This August marks the 80th Anniversary of President Roosevelt’s signing the Social Security Act into law. Social Security has become a part of the fabric of American society - but to newly arrived refugees the program has a special significance.
Many refugees are “stateless” people, meaning that they are not citizens of any country. Without status or rights in any country, many refugees who come from Bhutan through Nepal, have been forbidden from working. The prohibition is part of the larger exclusion from normal society that refugees endure. For some us that may sound like a nice long vacation, “but when you’re not allowed to work for years and you have that taken away, it is wonderful to suddenly have someone say, ‘No, you’re allowed to do that here. We think that you have something to contribute,’” Alison Bell, World Relief Senior Resettlement Manager explains. “I think there’s a lot of significance in this little card. This little number in its own way says, ‘you belong here and you’re wanted and you’re one of us.’”
This card is so important that applying for it is one of the first tasks newly arriving refugees complete, with the help of WRDA staff or volunteers. Their Social Security card is one of the first official U.S. documents many of them receive. It is this document that refugees often use to prove their eligibility to work in the United States and within the first 2-3 months after arrival many World Relief clients find jobs with the help of WRDA’s employment services team.
Those first jobs allow clients to not only support themselves but provide a source of dignity and pride that many refugees had lost. Work is something that helps their own family and refugees immediately begin to contribute into the Social Security system that pays out benefits to retired pensioners, the unemployed, survivors of deceased workers, and the disabled. An article in the New York Times quotes a Social Security Administration official as saying that immigrants pay well over $15 billion annually into the Social Security system. At some future time or at retirement, refugee workers may be able to draw on those benefits, but more immediately, being part of the system and the workforce is part of belonging to the larger community.
Many refugees lost a sense of belonging through spent years in refugee camps or urban settings after being forced to flee their home country. Now in the United States and desiring to put down new roots, there is great power in a little 2”x3.5” paper card. With it, Bell adds, “we’re in a position where we can say, ‘Every American has this number. You’re here, you belong, here’s your number. You’re part of us. You get to work too.’”
I was born in 2001 in Baghdad, Iraq. At this time my father was in the Iraqi army, and he told us that the U.S. was coming to help. Saddam Hussein lied about having weapons of mass destruction so that the United States would be scared. My family was happy because they needed Saddam dead. He was not good to the Iraqi people.
We were scared because of the war. Baghdad was a dangerous place to live. The U.S. soldiers used to come into houses and take the men to jail. There were dead bodies in the streets, no water, no gas, and no power at times.
Things were not great in Baghdad because we didn’t have a lot of money. We all lived in one room and we all got sick, but we were happy because my father was with us.
My father found a better job working with his friend from school, and we found another house. We were so happy! It had a bathroom, and we could take showers. Then two years later, my father went back to the army because we needed more money. There were a lot bombs close to my house at that time. One day, bombs went off that were really close, and I was under the window when they exploded. My dad pulled me back, and almost the glass went in my face. This is why we had to move to another house. It was nice and good and we didn’t have any problems. But then we had a bigger problem.
My father was Sunni, and when he went back to the army we couldn’t say to the people that my father was in the army because they would put bombs in my house or take me or my father.
One day, my father was sitting outside and my uncle looked at him and said, “You need to get inside. If someone sees you, they’re going to shoot you!” We were all scared. If someone knocked on the door my father couldn’t open the door, just me or my mom could. He couldn’t go to the market. One day I needed a drink. I told my father, but my mom told him, “You can’t go. Please.” My grandmother had to go get me one.
At the funeral of my uncle, they tried to take my father away, but my other uncle helped him.
One day, 2 bombs were under the tank that my father was driving. They blew up, but he did not die. A month later, I was in my house, and I opened the door. I saw my father and half of his face was bleeding. He was ok, but he couldn’t hear out of his left ear.
A month after that, in 2008, my father died in the army. This is the worst thing I have ever seen in my life. We talked to him the night before, and he was planning to come home in the morning. He was going to bring two white birds home for me. He did this every month, and together we would let the birds go flying away.
At that time I knew I would not have a dad again. In the morning they called my mom and told her he died. When they told me, I was outside and needed to go to school. After that, we didn’t have dad, or money, or food, but my uncle helped us a lot.
When I was a kid I didn’t know anyone like me who didn’t have a father. Why just me? I cried and told everyone I needed my father.
In the mornings when I walked to school, I didn’t know if someone was going to take me away from my family or if a car would shoot at me, but I walked with my friends so we were not scared. People told my uncle, “Don’t worry, we are not going to kill Mohammed.” I was there, and I saw what he said. My mom was scared and worried about me. Her face it was yellow.
When my father died, a school was hard for me. After school, I got in fights with other people. I know you will say, “WHY?” I fought because they said bad words to me, so this made me fight.
