July 15, 2019 - The Trump Administration is planning to turn away asylum-seeking families at the Southern border
Today, a devastating new policy was announced--one of the Trump Administration's most serious blows yet to the long-standing humanitarian principle of protecting people seeking refuge. Per the regulation (due to go into effect tomorrow, July 16), individuals and families fleeing violence will no longer be able to exercise their legal right to pursue asylum in the U.S., if they pass through another country before arriving at the U.S. border. This means that our country is effectively shutting its doors to families--most prominently, Central Americans--who travel through Mexico, Guatemala, and other countries to get here. Many will be forced to stay in Mexico, where conditions for migrants are highly unsafe. Read more about the new policy here.
The new plan, along with the gross indignity forced upon asylum-seekers in Customs and Border Patrol detention camps, is part of a systematic effort to dismantle migrants' human rights and punish them for being "other." Refugee Transitions joins the many immigrant advocacy agencies who are speaking out in condemnation of this cruelty. According to legal experts, the new regulation is in clear violation of U.S. and international law. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has already announced its intention to file a court challenge.
Please contact your elected representatives and demand they take action to protect people seeking refuge in the U.S.
Learn what RT is doing to welcome our asylum-seeking neighbors.
RT Board Member, Amy Argenal Shares Observations from McAllen Humanitarian Respite Center
Amy Argenal is Director of Service Learning at The Urban School of San Francisco, Adjunct Faculty at the University of San Francisco, and RT Board Member.
I recently spent a week in the border city of McAllen, TX. I want to stress the horror of all that is taking place there.
June 20 is World Refugee Day—a day to honor all people who have been displaced.
Syrians. Eritreans. South Sudanese. Yemeni. Guatemalans. Rohingya. And so many more.
War, persecution, and violence are creating worldwide forced displacement unseen since World War II. According to the latest United Nations data, 25.9 million people are considered refugees, uprooted from their home countries and thrust into a legal limbo. People from all walks of life have been shut off from opportunities that would allow them to build better futures. Today, more than ever, this deep systemic injustice requires a global and local response.
What is it like to be a refugee?
Despite an urgent need for resettlement, the U.S. is closing its doors on refugees.
Nativist sentiment in Global North countries like the U.S. has disrupted long-standing traditions of providing safe haven to the displaced. Even though two-thirds of Americans support taking in refugees, the Trump administration has committed to only resettling 30,000 this year.
Our goal is to help recreate the sense of dignity, safety, and belonging.
With the support of our community members (such as YOU!), RT continues to welcome refugees, as well as asylum-seekers and immigrants regardless of documented status. We recognize that getting adjusted to an unfamiliar society is a challenging process, so we serve both new arrivals and those who’ve lived in the Bay Area for some time. Our students can count on RT to meet them “where they’re at” on their pathways to education, employment, citizenship, and community engagement.
Our staff and community leaders provide multilingual and multicultural support in common languages of local refugee and immigrant communities, including Arabic, Burmese, Dari, Farsi, Mam, Nepali, Pashto, and Spanish. We work in partnership with our community to honor all forced migrants and to ensure they feel safe and welcome in their new home.
Meet community leaders who’ve sought refuge in the U.S.
Every day, we hear heartbreaking stories of unaccompanied children, young adults, and families fleeing escalating violence and economic turmoil in Central America. For decades, our nation has offered safe haven to those seeking refuge. It has aspired to build a fair and just asylum system based on law. In our small way, Refugee Transitions has been honored to assist the courageous individuals who’ve made the arduous journey to the U.S.
Sadly, the situation for asylum-seekers has dramatically deteriorated. In a radical departure from well-established processes and norms, the current administration is creating formidable new obstacles for those seeking asylum.
We are deeply disturbed by these changes. They don’t reflect long-standing American values of generosity, empathy, and compassion. They have an immediate effect on our local communities by sowing fear and keeping families apart. The asylum changes do, however, energize us more than ever to provide services that help asylum-seekers and others transition to their new home.
Central American families flee human rights abuses, exacerbated by economic duress.
Violence (especially gang and gender-based violence) continues to ravage Central America--for instance, homicide rates in El Salvador and Honduras remain among the highest in the world. In addition, communities across the region, especially indigenous communities, have lost livelihoods due to climate change, agribusiness, large-scale development, and extractive activity.
