Current News about New Americans
by Volunteer Coordinator Debra Morris Smith
One week into the president’s executive order halting refugee resettlement for four months, we have seen a few exceptions to the order for people who were already on their way to the US, for whom going back would be too great a hardship, and who are not from any of the seven countries named in the order. Most of the legal action in response to the order seems to have been on behalf of people with green cards or visas, and my understanding was that the few refugees who received a waiver would arrive this week. So we have no expectation of seeing new refugee arrivals until May 27th or after, but you never know! We did have seven people arrive this week, all but one with family ties already here in St. Louis. We are not sure how the order’s effect on visas will play out for our expected arrivals who worked with the US Army in Afghanistan; since it’s not one of the seven banned countries and they do have visas, we think they might possibly still be able to enter the US during the moratorium on refugee arrivals.
Here’s what’s happening in the areas where we have regular volunteers:
Workforce Solutions Mock Interviews
Workforce Solutions goes on working with our clients far beyond the resettlement period, so our volunteers doing mock interviews should plan to continue their regular shifts for the foreseeable future.
The last of our regular home visits started this week for clients who arrived last week before the executive order. We are considering asking home visitors to check in on clients who are in their second or third month in STL, and possibly make visits to people who are newly employed. In these cases, there would be some sort of rubric or lesson or video to share with the refugees. If you would be interested in that sort of visits, let me know, and I’ll keep you in the loop as we work out what would be most helpful.
Apartment Setups and Grocery Shopping
So many of you have been so faithful in creating homes as pleasant as possible from the meager furnishing we provide our new arrivals. I’m especially sad that I won’t be seeing you arriving in teams ready for whatever curves the Housing Department pitches to you. If and when there’s anything to set up, I will send an email to all of you.
This week I’d like the babysitters to come as usual. There may not be children, but I think there might – we often have things to do with clients after the first week that should already have been done but were missed, and enhanced orientation will continue for several weeks for the people who arrived after mid-January. I’m talking with our Education Department about offering ‘bridge’ babysitting for students whose children aren’t in daycare quite yet, so if we can work that out and it seems worthwhile, there may be a big push for daily babysitting.
Current administrative support volunteers will have work at least for a while. If what you’re doing is all caught up, there are more things to do, and since you all know Penelope and various other parts of our system, Shatha and Kathy look forward to having your help with a variety of exciting computer tasks.
WHAT WE NEED
How flexible are you? For the time being, I am looking for volunteers who could be here 9-12 or 1-3 (or 9-3, or perhaps some other constellation of hours) once a week or more, doing a variety of things TBD. Wednesday through Friday, if our upstairs lobby stays busy, we need a greeter during those hours. There are some administrative support jobs that you can learn quickly (like scanning documents). Caseworkers love to ask “do you have someone who can do a bus training?” at the moment they have a client who needs that – we’d teach you to do it, of course. You might help clients go through a stack of mail and determine what is important and what is trash. You might walk with clients to the bank or the post office or library. If nothing else, we’ll continue to sort and organize in the supply room and the store. Please let me know if you would like to come join in whatever is going on and what times you’d be available.
Thank You for Advocacy!
Many thanks to all of you who have called elected or emailed officials, marched and protested, put out yard signs, or simply tried to provide information people you know who misunderstand refugee resettlement and the vetting process. If you are hungry for more action or education, here are some things you can do or read:
Know Your Rights presentations by the MICA Project (in Spanish):
These [Migrant and Immigrant Community Action Project] presentations are aimed at migrants and other immigrants and will be in Spanish, but any member of the community is welcome to attend for information or in solidarity.
A Washington Post Story About Vetting Refugees
The Full Text of the Executive Order on Immigration
Thank you, everyone, for your kind hearts, generous spirits, and unwavering support for refugees and the International Institute. Don’t hesitate to be in touch if you have a response to any of this.
Debra Morris Smith
Volunteer Coordinator, Client Services
International Institute of St. Louis