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. "