August 2018 Newsletter

In this issue:
  • Refugee Arrivals: Nationally and Locally
  • Peter Mulvey Concert sold out
  • English Conversation - Let's Talk About It
  • Welcoming Week Sept 14-23
  • Back-to-School Supplies
  • House Supplies Program
  • Volunteers Needed
  • Jewish Social Services Corner
  • Lutheran Social Serivces Corner
"3rd Wednesday" General Meeting
Goodman Public Library
2222 S Park St, Madison 53713
Wednesday August 16, 6:30-8:00pm
(note 1/2 hour earlier than usual)

Want to get involved?
Come and learn how you can!

Refugee Arrivals:
Way Down Nationally
and Across Wisconsin,
Less so in Madison

As you most likely know, this year President Trump reduced the cap on refugees coming into the U.S. (known as the “Presidential Determination”) from 110,000 to 45,000.  However, the State Department is far from on track to meet this new low target.  The federal government operates on a fiscal year basis (Oct 1 – Sept 30), and as of August 3, with less than two months to go this fiscal year, only 18,286 refugees have been allowed into this country, and only 56 of those from Syria (source: Refugee Processing Center).  We will be lucky to see 25,000 refugees make it the U.S. this year.  More so, as reported by the NY Times last week, the White House is considering further reducing the Presidential Determination to 25,000 next year. 

In addition to this group of people, there is another group of refugees, or asylees, who had collaborated with the U.S. in Iraq or Afghanistan, and because of it, have had to flee their country.  They come into the U.S. under a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV, as they are often designated), their resettlement process looks very much like “refugee” resettlement, but they do not count against the Presidential Determination.  So far this year, in addition to the 18,286 refugees, there have been another 9,534 SIVs.

These greatly reduced numbers not only affect the lives of the thousands of refugees who remain in limbo abroad, but they also affect the very viability of refugee resettlement agencies themselves.  These organizations are partially funded based on the number of refugees they help resettle, with obvious ramifications with drastically reduced numbers.  Two weeks ago, Catholic Charities of Milwaukee, one of the largest refugee resettlement agencies in the state, announced it was closing its refugee resettlement program.  According to the Journal-Sentinel article, the agency settled 700 refugees in 2016, but so far this fiscal year, had received only 97 refugees, and thus made the decision to end the program.  And this weekend, staff from HIAS (one of the nine national refugee resettlement agencies that work with the State Department, and the national partner organization of Jewish Social Services’ [JSS]), who were in town to conduct a five-hour advocacy training, said that the current US refugee resettlement network could sustain efforts with a Presidential Determination of 45,000, but that the landscape would drastically change with a PD of 25,000.

It is vitally important that we who care about the refugee welfare and resettlement contact our state Senators (Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin) and local House Representative and advocate on behalf of refugees, as Mary Flynn from Lutheran Social Services (LSS) further articulates below.


Last week Scott Gordon provided an excellent synopsis of the current refugee situation in Wisconsin.  We will happily defer to his expertise.  This is part of an overall series by Mr Gordon on Refugee Resettlement In Wisconsin


Like nationally, the numbers of refugees settled by Lutheran Social Services this year is down substantially, although the number settled by Jewish Social Services this year is actually higher than it was a year ago.  Both have contracted to take up to 100 refugees this year, but so far LSS has received only 13, while JSS has received 46 with another family of three expected in late August.  Of the 46 through JSS, 28 have been SIVs.

Finally, there is a third group of refugees - those who had initially settled elsewhere in the U.S. and now have moved to Madison.  While they won’t necessarily be working with either LSS, JSS, or Open Doors, a number have found their way to us.  In fact, this week Open Doors is setting up apartments for two families who moved here recently from other states, one of whom brought almost nothing with them.  Again, these individuals are not counted in the number of refugees resettled in Madison. 
Peter Mulvey Concert Sold Out:

The long-anticipated Peter Mulvey concert and benefit for Open Doors, happening this Thursday August 9, is sold out!  Hopefully you already have your tickets!  Nickle&Rose open the concert, which is at Threshold, 2717 Atwood Ave, Madison.  Additionally, food made, served and sold by recent arrivals from Iraq, Afghanistan and the Congo, will be available.  The doors open and food and beverages will be sold starting at 6pm, and the show starts at 7pm.  Proceeds from the concert will go to our School Supplies program.  Come early and come hungry!
English Conversation – Let’s Talk About It

Starting this fall, Open Doors will be hosting social gatherings where refugees in the Madison area can meet other local residents and practice speaking in English.

At these English Conversation Tables, refugees can ask questions about learning English, learn about American culture, and get advice on living in Madison. They also can share their cultures with their new neighbors.

The first of these gatherings will be held on Sunday, September 16, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. The location will be announced later. Future gatherings are being planned for October, November, January, February, and March.

For everyone who participates, Open Door's English Conversation Tables will offer opportunities to make new friends and remind us that people from different cultures are more alike than different.
Welcoming Week Sept 14-23:
Open Doors joins 300 groups to Welcome Newcomers

Open Doors for Refugees will join over 300 communities to call attention to the strength of Madison's diversity and the importance of its welcoming spirit during Welcoming Week 2018.  An outgrowth of nationally-based Welcoming America, Welcoming Week takes place Sept. 14-23, 2018. In 2017, there were over 700 events across the country, with more than 50,000 people participating and over 14 million social media impressions. 

