Welcoming Refugees to Lane County

The Refugee Resettlement Coalition of Lane County (RRCLC) is a coalition of faith-based groups, service organizations, and people from the Eugene-Springfield community coordinating with Catholic Community Services of Lane County (CCS) to welcome and support refugees resettling in Lane County. The all-volunteer RRCLC has provided support to local refugees since May 2016.

The refugees who have been settled here are part of a program that seeks to reunite refugees with family members and friends already living in this country. CCS manages the local program as part of the national refugee resettlement program administered by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops/Migration & Refugee Service. CCS provides case management support, and works in tandem with the RRCLC to set these families on the path toward English-language fluency, employment, cultural acclimatization, and self-sufficiency. As a practical sign of self-sufficiency, refugees are required to reimburse the State Department for the full cost of their plane tickets to this country.

All refugees who arrive in this country have undergone an extensive vetting process that involves the United Nations, multiple federal agencies, and biographical and biometric information. The process entails 20 steps, with two additional steps for Syrian refugees. The average time for a refugee to complete the U.S. government’s screening process is 18 to 24 months. This screening process has prevented individuals with ties to terrorism from entering the United States.

Since President Trump signed executive orders banning refugees from entering the United States (in January and March 2017), the number of refugees entering the country has plummeted, despite the fact that federal courts have blocked the 120-day ban, according to groups working with refugees, a report by the Pew Research Center, and an analysis of government figures by USA Today.

“The orders reflect and foster a fear of refugees that is misguided and misplaced,” according to Tom Mulhern, executive director of CCS, and Christine Zeller-Powell, facilitator of the RRCLC. “The existing screening process has successfully safeguarded American citizens and American interests for decades, and there is no evidence to suggest that this process needs to be made more ‘extreme.’ During the current global refugee crisis, the United States should be accepting more refugees, as we have done in response to past refugee crises, rather than restricting admissions.”

The Refugee Resettlement Coalition remains ready to receive new refugees; until that time, the RRCLC is focusing on advocacy and community education.

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