On the Frontlines and in the Field

Posted on May 16, 2019 by Catholic Charities Admin  |  Share

Kelly Agnew Barajas Shares Her Firsthand Witness to the Growing Refugee Crisis

Kelly Agnew Barajas, our director of refugee resettlement at Catholic Charities NY, recently spoke about her witness to the current refugee crisis. Please check out her firsthand insights:

By Kelly Agnew Barajas, Director of Refugee Resettlement, Catholic Charities NY

Refugee Resettlement used to be considered a non-partisan humanitarian program which had broad support from both political parties and was viewed as a symbol of our country’s leadership internationally, as well as a way to encourage other nations to share the responsibility of refugee protection.

All of that has changed dramatically. The rhetoric has become one which encourages fear of the “other” and criminalization of the very people fleeing terror and seeking safety here.

We’ve witnessed the systematic dismantling of the infrastructure used to resettle refugees. At the end of 2016 the US resettled 85,000 refugees. In the first half of this current fiscal year, less 8,000 refugees have been admitted – putting us on track to welcome fewer than 20,000 refugees. 

What’s more we’ve faced increasing efforts to curb asylum seekers – deterrence measures seem to have been cooked up to be as cruel and inhumane as possible and most notably have included forcible separations of children – some of who were too little to have language – from their mothers and fathers.

I want to highlight one bright spot though – which is that volunteers and groups are not letting this stand. Every day I get calls from neighborhood groups, synagogues, mosques, college clubs – they are all horrified by what they see and hear and want to find ways to help that are concrete. I got a call from a Sunday school teacher wanting to have her 5-year-old students make welcome cards for our clients. These efforts lift our spirits and help us go on.

Catholic Charities is dedicated to helping refugees and other victims who must flee their countries to escape violence and persecution.  This complicated, comprehensive work often involves fragile survivors. Case managers and job trainers help them learn English, find work, and make a new home.  We also help families and individuals navigate the complicated government rules and applications needed to start a new life.

If you are or know a refugee needing assistance contact Catholic Charities for help.

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Goshen, NY

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