October 2017 – Minutes

Clergy and Laity United for Justice and Peace
October 10, 2017   12-2 pm
Minutes

 The meeting opened with a prayer by Warren Grupe.

Attendance was recorded.  Those attending included: Taylor Beard, Matthew Crane, William Gray, Warren Grupe, Eugene Locke, Bob McAdams, John Peale, Chip Sanders, Jack Townsend, David Warren, Peter Weatherly, and Harriet Kuhr.

The Minutes of September 2017, prepared by Weatherly, were approved.

Treasurer’s Report: Taylor Beard reported that there were no transactions this past month, thus the balance of 2,411.85 remains the same.

Old and New Business:

Bill Gray gave an announcement about an upcoming event on October 22nd called “A Community Table”. It is sponsored by United Way, with a goal of getting 750 people to sit down to a meal together.

Bill Gray also invited people to attend the Charlottesville City Council meeting that night to support MAACA’s petition to build a senior living facility for low income individuals.

Bob McAdams announced that the United Nations Association Blue Ridge Virginia Chapter (una-brc.avenue.org) was holding an event on Sunday October 22nd at 3 p.m. at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial church on Rugby Road.  The program is a celebration of the 72nd Anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. Troy Wolfe, Senior Director of UNA Education Programs & Learning at the UNF, will discuss “Global Goals, Local Leaders, the UN’s sustainable development goals for 2030.”

Program:

Harriet Kuhr – Executive Director of International Rescue Committee’s Charlottesville agency gave a very informative presentation on the history and services provided by the local IRC.

IRC Website: https://www.rescue.org/united-states/charlottesville-va

These are just general notes, see the attached PDF of her PowerPoint presentation.

Overview:
The IRC was founded in 1933 at the request of Albert Einstein to help refugees fleeing Europe and its rising fascism.

IRC has 9 local agencies, Charlottesville is 2nd largest. She explained each agency is part of the whole, not independent. The local agency has its own budget, but reports to the corporate board, which helps maintain level of quality of service.

What is a Refugee? The legal definition, as well as colloquial, is very specific.  It is based on a claim of persecution, in which the individual fled his home country, and is not still in same country. The IRC definition is similar to the U.N.’s:   “A person who is unwilling or unable to return to his country of nationality or habitual residence because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

Refugees are often discriminated against, even persecuted, as people mistakenly equate them to migrants, who are just leaving for a better life.  Significantly, refugees and their children are more likely to go to college and not stay on welfare.

One type of refugee is the Special Immigrant Visa holders (SIVs). These are Afghanistan and Iraqi nationals who helped U.S. They can choose where they want to go in the U.S., whereas refuges cannot.

Current Situation Globally:
UN estimates over 22 million refugees in world today.

Syrian Refugees – now the worst humanitarian disaster since end of the Cold War.

Durable Solutions for Refugees
1) Repatriation; 2) Permanent Status in 2nd country;  3) Resettlement in 3rd country. One half of one percent of the world’s refugees are resettled in the U.S. Refugee Safe Haven is an essential American value.

Obama administration’s estimated arrivals are in stark contrast to the current administration. Trump administration is putting a strong emphasis on restricting entrance into this country, particularly from specific Mid-Eastern countries.

President Trump’s determination this year is lowest ever!

Supreme Court impact –Enacted  90 day moratorium. Thus, IRC currently has no incoming refugees, but SIVs still arriving.

Background Checks:
Refugees endure greatest vetting of all immigrants, requiring extensive security checks using multiple data bases.  Syrians even getting iris scans, face to face interviews, and elaborate family histories. US contracts organizations overseas to do the background checks.

How do refugees reach U.S. – see chart

Asylum seekers are different than refugees. These are people already here, but then apply, often ending up in an in-between status. Asylum seekers are not eligible for assistance until approved.

Local Situation:
Refugees in Charlottesville come from 33-34 different countries. There have been 239 during past 12 months, with 137 being Afghan SIVs.

IRC Services – (See slide) IRC gets federal support to help family for 3-4 months, then family expected to be self-sufficient, so need to find housing and employment as soon as possible. If still struggling, IRC uses local funds, as no longer eligible to use federal funding.

  • It includes picking them up from airport, then assisting in finding housing, education, job training, employment, and medical, including taking individuals and families to health department for vaccinations.
  • Helping to get Medicaid – eligible for 8 months
  • Immigration Services – will assist in applying for green card and visas
  • Provide interpreter services at UVA hospital
  • New Roots Refugee Agriculture – farming lots at Azalea and local markets

Staff – 18 regular staff, along with 3 AmeriCorps associates, 20 interns, 100 volunteers, including ESL teachers

How you can help slide

  • Financial Contributions
  • In-Kind Contributions
  • Cars & household supplies
  • Hire Refugees
  • Advocate on behalf of refugees to elected officials
  • Volunteer
  • Join GenR – Generation Rescue – 25-40 year olds, training young humanitarians and philanthropists

Final Thoughts –
Trump trying to add an ‘Assimilation Test’, what does that mean? Being Christian?

Refugees need to integrate into their new society, not assimilate – what are they going to assimilate to?  United States was founded on the blending of many cultures!

With thanks to speaker Harriet Kuhr, the meeting adjourned at about 2 pm.

When next we meet: November 14, 2017: ‘Unlearning Racism – Exercises in Understanding Race’, a discussion led by Hal Horan. Handout will be sent out beforehand.

Respectfully Submitted,
Peter Weatherly