Nonprofit Voice | When it comes to refugees, compassion and security are not mutually exclusive

February 14, 2017
| by Guest Contributor |

Since 1995, Friends of Refugees has served the Clarkston community with a mission to empower refugees through opportunities that provide for their well-being, education and employment. Our goal is to promote self-sufficiency and help new Americans seize opportunities, while fostering the friendships that will help them flourish in Georgia.

In more than 20 years of successfully empowering refugees, our work has been deeply affected by the ever-changing political climate. While the American government pursues solutions to keep our nation safe and secure, we encourage them, now more than ever, to look to the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program as a paragon of effective immigration policy—rather than representing a security risk, it is the rare immigration system that works, and which has done so for a long time.

The facts are irrefutable. There are many kinds of immigration today (tech visas, undocumented, asylum seekers, tourism, etc.), and much that is broken in each of those systems; however, since it was established in 1980, not one person vetted through the existing refugee program has ever committed a lethal terrorist act in the U.S. The Boston Bombers came in on tourist visas, and the San Bernardino terrorist on a fiancé visa, but the refugee program has been a model for safety, security and success.

For those who would look to Europe for evidence of a refugee “problem,” it’s worth noting that migrants who have crossed into Europe are not eligible to ever become refugees in America. These are completely separate systems. The U.S. refugee program is a fantastic example of safety and compassion working hand-in-hand.

Our president wants citizens to know he values security and safety. We value the same thing, and we know, from performance and outcomes, that our state and national security officials are delivering on those values. While we welcome further improvements to that system, suspending or curtailing it is contrary to the goals we all share. Refugees are blessings, not burdens. There are many ways to exercise competent compassion, but that pursuit must begin with total integrity, seeking the best for refugees and our communities together.

Our commitment can be seen through an array of impacts. Last year alone, our volunteers invested more than 21,000 hours to serve 5,000 individuals across seven program areas, which included helping more than 200 breadwinners regain the dignity of a job via Café Clarkston; providing eight weeks of camp for 136 kids, and afterschool mentoring for 90 students in our Youth Programs; teaching English to 250 moms and children via our Refugee Literacy program; welcoming 71 babies born to healthy and empowered mothers via our Embrace Birth Support program; filling nearly 100 family kitchens with fresh produce from their own community garden plots; launching 16 new businesses through our Start:ME micro-business accelerator, in partnership with Emory Business School; and making $40,000 in earnings for members of our Refugee Sewing Society.

We would love for you to come join in our successes! Here’s what you can do to get involved:

1. Write a message of care and support to refugee families. We will share these messages with the people we serve at Friends of Refugees. Short and simple handwritten notes are best, but emails are okay too. Send your messages to refugeefanmail@friendsofrefugees.com, or Friends of Refugees, Fan Mail, P.O. Box 548, Clarkston, GA 30021

2. Join the next volunteer training and tour of Friends of Refugees, where you’ll have an eye-opening experience learning how the process works.

3. If you want to invest in our impact and meet others doing to same, come gather with other generous donors for our annual kick-off event, “Sow and Grow,” at the Community Garden on March 4th.

4. If you want to make a difference right now, we’ve launched an online crowdfunding campaign to fund the hire of one additional refugee employment specialist, who will serve the refugees whose services were cut by one of the president’s recent executive orders. This champion will place 100 refugees in living-wage jobs over the year, restoring their families to self-sufficiency and generating over $2 million in new wealth for the Georgia economy! Go to www.friendsofrefugees.com/donate to invest in a flourishing community.

For more information about Friends of Refugees, please visit our website at www.friendsofrefugees.com.

Photo Description: portrait of a refugee girl building a new life, in Clarkston, Georgia.

Brian Bollinger is the Executive Director of Friends of Refugees, which works to empower refugees through opportunities that provide for their well-being, education, and employment.

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