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2/17/16- DHS CRCL Chicago Quarterly Community Engagement Roundtable

According to the “PROPOSED REFUGEE ADMISSIONS FOR FISCAL YEAR 2016” sent to Congress by President Barack Obama, “The refugee crisis caused by the conflict in Syria is the worst the world has witnessed in a generation, with more than 4 million refugees in the region. The U.S. government is deeply committed to assisting the Syrian people and is providing more than $4.5 billion in humanitarian assistance since the start of the crisis, more than any other donor.” 

That level of commitment was apparent at the DHS CRCL Chicago Quarterly Community Engagement Roundtable held at the Prayer Center of Orland Park on February 11, 2016.  Representatives from 11 federal, state and local agencies were present. The focus was on the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program, but specifically on the challenges faced by the Syrian refugees.

From Carissa Coen, Chief of Staff, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services  (USCIS) to Ngoan Le, Illinois State Refugee Coordinator, each senior government official delinquently reported on aspects of refugee settlement in the U.S. that countered some of the myths being perpetuated by fear mongers and political opportunists in recent months.  Regarding safety and security, Ms. Coen noted the intense screening that is performed by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, then the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Populations, Refugees, and Migration, which initiates the refugee application process and then refers to the Resettlement Support Centers, which collects their biographic and other information in preparation for the adjudication interview and for security interview.

The resulting shocking statistic is that there are currently nearly 60 million individuals forcibly displaced worldwide, but merely 1% of them will be granted the opportunity to resettle in another country.  The top five countries hosting the highest number of refugees are:  Pakistan, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.  The top five sources of refugees are:  Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Congo.

The overarching message from the various DHS and DOJ agencies was the assurance that staying committed to American values of providing safe shelter and hope to vulnerable populations does not mean that we have to sacrifice our own safety and well-being, no matter what the political opportunists want Americans to believe.