“Beyond poverty and violence, Central American immigrants are fleeing structural conditions that make their lives precarious and their ability to enjoy basic rights nearly unobtainable,” says Christopher Loperena, Professor of Anthropology at CUNY Graduate Center and RT’s former board member. The humanitarian crises in the region have been shaped by historical forces. U.S. involvement played a significant role, including through its support of undemocratic and destabilizing regimes.
Seeking asylum in the U.S. is legal.
According to U.S. law, individuals can seek asylum at the border or inside the country. They qualify for work permits 180 days after applying for asylum. Once granted asylum, they may seek permanent residency and ultimately citizenship.
Beyond our humanitarian and moral obligations, welcoming asylum-seekers from Central America is a positive for our communities. They contribute billions of dollars to the economy through taxes, consumer spending, and starting small businesses. They bring their rich cultures and add to the diversity of U.S. society, which is critical to our communities’ vitality and resilience.
While RT is currently a Bay Area-only organization, and does not provide services directly at the Southern Border, we work with hundreds of Central American asylum-seekers each year. We see first hand how our shared communities benefit from their resilience, bravery, and determination.
Newcomers from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras are among RT’s fastest-growing student populations.
According to our partner, Oakland Unified School District, the number of newcomers in the school district grew more than 100% in the past five years. The largest group has been Guatemalans, including many monolingual speakers of indigenous languages such as Mam.
RT partners with Central American newcomers on their pathways to adjustment and success in the U.S.
Central American students participate in all of our education, family engagement, and community leadership programs. We support them as they embark on their pathways to education, employment, community engagement, and other goals in the U.S.
We know that to effectively serve participants, cultural humility and linguistic responsiveness are of paramount value. We have filled a gap in Oakland Unified School District by hiring a Mam Community Navigator. This staff member visits schools in Oakland and helps monolingual Mam-speaking students and their families navigate resources in their new community. Last year, our Mam Community Navigator served 192 of Oakland’s Mam-speaking youth with interpretation and navigation support. In addition, in San Francisco and Oakland we have bilingual and bicultural staff members who provide support in Spanish.
See our work in action: RT documentary, Languages of Hope
Support equitable access to U.S. opportunities for our Central American neighbors.
TechEquity Collaborative’s Giving Circle chose RT as a supported organization for the Winter giving cycle. “RT’s focus on the whole family and their multifaceted support strategy… makes them a truly special organization.” Read more on the TechEquity Collaborative blog, and support RT and the other finalist agencies—1951 Coffee and Immigrants Rising.
For more than 35 years, RT has been creating impactful community connections through education. One of the ways we do it is through home-based tutoring/mentoring, our original program (running since 1982!)
Meet Anandi, one of our 300 hard-working volunteers. Anandi has been tutoring in RT's home-based program for the past 8 years, with unwavering dedication and passion. She's worked with nine adult and youth students who have sought refuge in the U.S., from countries including DR Congo, China, and many others. With Anandi's encouragement and support, many of her students reached important milestones such as college, citizenship, or employment.
Pictured: Margaret (left) and Anandi
What made you want to become an RT volunteer tutor?
Ever since my college days, I have enjoyed tutoring. Everyone has a right to education, but that is being denied to women in many countries. When my son graduated from high school, my volunteering at schools came to an end. I found myself looking for a place to volunteer and I found RT to be the perfect place for my passion for helping women become literate and self-reliant.
What is one thing that you have done, that you're proud of?
Helping my student Margaret prepare for her citizenship exam. All the vocabulary was new to her. In addition, some concepts, such as "constitution," are difficult to grasp if one grew up in an authoritarian regime. But Margaret was very motivated and worked very hard. In less than a year, she knew answers to all 100 citizenship exam questions. I was so proud of her when she passed the exam.
Is there something that your students have taught you?
Many of them have taught me resilience by sharing their experiences with me. Sometimes I learn something new about the history and culture of my student's country. For example, one day I learned about Nineveh, its history and its significance.
What is the best thing about being a tutor?
There are so many things I can think of. There is joy you feel when your student has accomplished something that will have a positive impact on her life. With some students, you develop relationships, and when you get treated like family, you feel moved.
In FY 2017-2018, we served a record 2,500 individuals of all ages and genders, who had sought refuge in the U.S. 381 students worked with home-based volunteers like Anandi. You can help us create these essential community connections.
