ICC supports RefugeeRISE bill

(Update: $300,000 in funding for RefugeeRISE made it into the state budget!)

The Iowa Catholic Conference supports SF 2298, a bill to support Iowa workforce needs and provide job readiness skills to refugees in Iowa. The legislation proposes collaboration between the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Services and the Iowa Department of Human Services to fund an innovative program within the current RefugeeRISE AmeriCorps partnership. It would be administered by EMBARC, an organization created in 2013 to assist Burmese refugees settling in the state of Iowa.

Currently, 17 AmeriCorps members serve in seven teams in Des Moines, Marshalltown and Waterloo. SF 2298 would expand the program to recruit new AmeriCorps members from within the refugee community to help individuals and families navigate the challenges in their new country.

Catholic Charities is one of over 100 Iowa organizations that serve the estimated 10,000 refugees that have made Iowa their home in the past five years. They see firsthand the benefit of the services provided to the newcomers that look to host organizations for support. Expanding the RefugeeRISE AmeriCorps program would advance the effort, creating a more coordinated and effective network of individuals help train, educate and generally assist refugees as they integrate into life in Iowa.

The RefugeeRISE program hires Americorps teams to build workforce skills and self-sufficiency in the refugee community by pairing one native English-speaking member with one refugee member to:

  • Increase access for refugees to existing workforce development programs.
  • Build skills through culturally and linguistically appropriate workshops.
  • Provide direct services in native languages.
  • Train AmeriCorps members who are seen as trusted “peer experts” in helping refugees access existing core services and resources.

Refugees are present in the U.S. legally. They are individuals who have fled their countries of origin and who meet the United Nations’ criteria of having a “well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

Statement on Syrian refugees – November 2015

Nov. 17, 2015

The recent movement of 27 governors in the United States to apparently oppose entrance to Syrian refugees to their respective states (CNN, 11/16/2015) revives an embarrassing experience in our country’s history.

During World War II, those of Japanese nationality in the United States were rounded up and placed in confinement. In the aftermath of World War II, apologies and compensation were accorded to the victims of such unfortunate actions. As frequently occurs to families or nationalities, guilt was attributed by association.

In line with the long-standing American tradition, we should strive to determine how we can serve so many who are desperately seeking new life away from terror and persecution.

The Catholic Church in Iowa has a long history in assisting with the resettlement of refugees from across the globe. Out of respect for human life and dignity, welcoming the homeless and the stranger is a fundamental part of our faith. Refugees are typically among the most vulnerable people in the world, fleeing dangerous situations and looking to protect their families and children. They want to live a normal and safe life.

Each refugee must undergo a vetting process by the State Department and Homeland Security. This process includes personal interviews, extensive security checks in coordination with the National Counterterrorism Center, and pre-departure checks that occur between the initial interview and the date of travel.

Citizens of our country justifiably desire security. It will be achieved by searching for those identified with terrorism whether they are American, European, African, Asian, Middle Eastern or of any other ethnic and national origin. The federal government needs to be vigilant in regard to its responsibility to safeguard our communities against the despicable actions of terrorists.

We appreciate Gov. Branstad’s concern for the safety of Iowans and expect that we can continue to work with the state on a careful process of refugee resettlement.

 

Most Rev. Michael Jackels, Archbishop of Dubuque

Most Rev. R. Walker Nickless, Bishop of Sioux City

Most Rev. Martin Amos, Bishop of Davenport

Most Rev. Richard Pates, Bishop of Des Moines

Refugee resettlement – step by step USCRI

The recent group of 27 governors in the United States who apparently oppose Syrian refugees entering their respective states (CNN 11/16/2015) relives a shameful experience in the history of our country.

During the Second World War, those who were in the United States and had Japanese nationality were arrested and locked up. After the Second War, apologies and compensations were offered to the victims of such unfortunate actions. As often happens with families or nationalities, guilt is attributed by association.

In line with America’s long-standing traditions, we must strive to determine how we can help so many who desperately seek a new life away from terrorism and persecution.

