Welcome to the Immigrant Victim Coalition’s blog. These bi-monthly blog posts are a sustainable way to keep service providers updated on the world around them in the realm of immigration and the diverse communities that make up South Carolina. Each post will have a guest blogger and keep the website’s guests up to date on various themes. If there is a topic you want to learn more about, or if you would like to contribute as a guest blogger, feel free to reach out to us!
If you only had five minutes to flee your home because of war, violence, and persecution, what five things would you take with you? Would you grab your family photos and precious heirlooms, or would you grab something practical like a water bottle, food, or maybe your passport? Can you imagine actually grappling with these split second decisions?
This is often a reality for over 30 million refugees around the world.
At World Relief Upstate SC, we work with refugees who have come through the United Nations’ (UN) refugee resettlement program to rebuild their lives in the US. They have often been forced to flee their homes due to persecution based on one of the following five reasons:
· political opinion
· social class
We strive to provide a warm welcome, vital services and authentic relationships to ensure these individuals are able to achieve stability and thrive in their new homes.
As the Volunteer and Church Mobilization Specialist at our office, I have the privilege of talking with communities in the Upstate about who refugees are. I often receive questions about refugees’ transitions to the US. Through presenting facts and stories about our clients’ strenuous journeys, I see compassion and empathy grow for our new neighbors.
For example, did you know that being a refugee is a status? Refugees actually have to apply to participate in the UN’s resettlement program and prove that they have been persecuted based on one of the five reasons above. These individuals go through 21 steps of vetting and can wait an average of 17 years before being able to resettle in a developed nation.
In actuality, less than half of 1% of refugees ever make it to a developed country through the refugee resettlement program. If a refugee is selected to come to the US, they become a legal resident. World Relief is one of the 9 resettlement agencies that the US government contracts to support newly arriving refugees to the US. Since opening in 2015, World Relief Upstate has helped over 455 refugees rebuild their lives in this community. We also support refugees with case management for up to 5 years after their initial resettlement. Most of the refugees we work with are from Slavic countries, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Burma.
Over the last few years, the refugee resettlement program has gone through extensive changes. One of the most obvious changes has been the Presidential Determination (PD), the number of refugees allowed into the country set by the US president each year. Historically, the PD was annually around 85,000. Recently the verbiage has been changed from a goal to a cap with the use of the words “up to” before the PD. In FY2018 the PD was set to ‘up to 45,000 refugees.’ However, that year the US only resettled 22,491, the lowest number the program has experienced since its inception. These changes have caused the robust private and public partnership within the resettlement program to shrink, because the network that once supported 85,000 individuals had to adapt to only supporting around 22,000.
Even though the number of refugees coming into the country is declining, in the Upstate we still have hundreds of refugees in need of language support, transportation and friendship. Our goal as an office is to train and connect community volunteers with our clients to foster mutually beneficial relationships, encourage self-sufficiency and promote integration. Even after years of crisis and scarce resources, one of the main desires from our clients is for their dignity to be restored and to have authentic friendships. In the Upstate, we have a great opportunity to create a welcoming community for these vulnerable people groups, and become mutually transformed in the process.
Volunteer and Church Mobilization Specialist