Young Adult and Campus Ministry

Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Services of Atlanta + Some: Willie Goforth, Diocese of Olympia

November 10, 2014
Young Adult and Campus Ministries

1. I am thinking of two numbers. (They are between 1 and 1000.) Guess what they are!

The first number is 90. The second number is 900.

Federal law stipulates that a refugee will be tracked by an approved social services organization for 90 days after their arrival in the U.S. Additionally a family unit receives $900 per person to pay for housing etc. when they arrive.

90 days, 900 dollars.

2. There is a tendency in U.S. culture to imagine Refugee as a comprehensive and undifferentiated identity. This attitude reflects an unwillingness to see the complexity of human experience. It reflects a failure. We were reminded today that the refugee experience is different for people that come from Burma than it is for people who come from Somaliland. It is different for a refugee who speaks English than it is for a refugee who does not speak English. It is different for a refugee who resettles with a family (or who resettles to join a family) than it is for a refugee who resettles alone. It is different for a refugee who has spent a decade or more in a refugee camp than it is for a refugee who is able to resettle more quickly. Today we met people who were refugees and also parents, children and siblings, working professionals, students, teachers, people of religious faith, or not. There were more stories than these, but we didn’t hear all of them today.

3. Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Services of Atlanta (RRISA) is a place where cultures collide: 28 languages are regularly spoken at this office; refugees come from all over the world. Today we met a former journalist from Iraq, a college student from Bhutan, an AmeriCorps volunteer, heard the story of a soccer coach and organizer from Jordan, a case worker from Somalia, a co-sponsorship organizer from Alabama (he connects refugees with church communities that help set up housing and provide an informal support system during the initial period of resettlement) and were introduced to at least fifteen more people.

4. “I think that, in general, it is better for a refugee to stay in a camp than to resettle. If you stay in the camp, you have the opportunity to return home. Some people hope that their life will be better if they resettle, and other people hope that the problems in their home country will end.” This is one of the complex and seemingly paradoxical statements I heard today. When we were discussing the experiences of the day, my new friend Marco said, “I think that part of growing up is realizing that sometimes you have to choose between one kind of tragedy and another kind of tragedy.”

5. Next, a non-rhetorical question to discuss in comments: How would you define the difference between a refugee and an immigrant, and why? What if the immigrant is undocumented?

6. If this seems a bit fragmented, it’s because it is! I’m still on Pacific Standard Time! Today we were all over the place: at our hotel, at RRISA, at lunch at a refugee owned and operated restaurant, back at RRISA, at a farmer’s market, and back at the hotel for more reflection and Compline.

Two quick shout-outs to Dan Trudeau from Episcopal Migration Ministries and to the Rev. Kimberly Jackson from Absolom Jones Episcopal Center! Y’all are great!

Filed under: Refugee Resettlement

The Rev. Shannon Kelly

Director of Faith Formation and Officer for Young Adult and Campus Ministries

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