The Catholic Church in Iowa has a decades-long history of assisting with the settlement of refugees from around the world. In respect for human life and dignity, welcoming those who have no roof and foreigners is a fundamental part of our faith. Refugees are generally some of the most vulnerable people in the world, fleeing from dangerous situations seeking to protect their families and children. They want to lead a normal and safe life.

Each refugee must go through an intense process of the Departments of State and Home Security. This process includes personal interviews, extensive security reviews in coordination with the National Counterterrorism Center, as well as pre-departure check-ups that are conducted between the interviews and their travel dates.

The citizens of our country seek, justifiably, security. This can be achieved by investigating those who are related to terrorism whether American, European, African, Asian, Middle Eastern or any other nationality or ethnic origin. The federal government must be aware of its responsibility to protect our communities against the despicable actions of terrorists.

We appreciate that Governor Brandstadt cares about the safety of the people of Iowa and we hope that we can continue to work with the state in a careful process of refugee settlement.

 

This letter was signed by Bishop Pates, Archbishop of Dubuque Jackels, Bishop of Davenport Amos and Bishop of Sioux City Nickless.

Iowa bishops’ statement on humanitarian situation at the border – June 2014

A November 2013 report from the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Committee on Migration alerted us to the ongoing increase in migration of unaccompanied children across the border. More than 52,000 unaccompanied children have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border since the beginning of the year.

The report found a “perfect storm” of reasons leading to this phenomenon, including an absence of economic opportunities, a lack of access to education, and a desire to reunify with family in the United States. One cause has played a decisive role in recent years: extreme violence in the countries of origin and a corresponding breakdown of the rule of law. This violence has resulted in part because of the drug trade driven by users in the United States.

We appreciate government officials for responding as best they can to this crisis and ask them to make sure that legal services are available to unaccompanied children. Children without family in the U.S. are at risk of being sent back to an unsafe situation. The best interests of these children should be a priority.

In a recent statement for World Refugee Day, Pope Francis said “Jesus was a refugee” and called upon Catholics and others to “alleviate their suffering in a concrete way.” We are responding the best we can through our Catholic Charities organizations and ask the government to do the same.

 

 

Most Rev. Michael Jackels, Archbishop of Dubuque

Most Rev. R. Walker Nickless, Bishop of Sioux City

Most Rev. Martin Amos, Bishop of Davenport

Most Rev. Richard Pates, Bishop of Des Moines

 

 

June 26, 2014

Immigration reform call-in days

Here’s some new information regarding upcoming Justice for Immigrants national call-in days.

Next Wednesday, June 11th is a “Leadership Call-in Day” that will send calls to the House offices of Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Cantor, and Majority Whip McCarthy.

On Friday, June 13th there will be another national call-in day directed to Members’ district offices.

The toll-free number to use is 1-855-589-5698 and our ask is for Congress and House leadership is simple:

“Move immigration reform legislation to the House floor.”

For more information go to www.justiceforimmigrants.org.

Immigration and Refugees

A bill to set up a pilot program in Iowa to assist refugees, Senate File 2270, has been sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration. The bill would allocate about $2.2 million to help community organizations train refugees to help other refugees access community resources.

First, refugees are present in the U.S. legally. They are individuals who have fled their countries of origin and who meet the United Nations’ criteria of having a “well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

Every year the President of the United States authorizes the admission of a certain number of refugees into the country. In recent years, the U.S. has accepted between 50,000 to 75,000 refugees per year.  Each refugee undergoes an extensive interviewing, screening and security clearance process.

Refugees are present in the U.S. legally. They are individuals who have fled their countries of origin and who meet the United Nations’ criteria of having a “well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

As you can imagine, refugees’ initial needs are many: food, clothing, shelter, employment, English language training, and orientation to a new community and culture. In the first 90 days, the U.S. government provides transitional assistance.

Catholic organizations around the country resettle about 30 percent of the refugees who enter our country every year. Catholic Charities here in Iowa will most likely resettle about 250 people this year.

While the details of the bill might need a little work, refugees in Iowa really could use some additional help.