In December 2018, RT’s Executive Director, Laura Vaudreuil, and Development and Program Associate, Jyoti Gurung visited 102.9 KBLX to present our agency at KBLX Cares with Sterling James! Check out this interview to learn more about our organization.
Directed by Jason Outenreath, Languages of Hope explores the immigrant experience through the story of Santa, a multilingual mom and master weaver from Guatemala. Santa is part of the Mam indigenous group. She is incredibly driven and hardworking, and has joined RT's programs to get on the pathway to higher level employment opportunities.
You will also hear from Shaheen, RT's Intern and Teacher's Assistant, who has helped Santa and many other RT students gain computer skills. Shaheen arrived to the U.S. from Afghanistan just a few years ago as a high school student. Since then, he has grown into an incredible young leader who contributes his skills to the shared community.
Our expert for the film was Christopher Loperena, Professor of Anthropology at The Graduate Center, CUNY and RT Board Member from 2015 to 2018. He provided a deep perspective on the root causes of forced migration from Central America.
In "Volunteering: A New Year's Resolution Worth Keeping," Life in the Bay spotlights Refugee Transitions' volunteering program. Click here to join our inspiring community of volunteers!
Our long-time partner, Oakland International High School (OIHS) has been featured in the Washington Post, with Refugee Transitions earning a cameo in the story. Support services were cited as key enablers of OIHS students’ success, and RT was flagged as one of the service providers. Our agency has been a close OIHS partner since the school opened in 2007. We provide parent language and literacy classes, after-school tutoring, and a youth leadership program. In addition, about 40-50 OIHS students each year receive our home-based tutoring/mentoring through trained volunteers. We’re so proud of our dedicated staff and volunteers who work with OIHS students and their parents!
Refugee Transitions' Development and Program Associate, Jyoti Gurung received a 2017 Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Award for Youth Leadership. The Heritage Awards which kick off the APA Heritage Month, recognize exemplary youth leaders who have made a distinct impact in the community and serve as inspirational models for youth. Read the story on the ABC7 News website or Facebook page.
In "This High School Program Is Giving Refugee Students a Leg Up," San Francisco Magazine is introducing its readers to Refugee Transitions' youth leadership program. Our youth leaders (peer and alumni tutors) play a critical role in our after-school programs by providing native language/culture support to other students. At least 95% of our students who pass through our youth leadership program, continue their education in college.
RT's Development Coordinator, Julia Glosemeyer presented the agency at the Swissnex "Everyone is a Humanitarian" event. Click here to listen to the interview.
Refugee Transitions is proud to present our new documentary film, This Is Our Home. Our film features the personal narratives of RT's courageous, giving, and determined students and community leaders who are committed to changing our world for the better.
You will meet Merelyn, our home-based and after-school program student from Mexico, who achieved the significant milestone of graduating high school despite interrupted education. Also appearing in the video is her volunteer tutor, Evelia who talks about how working with Merelyn has enriched her life. And finally, you will hear from Farhad, our courageous Afghan community leader who helps newly arrived Afghan immigrants adjust to life in the U.S.
Refugee Transitions is grateful to Kate Lord for directing This Is Our Home.
Here is a roundup of RT's recent documentary films--please show them to your friends and family!
Released in 2018, Languages of Hope explores the immigrant experience through the story of Santa, a multilingual mom and master weaver from Guatemala. Santa is part of the Mam indigenous group. She joined RT’s programs on her pathway to higher-level training and employment opportunities.
This Is Our Home features the personal narratives of RT's courageous, giving, and determined students and community leaders who are committed to changing our world for the better.
A Wish to Give Back: One Family's Journey to Community Leadership tells the story of a brave and generous family of community leaders who have made it a mission to help other newcomers.
Follow Jyoti, Fatuma, and Win as they share their courage, determination, dreams, and talents with their new communities. More stories of newcomer youth here: Pursuing Dreams
The Women's Initiative is a fast-growing program created by Refugee Transitions in Oakland. It is an educational equity and family literacy initiative that includes education for both newcomer mothers and their preschool-aged children. The Women’s Initiative combines all of RT’s program areas: Education, Family Engagement, and Community Leadership.
