, and the actual right-hands-raised citizenship oath.  The two invited speakers, Alder Samba Baldeh (President of the Madison City Council) and Shabnam Lotfi (Attorney-at-Law, Immigration Specialist), both naturalized citizens themselves, spoke passionately and eloquently about the citizenship journey, theirs and others, leading up to this day and after.  They talked about the rights and responsibilities of being a citizen, including the right and responsibility to vote, to speak out, and to act to change the system when you think it needs it.  It’s not just your right, it’s your responsibility!  They were moving and inspiring, and there was nothing Pollyannaish or nationalistic about either of their presentations.
Thankfully nobody took a knee during the National Anthem.  It would have been highly dramatic but very inappropriate to do so.  There’s a time and a place for dissent, lots of them, but this wasn’t one.
When all was said and done, 40 foreigners became 40 U.S. citizens.  Their smiles and tears of joy gave voice to their feelings.  Indeed, they basked in the glow of patriotism!
I watched the ceremony, listened closely, and sang on cue if not on key, though I couldn’t quite pledge allegiance to the flag.  I’m too conflicted about the pledge; perhaps it goes back to my Vietnam era days.  But by the close of the ceremony, to my surprise, I found myself unexpectedly, uncharacteristically, feeling the elusive stirrings of patriotism itself.  Which is to say that, for all its problems and shortcomings, this country, with its flawed but democratic voting system, its accessible governance and general tolerance of dissent, its growing diversity and wealth of opportunity, is pretty darn awesome!  I embrace and appreciate it, while I also embrace and appreciate our immigrant and refugee neighbors.
Welcome and congratulations new citizens – I hope you fully enjoy and exercise your new rights and responsibilities!

Thoughts and comments?  Please send to
Emotional Ceremony Welcomes Forty New Citizens
Tears were visible on many faces at the Naturalization Ceremony on Sept 20, 2018, in the Robert W. Kastenmeier Federal Courthouse in Madison, when forty new citizens took their oath in a ceremony orchestrated by Open Doors but conducted by the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS).  Three speakers – Open Doors Co-founder Efrat Livny, Madison Council President Alder Samba Baldeh and Immigrant Lawyer Shabnum Lotfi - all naturalized citizens themselves, spoke of their memories the day they, too, became American citizens.  Kay Leopold and John Pruhs, from USCIS, part of the Dept. of Homeland Security, drove from Milwaukee to coordinate and present the citizenship certificates.  Federal Judge James D. Peterson, Clerk of Courts Peter Oppeneer and Magistrate Judge Jennifer Frank stated how were honored to participate in this ceremony, which formerly happened often in Madison, but in recent years has taken place in federal courtrooms in Milwaukee, Chicago, and Minneapolis.  The brand-new citizens crowded around the table of the Dane County League of Women Voters to register to vote. The forty came from 23 countries of origin, including Algeria, Bhutan, Ethiopia, China, Russia, South Korea, Sudan, Venezuela and Vietnam.  Refreshments included delicacies baked by recently arrived refugees.  Special thanks to musicians Marli Johnson and Mac Robertson, the John Bell Chapter of DAR, and ODFRers who did the day’s heavy lifting, literally and figuratively: Lead Organizer Madeline Uraneck, Event Team Co-chairs Erica Bouska and Efrat Livny, plus Ken Baun, Margaret Brauer, Emily Chan, Stef Moritz, Pat Patterson, Su and Jim Scheuerman, and many others.

English Conversation Time gets off to great start
Approximately two dozen refugees and volunteers gathered on Sunday, Sept. 16 for the first English Conversation Time, sponsored by Open Doors. This new event provides an informal opportunity to socialize and for refugees to practice their English.

Many of the volunteers have training and/or experience in teaching ESL, so they were able to address refugees' questions about their new language. Both refugees and volunteers indicated that they enjoyed the gathering and looked forward to future events.

The next English Conversation Time is scheduled Sunday, Oct. 21, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center, 953 Jenifer Street. Snacks and refreshments will be served. Refugees who plan to attend have been asked to RSVP. Child care and transportation will be available.

