Efforts of Refugee Resettlement Agencies Remain Prevalent Despite Executive Order

Although parts of President Donald Trump’s executive order have been lifted by a federal judge, another section reducing the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the U.S. has not been challenged. Thus, the resettling of additional refugees in this area is unlikely for 2017.

Church World Services (CWS) Poughkeepsie in partnership with the Mid Hudson Refugee Solidarity Alliance, a coalition of local volunteers, was planning to resettle 80 refugees within a 50 to 100-mile radius of Poughkeepsie since last fall, but only one family from the Congo was moved to their new home. The family of five had previously spent six years living in a refugee camp of 20,000 in Malawi.

CWS is one of nine refugee resettlement agencies in the United States which contracts with the federal government to resettle refugees and administer services and assistance to help the families adjusting to their new lives. CWS has helped over 850,000 refugees in the past 70 years.

The alliance includes: Vassar College, SUNY New Paltz, Dutchess Community College, Mount Saint Mary College, Bard College, Vassar Temple and Christ Episcopal Church in Poughkeepsie, Masjid alNoor Mosque in Wappingers Falls, as well as the Dutchess County Interfaith Council and the Greater Newburgh Interfaith Council.

According to Hudson Valley One, the cap on the total refugees was lowered from 110,000 to 50,000 for the 2017 fiscal year, ending Sept. 30. As of late last month, approximately 30,000 refugees had already been resettled across the U.S.

Roisin Ford, interim office director of Church World Service Poughkeepsie and director of the group’s Immigration and Refugee Program for the Eastern Region declined to be interviewed, but told Hudson Valley One that the office in Poughkeepsie will remain open, but will receive less funding given the reduced total of refugees.

The alliance met on Tuesday, Feb. 28 with Ford to discuss how Trump’s executive order affects their organization. The community center at 3 Veterans Drive was filled with concerned residents, wanting to make a difference. According to fourth-year international relations major and student fellow of the alliance Arjeta Prenaj, they have redirected their attention to the Adopt-A-Future campaign, a national UNA-USA campaign to benefit schools for refugee children in developing countries.

Prenaj said that the alliance’s goal within the next two years is to fundraise $15,000 for the campaign, which will be matched by a donor equating to a total of $30,000. The money will be used to build a classroom for a refugee school in Kenya. This classroom will serve at least 40 students for 10 years.

As far as the family that was resettled in Poughkeepsie, Prenaj said that the local community is taking care of them. She added that there’s an email list directed by CWS in case something is needed, but so far nothing has been sent from New Paltz.

“They had their whole house furnished before they came in,” she said. “But if they need something else, they’re just going to let the community know.”

Prenaj added that they are also trying to spread awareness about the issue on campus. They will be tabling at the Student Union Building and are planning to hold Dine-to-Donate events at local businesses. The alliance will also be writing letters to Congress regarding a draft order that will cause a drop in funding to the United Nations.

SUNY New Paltz professor and president of the chapter Ilgu Ozler has scheduled a meeting with Congressman John Faso on April 19 to discuss the issue and ask that he do what he can to make sure the United Nations has full funding.

Ozler also mentioned at the meeting that Assemblyman Kevin Cahill currently has his staffers doing research on the feasibility of passing a resolution that will allow refugees into the state. She added that Cahill is attempting to encourage a response by the Senate.

To donate to the Adopt-A-Future campaign visit http://www.unausa.org/programs/adopt-a-future and either donate online or download the donation form; please indicate NY-Mid-Hudson Valley chapter if you wish to be a part of this effort. You can also donate by writing a check for United Nations Association Mid-Hudson Valley Chapter with memo line Adopt-A-Future and handing it in to Ozler and she will forward it to the campaign.

For more information about CWS Poughkeepsie or to donate to their organization please visit http://cwspoughkeepsie.org/.

At the meeting Prenaj emphasized that donations do help and spoke of her own experiences of tragedy striking her home in a war-torn third world country and the aid her community received from UNICEF.

“It provides hope for many that someone from the United States is helping someone from a third world country and thinking about their life and their situation,” she said.

Managing Editor Melanie Zerah contributed reporting.