RT started this program as an answer to a challenge experienced by our female community members: an inability to attend English and adult literacy programs due to childcare barriers. Women were eager to learn but couldn’t attend classes at community colleges or other sites, because babies and toddlers were not welcome. Yet due to cultural, logistical, and/or financial reasons, our students had no childcare options. So in 2014, we started offering parent/tot English classes. They were only open to women to ensure a safe and comfortable environment for students to breastfeed and care for their children as needed. This original parent/tot program was offered two days a week.
The parent/tot program proved so popular and successful that we soon expanded to three days, and then to five days a week. In 2017, we launched our Women’s Initiative, which included classes for moms and a formal early childhood education program for their tots. We hired experienced child development professionals, and created a play-based preschool program that bolsters kindergarten readiness for kids aged 18 months-5 years old.
The Women’s Initiative improves women's English skills and self-sufficiency, with a focus on topics such as positive parenting, navigating U.S. systems, pathways to employment, and digital literacy. While mothers attend class, our early childhood development professionals engage the children in educational activities, including holding reading groups with our partner Tandem. Partners in Early Learning. We help children learn English, develop interpersonal and social-emotional skills, grow their fine and gross motor skills, express themselves creatively, and be more independent.
In addition to classes and early childhood education, women and their families have access to a plethora of services offered at the same Oakland site. These include quarterly community-building events; workshops on topics such as parenting, health, and wellness; and social adjustment case management with bilingual and bicultural workers.
The Women’s Initiative includes multilingual, culturally sensitive assistance by female community leaders. These leaders are hired from within the communities that we serve, which include forcibly displaced populations from Afghanistan and Yemen.
The vast majority of the students make significant gains in their English skills. RT has traditionally targeted curriculum needs and practices around pre-literate and beginning learners. In the academic year 2017-2018, we exceeded California state goals by 19% for the High Beginner level, 17% for the Low Beginner level, and 1% for the Literacy level. As for the early childhood program, 75% moms say that this service helps their kids become more kindergarten-ready.
One of the Women’s Initiative success stories is M. After attending our classes, she advanced her skills and was hired as a Women’s Initiative Classroom Assistant. According to M., students participating in the program “have made a community; they can share and solve their problems, they can share their culture with people from many countries. And the program this year is even better than before, because there is a separate childcare room and professional teachers for the children.”
Support the Women’s Initiative
We are grateful for our Board Member, Galorah Keshavarz and our Consultant, Tenley Harrison for their unwavering commitment and support of this program.
Volunteer in the Women’s Initiative
Refugee Transitions (RT) is proud to announce that its Development and Program Associate, Jyoti Gurung, has received a 2017 Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Award for Youth Leadership. The Heritage Awards which kick off the APA Heritage Month, recognize exemplary youth leaders who have made a distinct impact in the community and serve as inspirational models for youth.
The award was presented to Jyoti at the APA Heritage Award Ceremony held at the San Francisco War Memorial on May 1. Her award was announced at the APA Heritage Month Press Conference on April 26.
L-R: Co-Chair of the APA Heritage Awards Committee Mary Nicely; APA Heritage Foundation President Claudine Cheng; San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee; Jyoti Gurung; RT Board Member Ko Ko Lay. Photo credit: Frank Jang
Jyoti, 24 was born in a small village in Bhutan. As an infant, her family was forced to flee the country when the government of Bhutan began its ethnic-cleansing strategy to purge individuals of Nepali descent. She grew up in a Bhutanese refugee camp in Nepal, eventually securing permission to enter the U.S. as a refugee with her family in 2009. The family's journey as refugees was fraught with fear, uncertainty, and enormous hardship, but also hope. Once in the U.S., Jyoti attended Oakland International High School, where she excelled in her studies. During her tenure, she made time to help other students as a Refugee Transitions Peer Tutor. She continued her studies at San Francisco State University, ultimately earning a B.S. degree in Business Management. Jyoti continued her work with RT as an Alumni Tutor and Intern. She subsequently joined the Agency as full-time Development and Program Associate.
Jyoti is a founding member of the new nonprofit, Foundation for Conscious Activism.
L-R: Alex Randolph (City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees); Jyoti Gurung with award; Co-Chair of the APA Heritage Awards Committee Mary Nicely; APA Heritage Foundation President Claudine Cheng.
RT Executive Director, Laura Vaudreuil, noted: "We're so proud of Jyoti. She exemplifies the qualities we see in the families and individuals RT serves every day. Beyond their determination to adjust to their new lives in the U.S. and become engaged in their new communities, there is invariably a sincere desire to give back. Jyoti is a strong and generous role model. We are fortunate to have her on our team, and we're so pleased to see her recognized by this prominent organization."