Plans are being solidified.  Check Open Door's Facebook and website for details on the following events:
  • Sept 16 (Sun)   Willy Street Fair - Stop by Open Door's booth
  • Sept 16 (Sun)   English Conversation Table with Refugees, 3:00 - 5:00 pm, location TBD
  • Sept 17 (Mon)   Mothers & Daughters ~ A Tibetan American Perspective, 6:00 pm at Room of One's Own Bookstore with M. Uraneck
  • Sept 22 (Sat)    Newly Arrived Kids & Families Outing to Olbrich Park
  • Sept 23 (Sun)   EMS First Responders Meet & Greet with Newly Arrived Families
Back-to-School Supplies - 
Helping Kids Build Dreams

This fall, Open Doors will send off the kids from our refugee families fully stocked with sharpened pencils with perfectly pink eraser tips, brand new never-used-before crayons, unmarked notebooks ready to be filled with endless dreams and possibilities, and several other age-appropriate school supplies.  
Proceeds from our Jammin' for Refugees Concert ticket and food sales has been earmarked to provide school supplies to all of our recent newcomer families and those that will be arriving to make a home in Madison over the next year. We also provide a small gift card for the family to purchase items they might need for kids to start off on the right foot - whether this is a new pair of gym shoes, or an outfit to wear.

Open Doors is home-grown and all-volunteer staffed - which means all donations and proceeds from events like Jammin' for Refugees go directly back into our ability to assist our families - whether it is providing grant money to learn to drive, or for adults going back to school to obtain certification for a higher paying job, or providing school supplies at back to school time!! Huge thanks to all of our Jammin' attendees for helping us to make this happen, our volunteers that will sort and distribute the back to school supplies to our refugee families and to Shopko-Monona and Target-Hilldale store managers for helping us make these bulk supply purchases at super low costs.

Home Supply Team:
Jewish Social Services recently asked if Open Doors could take over their Home Supply initiative, and a new Open Doors Home Supply team was formed to do so.  This team will work with the JSS Case Manager to identify families on Food Share who need a little extra help, and then work with the families to figure out what household supplies they need (things they can’t buy with Food Stamps), acquire the items through donations or purchase, and then deliver them on a monthly or bi-monthly basis.  Much thanks to the members of the Home Supply team, and especially to Christopher Deegan for stepping up to lead it!

Volunteers Needed!
The Employment Team is looking for two more volunteers to help folks find better jobs.  It would involve about 3-5 hours a month, and you would be paired with one person seeking help.  It's hands-on, very personal, and very rewarding.  If you’re interested, please email
Jewish Social Services Corner
By Becca Schwartz, Resettlement Coordinator of Jewish Social Services of Madison
May was JSS’ busiest month for arrivals so far with 20 arrivals but the summer has been pretty quiet so far. We are expecting a family of 3 to arrive toward the end of August, bringing our total arrivals for the federal fiscal year to 49.
As things quieted down from May, JSS has started ramping up advocacy efforts in advance of the Presidential Determination (PD), the number of refugees that will be allowed into the country in the next Federal Fiscal Year. This past Sunday, we were lucky to welcome our partners from HIAS for a special advocacy training. The training was attended by staff from 3 of Wisconsin’s resettlement agencies as well as supporters from across the state, including 2 from ODFR. We learned that the White House is required to consult with Congress when setting the PD and that we should be asking that our elected officials support a PD of at least 75,000 for Fiscal Year 2019.
We got to put our new skills into action the following day with a visit to Senator Tammy Baldwin’s office. We asked her to support and encourage her colleagues to support a PD of 75,000. We also requested that she make a public statement about that support. In the past, there were elected officials on both sides of the aisle who supported Refugee Resettlement and if they hear from their constituents, it can be that way again. If you are interested in joining our advocacy team, please reach out to us.
Lutheran Social Services Corner
By Mary Flynn,
Refugee Resettlement Program Manager
LSS Refugee welcomed 3 new arrivals early in August, bringing the fiscal year total to 13—well below the approved capacity of 101.  LSS has provided refugee resettlement since 1974, so the agency commitment to this work is historically strong.  However, across the national resettlement network, arrivals are very low and concern for the future is high.  The Presidential Determination, the annual determination of the upcoming fiscal year’s refugee admission total, is in process right now in Washington DC and will be finalized in September.  More than ever, your voices need to be heard right now!  Write an op-ed, write/call/email your Congressional representatives and Senators, and write letters to the editors of your local newspaper in support of refugee resettlement.  Stories that highlight the positive aspects of resettlement are ways to engage and inspire those who wonder why the US welcomes refugees.   Examples could include refugees who enter employment quickly, fill needed positions in a low unemployment economy, and remind us all of the opportunity for all and the freedom in the US.  Stories highlighting what you’ve learned and gained from volunteering with refugees are always inspiring as well.  There is so much good from this humanitarian effort—share the joy…and advocate for a strong Presidential Determination, too! 
Please note, here are links to all previous newsletters 

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Mailing Address

Open Doors for Refugees

1213 N Sherman Ave # 104
Madison, WI 53704


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