Opportunities for volunteers include participating at the conversation tables (ESL experience welcomed, but not required), event logistics (e.g., set-up, sign in, and food), transportation and child care.

All volunteers who want to participate must be approved by Open Doors. For more information, contact the volunteer coordinator at
Other questions may be directed to
Advocating for Refugees

As the world faces the worst refugee crisis in history, the Trump Administration has set the U.S. refugee resettlement ceiling for next year at 30,000 - the lowest number ever set since the Refugee Act became law in 1980.  As a nation built by immigrants and refugees, and with 68 million people displaced worldwide, we should find this figure shamefully low and wholly unacceptable.  Wondering what you can do?
Know Where Candidates Stand. With a critical election coming up on November 6, find out where candidates stand, and ask them to publicly state their support of refugees.  Then on November 6, vote for candidates who stand with refugees! 
Help Raise Awareness. Refugees contribute in countless ways to enhance and improve our communities, our economy and our society.  HIAS, the global refugee protection organization, has a poster campaign highlighting the impact of fewer refugees in our communities.  You can download the poster at
Other Ways To Take Action:  Want to learn more?  Go to for more ways to get involved.
This American Life Podcast:
Let Me Count the Ways
From NPR: "Yes, youʼve heard about the family separations. Youʼve heard about the travel ban. But there are dozens of ways the Trump administration is cracking down on immigration across many agencies, sometimes in ways so small and technical it doesnʼt make headlines. This week, the quiet bureaucratic war that's even targeting legal immigrants."
To many, understanding immigration policy is a difficult and frustrating process.  There have been numerous changes recently and public knowledge of policy and implementation is often limited.  An eye-opening This American Life Podcast, broadcast on Sept. 16 on NPR, offers some background and awareness of US immigration actions and current bureaucratic impacts on even legal immigrants and is well worth a listen.   Check it out here.

Upcoming Events:
  • Pumpkin Patch and Apple Picking Outing: On Saturday, October 27 our wonderful EPIC Kids Group is conducting a refugee family outing to Eplegaarden for pumpkin patch fun and apple picking.  Please note that this is not an open invitation to the general public. 
  • English Conversation Time: Sunday, Oct. 21, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center, 953 Jenifer Street.  Please note that this is not an open invitation to the general public unless you want to volunteer to help with the event, in which case please contact
  • Thanksgiving Dinner: On Sunday November 18, Open Doors, in conjunction with Lutheran Social Services and Jewish Social Services, will host a thanksgiving dinner for refugees at Christ Presbyterian Church.  Please note that this is not an open invitation to the general public unless you want to volunteer to help with the event, in which case please contact
  • Documentary Screening:  Sunday December 2, the Jewish Congregations for Social Justice and Jewish Social Services are co-hosting a showing and discussion of This Is Home, a documentary about four Syrian families, at the Fitchburg Library from 1-4.  Watch here for more information.

By Mary Flynn
Refugee Resettlement Program Manager
The Presidential Determination (PD) for FY2019 has been announced and signed, setting into process activities for the coming year.  The PD sets refugee admissions at 30,000; FY2018 saw fewer than that, so we can expect a 2019 similar to the numbers received in 2018.  Populations for LSS Madison are trending toward a very few Bhutanese as the Nepal camps close down and continuing SIVs from Iraq and Afghanistan.  SIVs are Special Immigrant Visa holders who were admitted to the US in recognition of their critical support to US efforts in their home countries (i.e. interpreters, drivers, engineers, etc.)  In the past several years, LSS has also resettled South East Asian cases joining friends and families in areas outside Madison.  The Thanksgiving Holiday Refugee Dinner planning will begin in October with collaboration between LSS, JSS, ODFR, and community groups and congregations.  Watch for announcements from ODFR for date and time along with ways that you can join this celebration of gratitude and abundance with refugees and others in the greater Madison area.
Please note, here are links to all previous newsletters 

Contact Us:










Mailing Address

Open Doors for Refugees

1213 N Sherman Ave # 104
Madison, WI 53704


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