"It is an honor to receive this award, and I am so inspired to do more in my community," said Jyoti. "Working with youth as a peer tutor, alumni tutor, mentor, interpreter, and dance choreographer has been a fun and rewarding learning experience. I'm grateful also to Refugee Transitions which provided me with a platform to work with youth and community members."
Follow Jyoti's journey in Pursuing Dreams, a documentary film and story series produced by Refugee Transitions.
Jyoti's win is a true refugee success story and triumph of human spirit. Follow this link to support more youth like Jyoti as they follow their dreams:
Many in our community are asking what they can do to better support refugees and immigrants at this time. It goes without saying that Refugee Transitions is mobilizing fast and working around the clock to assemble critical information to inform and help RT families. We’re extremely grateful for the enormous support we’ve received from volunteers, supporters, and RT friends. We want to share some ideas on how you can support newcomers today.
1. AGITATE AND ADVOCATE
California is fortunate to have state and local leaders who are ardent defenders of diversity and social justice. Call them, leave voicemails, mail letters, or visit their offices. Urge them to continue supporting refugee resettlement, Sanctuary City, and other policies that protect refugees and immigrants. They really do listen! Here is a list you can use:
The executive orders have triggered uncertainty within our communities. It is essential that affected newcomers understand their legal rights, receive the support, are connected with relevant and timely resources, and have ready access to information and means of communication. As we mobilize to meet these urgent needs, we are also also focused on continuing to provide safe spaces and as much normalcy as possible for newcomers working hard to become self-sufficient.
Here are ways you can help now:
+ Help RT raise $10,000 to support refugee & immigrant community leaders
RT identifies and provides formal training to refugee and immigrant community leaders (youth and adults), leveraging the incredible assets they bring to the U.S. and connecting them with our network of resources and supports. In turn, these community leaders help newer members of our communities navigate their way in the U.S. An immediate need is funding to support the work of these leaders. They provide an essential bridge to their communities, helping to ensure that all newcomers we work with know their rights and have access to vital resources.
Our community leaders help translate from/to Arabic, Pashto, Spanish, Chinese, Tigrinya, among other languages. They serve as cultural ambassadors and peer tutors. Your donation helps us provide stipends to these community leaders as well as fund training sessions and materials. HELP us compensate the efforts of these essential community leaders.
+ Help RT stock computer lab with at least 20 touchscreen notebooks so that everyone has access
Through our computer class in Oakland, RT students are gaining technology skills that help them access critical information in English and in their native languages. Thanks to this essential resource, they are learning their rights and communicating with loved ones back home. HELP us stock our computer lab with touchscreen notebooks so that everyone has access.
+ Help RT boost our capacity to train more volunteer tutors for new arrivals
Thanks to the support of 200+ wonderful volunteers, RT can provide individualized services to 1,800+ low-income newcomers each year. Incredibly, since January 27th, we received 100 new volunteer applications. Needless to say, our staff is working at maximum capacity to process new volunteers. Our onboarding process is rigorous. It is designed to ensure that by the time volunteers are matched with students, they are sufficiently well-trained. HELP us boost our capacity to train more volunteer tutors for newly arrived refugees and immigrants.
You can also help ease the financial burden for newcomer families, or help stock up a classroom, after-school program, or enrichment club with needed supplies. To see our specific needs and quantities, please visit our Amazon wishlist.
3. GET INVOLVED IN LOCAL & NATIONWIDE EFFORTS
+ Legal Assistance for Newcomers
- Learn about what organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are doing to protect our freedoms in this critical time.
- If anyone you know is traveling and might be a target of the recent executive order, ask them for their flight information and confirm that they have arrived in the U.S. and made it out of the airport safely. For legal help, contact the local chapter of the ACLU.
- If you are a law student or a lawyer, check out the International Refugee Assistance Project to find out which airports need legal help.
- Refer attorneys who would like to offer their pro bono services to Equal Justice Law Center (San Francisco) and Centro Legal de la Raza (Oakland).
