The refugee program suspension has been lifted with a federal judge ruling to block the second executive order on refugees. We are encouraged by this ruling and our ability to continue serving people fleeing unimaginable circumstances. Unfortunately, the ruling does not affect the stipulation that reduces the number of refugee arrivals from 110,000 to 50,000. We know this means that there are still 60,000 people who the US was prepared to receive, but will no longer be offering the protections of resettlement this year.
Because of the cuts, we will be receiving only a maximum of 68 more refugees(208 less than anticipated) through the end of the fiscal year (Oct 1st). This drop in incoming refugees has also resulted in a drop in incoming funding as World Relief Chicago is partially funded through a government grant based on the number of refugees we resettle. We’ve had to cut personnel and many of the remaining staff must fulfill multiple roles. Even still, we are determined to continue actively standing in the gap for the vulnerable and there are many ways we can accomplish this despite the cuts.
While we are receiving fewer new families, there is still a lot to be done. Resettlement doesn’t end at the airport. Most refugee families come with only a few suitcases, some even less than that. They’ve been through hell and back. While they’re excited to finally have a stable roof over their head, US culture and customs are a whole new set of hurdles. In order to help ensure a successful transition, our case managers are working with refugees to help them heal, adjust and build a foundation for their new life. Our teams of volunteer good neighbors are also coming alongside the families, showing them around, and being that first network of friends where they can find community. Last fall, we had a large influx of incoming families. There is still a lot to be done in helping our refugees successfully acclimate to their new home.
Refugees arrive with varying levels of English proficiency. Learning to communicate means the difference between confidently traversing the CTA or being homebound, getting hired or being unemployed, helping their kids with homework or being excluded. Our English teachers are busy providing intensive, life-skills English language training for newly arrived refugees and immigrants. We also have volunteers partnering with individual refugees for additional, one-on-one, in-home tutoring.
Self-sufficiency is always our goal in refugee resettlement. Landing a good job is a critical factor in making that happen. With last fall’s influx of refugees, our employment staff faced a challenge: finding everyone jobs during a low hiring season. Many refugees ended up in what we call “survival jobs” – which helped them make ends meet through the winter, but were not enough to support their families long-term. As the weather warms up and businesses start hiring again, our employment staff is looking to help place these refugees in more stable work environments.
Through Legal Services
Immigration law is always tricky to understand, especially if you’re a newcomer to the US. Our legal services team is hard at work providing, professional, compassionate and affordable immigration-related legal assistance to low-income immigrants and refugees. Particularly in these last few weeks, as the US has undergone several rounds of changes in visa and immigration practice, many families have turned to us to help them understand their rights.
Over the last couple months, we’ve been mobilizing staff to spread awareness of refugee needs. Churches and community groups are requesting World Relief Chicago representatives to come speak on refugee issues. We always value these opportunities to be a voice for those who have none and to call the Chicago community to join us in actively standing in the gap for the vulnerable.