October 3, 2016 – by Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
The head of a Reno nonprofit, which is bringing 75 refugees to the Reno area in the next year as part of a U.S. State Department program, said Monday that she holds little hope for comprehensive immigration reform in Congress and fears for the U.S. refugee resettlement program if Republican Donald Trump is elected president.
“I’m not so optimistic if Mr. Trump gets elected,” said Carina Black, executive director of the Northern Nevada International Center. “There is potential for drastic changes in the program.”
Black’s comments came during the Nevada Newsmakers TV program Monday. As for immigration reform, Black added: “President Obama tried for eight years and was not able to pass it. So I am not very confident that either one of the next (presidential) candidates are going to be more successful.”
The United States is the world’s top resettlement country for refugees, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
Trump has said some Syrian refugees could possibly be connected to the Islamic State (ISIS). But those in support of refugee resettlement programs have not countered those ideas successfully, Black said.
“The current political climate doesn’t help this debate,” Black said. “The refugee resettlement community .. perhaps what they have not done correctly is to explain to the American community that we have been successful resettling refugees for about 35 years.”
Las Vegas has been resettling refugees for 35 years, Black said.
“The United States resettles more refugees than any other country,” Blacks said. “We have 3.2 million people that have been resettled but the public doesn’t know about it, so it is really hard for them. They think it is new program and they think it is a program in response to what is happening in Syria. So I think they are misinformed with what resettlement actually is.”
Legal refugee resettlement is much more controlled in the United States, Black said, than in European nations, where it is also a hot political topic.
“In getting to the vetting process, there is not vetting process in European countries,” Black said on Nevada Newsmakers. “Refugees (in Europe) try to get to the place where they want to be, resettling themselves. But the process is not an official process. So the Europeans are accepting a lot more.”
“The United States has a more orderly process, one that has federal regulations attached to every single step,” Black said.
Most of the current refugees in the United States come from two war-torn nations — the Congo and Syria, according to federal data.
The United States admitted 16,370 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo during the 2016 fiscal year to the end of September, compared to 12,587 Syrian refugees, according to data released Monday by the U.S. Department of State.
“The Congolese and Syrian refugees are at the top of the list of people who urgently need to be resettled and have a huge need for some stability,” Black said.
“In the Congo, the refugees we have now have have been fleeing the conflict for 16 years so they have been in another country, in this case, Uganda, for a long time,” Black said. “The Syrian refugees basically have had five years of conflict and they have gone to every country around Syria — Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt and they have a huge need.”
When refugee families are resettled in Reno, the change and be “shell shock” for them, Black said.
“We have a young Syrian family and a three-year-old boy and they have gone through some extreme trauma,” Black said. “The dad was in a bomb blast and he has shrapnel in his whole body and doesn’t have any movement in his arm. The family, when they arrived at the airport, they couldn’t even smile, they were so afraid of what was awaiting them.
“But it has been amazing,” Black said. “In just a week, they have been embraced by some Moroccans and by the community. Now, when they walk into our office, they have big smiles on their face and the (little) boy runs around our office. And every day he comes into our office, he knows three or four more English words. So it is an amazing rapid transformation. For the Congolese kids that have been here for a week, they are in elementary, middle and high school and they are adapting so fast that it is fascinating.”
Watch this episode of Nevada Newsmakers here.