+ Rallies and Events
4. EQUIP YOURSELF WITH KNOWLEDGE
+ Bookmark these pages for refugee and immigrant facts and figures:
- Community resources to assist your newcomer friends
- U.S. refugee vetting: the most extensive in the world
- Who is being resettled here? Refugee backgrounders
- The worldwide forced migration crisis: Get the data!
- Fleeing gang violence and economic duress: Migrants from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador
- Myths about undocumented immigrants
- Unaccompanied minors from Central America
- The economic benefits of resettling refugees
- Refugees are the leaders of the future
5. RAISE AWARENESS, ENCOURAGE DISCUSSION & LISTEN
Share newcomer stories to encourage empathy, build solidarity, and challenge the dominant narrative about migration.
Share our new documentary, A Wish to Give Back: One Family's Journey to Community Leadership, with friends, family members, and your community. Check out our youth story project, Pursuing Dreams, or our cookbook, Between Meals. Consider hosting a solidarity event, and if you are a foodie, turn to Between Meals for a range of delicious authentic recipes that your friends will love. You can hold a fundraiser by making a meal from Between Meals and asking your friends to donate what they would typically spend on an evening out.
You will be inspired by the many rich contributions newcomers gift to our society--something we feel is so often overlooked. Follow RT on Facebook to to learn more, and share our posts when you find something that inspires you and lifts your spirit.
December 27, 2016: Refugee Transitions Pledges Solidarity and Additional Support to Students
For 30+ years, Refugee Transitions has delivered services to newcomers affected by some of the worst injustices of our time. These include war, ethnic cleansing, gang violence, discrimination based on race, gender and sexual orientation, and extraordinary economic duress. Despite the adversity that they have gone through, as well as the major challenges they face here in the U.S., our students inspire us daily with their courage and commitment to education and community engagement. We are fortunate to have our students as friends and neighbors, and learn from them every day.
We teach English language and literacy skills to encourage and optimize our students' success. We do this by creating a welcoming environment structured to promote learning and academics, overcome social isolation, and build confidence and newcomer leadership.
Today, on the cusp of the 2017 change in administration, our commitment is deeper than ever. Hate rhetoric is on the rise, sparking fear and great uncertainty amongst our students. This, of course, only strengthens our resolve to help them feel safe and supported.
To help address the new uncertainties, we are implementing these actions:
We will equip our volunteers and community leaders with essential information to help students, their families, and the broader newcomer communities understand their rights, as well as ways to access critical local resources and service providers;
We will host a "Pathway to Citizenship" forum at our family engagement events where immigration lawyers and USCIS representatives will help students understand how to navigate the citizenship process;
We will work closely with our partners to join Rapid Response (legal help) and other community measures that foster safety;
We will expand services to ensure that newcomers gain the language skills needed to pass the citizenship test so that they can become engaged members of our communities, and informed voters as soon as they are eligible;
We will boost our network of volunteers, provide them with ongoing training and support, and connect them with newly arriving refugees and immigrants. With additional volunteer help, we can broaden our ability to create safe and welcoming communities, and encourage cross-cultural friendships to thrive throughout the Bay Area;
We will help newcomer leaders develop and strengthen community organizations that celebrate ethnicity and diversity, and promote engaged citizenry;
We will publicize stories of our students, showcasing their resilience and determination and challenging the dominant narrative about migration.
Above all, we'll continue to do what we do best: nurture the strengths of newcomer students, help their families thrive, and create opportunities for them to give back to the community.
As the opening preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: "... recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. "
Refugee Transitions stands shoulder to shoulder with Muslims and other refugees who have been barred from entering the U.S., as well as immigrants forced to flee their countries due to war, violence, persecution, and/or extreme economic duress. We commend Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State and a refugee herself, for proclaiming her intention to "stand ready" to register as Muslim if Donald Trump took executive action that affects immigrants traveling to the U.S.
"The growing cry to turn away people fleeing for their lives brings to mind the SS St. Louis, the ship of Jewish refugees turned away from Florida in 1939," wrote The Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank in 2015. But the story of U.S. refugee resettlement was not always this shameful. Since 1975, our country has welcomed more than 3 million refugees, not only saving them from brutal regimes but also inviting them to rebuild their lives and contribute to their full potential.
With 30 years of experience, Refugee Transitions has seen firsthand how extensive the admission and vetting process is for refugees. There is no evidence to suggest that the process is mired in failure. In fact, refugees are by far the most rigorously processed category of people seeking entry to the U.S. See our most recent film, A Wish to Give Back, about a refugee family from Burma--it took them 2 years to secure approval for resettlement. And refugees from Syria, Iraq, and other predominantly Muslim countries go through even more extensive screening.
