I’m proud and grateful that World Refugee Day was a great success! We welcomed nearly 30 former refugees, all of them now community leaders, who traveled to Washington, D.C. to call for a strong U.S. refugee resettlement program as part of immigration reform.
The delegates shared their personal stories of courage and determination during meetings with over 30 congressional offices on Capitol Hill on June 20. One delegate, Omar Bah of Rhode Island, was even able to meet personally with his state’s entire congressional delegation. Their engagement in the democratic process in Washington and in their new hometowns testifies to how much our country benefits from welcoming refugees.
“I’m grateful and feel honored to be invited to participate in the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service leadership team that’s visiting the U.S. Capitol to advocate on behalf of the thousands of refugees not only in the country, but the whole world, and for the United States to continue to support us venerable people,” Los Angeles resident and former refugee James Payveh told our staff during the day of visits.
Here is what a few of our refugee leaders had to say about their experiences and motivations:
“It is important to me that I live in a small town, which is one square mile. Called Clarkston, it is the most diverse city in the country; we have about 60 different nationalities with 26 different languages. We are very active in the city and we are doing our best to develop Clarkston as a welcoming place for our community and newcomers.” said Atlanta resident Basmat Ahmed. “It’s incredibly critical that America continue to show the kind of human rights leadership that made it possible for me and other families to escape genocide and other persecution.”
“Living here has allowed me to follow my passion and dream: becoming a full-time designer with my own clothing line, and sharing my knowledge with the community. I’m blessed to be able to use my talents to raise funds for local charitable organizations and give back to my community,” said Brooklyn Park, Minnesota resident Joyce Cooper.
Several of the leaders who visited Capitol Hill were prominently featured in their hometown papers. The Providence Journal covered the advocacy of Omar Bah; the Grand Forks Herald featured Hussan Al-Kayali; the Ft. Wayne News-Sentinel ran a story on Rev. Yohannes Mengsteab; and multiple Vietnamese-American media sources covered our Walk of Courage Award recipient, Chris Phan.
On behalf of LIRS, I want to say “many, many thanks” to all the leaders who made World Refugee Day a success!