Montgomery County Will Continue to Offer Support to Refugees
In response to the November 13, 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan asked the federal government to stop allowing Syrian refugees into Maryland. The response of Montgomery County Council was overwhelming — with Executive Ike Leggett and all nine council members stating that Montgomery County would continue to welcome Syrian refugees — who were fleeing for their lives from a war-torn country — to Montgomery county.
“We support those who … cannot safely return home, and seek nothing but safety and freedom in America,” wrote Leggett in response to the Governor’s request.
Montgomery County welcomes refugees and asylees at a greater rate than anywhere else in the state except Baltimore City, with 2,181 lives rescued between 2010 and 2015. These people are often fleeing from countries where they fear for their lives from political, racial, ethnic, or religious persecution, and the transition isn’t easy. Besides leaving behind homes, families, belongings, careers… entire lives, these fugitives face a trying review process for entrance into the United States, and once in the country, often are confronted with a shockingly high cost of living and subsequent years of poverty and hardship.
The Refugee Review Process
What many do not know is that refugees undergo a very intensive screening process in order to be permitted entrance into the country and provided assistance from refugee assistance programs. This review process consists of hours of interviewing, fingerprinting, and background checks, and can take up to two years to complete. Asylees, on the other hand, travel to the United States on their own as students, tourists, businessmen, or sometimes in undocumented status, often without any assistance or aid, and must apply for aid or asylum once in America.
Refugee & Asylee Life in America
They escaped war-torn countries where they feared for their lives… for a country whose native language they do not speak or understand, where job skills don’t translate, where they aren’t permitted to work, and where cost of living is astronomically high. Even those given aid by a refugee assistance group, such as the International Rescue Committee or Lutheran Social Services, usually only receive a stipend of about $1,000, which must stretch to cover months of rent, food, and furnishings. One Ethiopian asylee lived in a basement with her children for two years until she was able to obtain a work permit and afford an apartment. Many stories start this way, and some have ended happily, with refugees becoming successful tax-paying members of community.
Though refugee assistance groups work tirelessly to provide assistance to refugees and asylees, they often lack the funding and resources to give these refugees what they really need — stable housing, job training, education, and employment assistance. What they truly need is the training and knowledge required to start and maintain a successful life in the United States.
Get involved. Donate. Read. Spread the word. Whatever you can do, however much or however little, everything helps. Read more about the programs and resources available to refugees and asylees, and the groups and organizations devoted to assisting those in such desperate need.
Get involved in your Bethesda community. Change a life. Save a life. Be a part of something bigger.