At Refugee Transitions, we work with forced migrants who have experienced war, violence, persecution, and/or extreme economic duress. Many are survivors of some of the worst atrocities of the 21st century. But in spite of those challenges, our students inspire us every day with their courage, resilience, and fierce dedication to contributing to our shared communities. Furthermore, research has repeatedly shown that migrants benefit their new communities by starting businesses, paying taxes, supporting local businesses, and enriching our cultures.
We are honored that friends from Syria joined our community recently. We strongly urge the U.S. government to continue the Syrian resettlement program, and indeed, increase the number of those admitted from the 2016 count of 12,000+.
We stand by our conviction that refugees, asylees, and immigrants must be welcomed in our communities, and we invite you to stand with us!
Take action now to call your Senators and Representatives!
January 23, 2017
As we transition to the new Administration in Washington, D.C., it's a fitting time for us at Refugee Transitions to reaffirm our commitment to community, diversity, and human rights.
Refugee Transitions was founded on the same principles that drove crowds to attend Women's Marches in cities across the nation. These principles include a deep respect for human rights, and an abiding support for the rights of women. Indeed, we started as The Refugee Women's Program in 1982, providing services to socially and linguistically isolated newcomers such as new mothers, seniors, and people with disabilities.
Today, the journey for newcomers has become more difficult. But our commitment to easing their transition and nurturing their strengths is deeper than ever. In fact, as the balance of power changes in Washington, D.C., we're taking extra steps to strengthen our support of the individuals and families we serve. You can learn more in our statement published here.
We invite you to JOIN US in building community, encouraging cross-cultural relationships, and promoting solidarity with our newcomer friends and neighbors.
Many in our community are asking how they can make a difference. Here is a selection of ideas:
1. RAISE AWARENESS, ENCOURAGE DISCUSSION & LISTEN
Share newcomer stories to encourage empathy, build solidarity, and challenge the dominant narrative about migration.
Share our new documentary, A Wish to Give Back: One Family's Journey to Community Leadership, with friends, family members, and your community. Check out our youth story project, Pursuing Dreams, or our cookbook, Between Meals. Consider hosting a solidarity event, and if you are a foodie, turn to Between Meals for a range of delicious authentic recipes that your friends will love. You will be inspired by the many rich contributions newcomers gift to our society--something we feel is so often overlooked.
2. MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD
Learn about what advocacy organizations are doing to support human rights, and take action by calling your representatives or signing petitions.
3. ENGAGE & LEARN FROM NEWCOMERS
Administrations come and go, but being kind, encouraging, and willing to learn will never go out of style. So, at a time of fear and rising uncertainties, lend a helping hand when you can, and listen to the perspectives and experiences of courageous and resilient folks that we are proud to call our neighbors. Read articles such as this one by our advisor Clemantine Wamariya. Follow us on Facebook to learn more about the contributions newcomers are making, and share our posts when you find something that inspires you and lifts your spirit.
Your ongoing support helps us make tangible impact in our shared communities. You are helping our newcomer students learn English, graduate high school, acquire valuable job and community leadership skills, get citizenship, and successfully navigate life in the U.S. From youth leader stipends, to books and technology for our classes, to community workshops--every dollar makes a difference!
Thank you for your support of our cause!
December 15, 2016: "An English language class that benefits both parents and children" by Hannah Kingsley-Ma
"In a sun-filled classroom at an Oakland high school, a room full of adults are learning English.
Everyone here is a refugee, asylum seeker, or recent immigrant who has resettled in the East Bay, and each has sought out this free English language class offered by the nonprofit Refugee Transitions. Parents and relatives of kids in the Oakland Unified School District can sign up first.
These adult students hail from countries like Burma, Peru, Yemen and China. Some have college degrees, some never went to school, but they’re all eager to learn, in part to be better equipped to participate in their children’s education."
In 2016, RT teamed up with filmmaker Kate Lord to present this documentary film about an amazing newcomer family living in Oakland. They came to the U.S. as Karen refugees. The family are participants in RT's education, family engagement, and community leadership programs. They exemplify the ethos of giving back to the community, and we are truly honored to have them as friends and neighbors.