I’m never going to say my friends are bad or all the people there are bad. I like Iraq very much, and the people, my friends, they are really good. If just one or two people are bad, that doesn’t mean all the country is bad. I like my uncle, and I care about my family. I need them around me. I don’t want anyone to hurt. I need to take them to a safe place.
One day my grandfather told my family about IOM (International Office for Migration). When he told us about that, we didn’t think it was real.
When we came to the U.S., it was snowing when I got out of the airplane. It was great, but the first day I couldn’t go out. I was scared about going to the school. I didn’t speak English. My sister wanted to go back to Iraq. She cried all the time.
But now I like this time. It is really good. I like my friends, and I speak English. It is hard to buy a car, though. My mom got work, and we need go step by step. We got better when my mom got her license. Thank God for this good year. Maybe we will get better and better every year.
When I came here I needed to do what my father needs me to. I told him I would be a pilot someday. I have to do this, and I need to go back to Iraq and tell him I’m a pilot. This was his dream, and all my family knows this. The last thing I need to say is thanks to all people for helping me.
Approximately six years ago, The Justice Conference was created to be a forum where people of faith could gather and discuss the world’s injustices. Now, the conference is the largest Biblical and social justice conference of its kind. Presented by World Relief, the event seeks to bring together world-class speakers, pastors, authors and artists to answer the questions: what is justice and how do I become an advocate for peace? As a global event, the conference has been held in both Hong Kong, China and Melbourne, Australia---but this year it came here to Chicago!
On June 5 & 6, individuals from around the world ascended on Roosevelt University’s Auditorium Theater in downtown Chicago to learn about the current injustices of our world. Over the course of two days, speakers invited attendees to think differently about inequality and presented a Biblical framework for how Christian faith and social justice go hand-in-hand.
Because the conference was held locally this year, several World Relief DuPage/Aurora staff members had the opportunity to attend. When asked about their experience, each felt similarly reenergized and renewed in purpose. Below are some of the highlights shared.
“After attending the conference, I feel led to make more direct connections to the refugees we serve. I’ve started by inviting a family over to my house for dinner and plan to do that with others. Not as a way to “help” them, but just as a way to make relationships and connections. I don’t feel like I can honestly do the work of “justice” without more personal relationships and experiences.”
- Liz Clinton, Education Manager, Aurora
“For me, although the word justice is currently in vogue, it still represent a timeless and key value for Christians. It is an expression of what Jesus said that he came to the earth to accomplish (Luke 4:18).”
-Zach Taylor, Employment Specialist
“I enjoyed many of the speakers, but personally I needed to hear Bob Goff’s reminder that the journey of Christians when seeking justice is not heavy-laden or a crippling burden. We must approach injustices with a heart or attitude of whimsy and joy because of the Good News we have and the source of where justice comes from.”
-Casey Barrette Children & Youth Program Manager, Aurora
The Justice Conference will once again take place in Chicago in June 2016—and registration is already open! If you would like to be a part of this live-changing experience, and receive the early registration discount, visit http://www.thejusticeconference.com/ today!
Whether refugees have never had access to dental care or just limited access, they often arrive in the U.S. with dental issues. While they receive a comprehensive medical exam, there is currently no provision for dental screening. As a result, Sue Reynolds and Malita Gardner, managers in the Education Department at World Relief in DuPage, partnered with College Church and invited the DuPage County Health Department offers free dental screenings for the students who attend ESL classes at the church those in need.
According to Beth Enke, Assistant Director of the Dental Program for DuPage County, poor oral health can lead to chronic pain, heart disease, and diabetes. And because oral health is directly related to overall health, Enke and her team regularly conduct free dental screenings for populations in need.
The dental program representatives were at the church for an entire week, and by the end of class on Friday, approximately 160 refugees received a dental screening---many for the first time. On Monday and Tuesday, the Dental Program team visited the ESL classes and educated the adults on how to care for their teeth and their children’s teeth. Then on Thursday and Friday, they examined the adults and provided information on where they can get a free cleaning. Those with a decay problem were referred to an area dentist who accepts Medicaid. Furthermore, one refugee patient was immediately scheduled to see an oral surgeon due to signs of oral cancer.
Currently, the tooth decay rate in DuPage County is 52%. “The leading reason kids miss school is tooth decay or a dental problem; therefore, the younger we can screen them the better,” said Enke. As a result, pre-school children enrolled in the WRD Early Education Program were examined along with their parents. Plus, if they were able to tolerate the exam well, they had their teeth cleaned by the Smile Squad in the mobile dental unit.
With the goal of screening nearly 6,000 DuPage County residents per year, Enke looks forward to bringing the Dental Program back to World Relief and continuing to offer free dental assistance to the refugee population in DuPage County.
Last fall, *John arrived in the U.S. as a refugee with his family---but safety was only one of the challenges his family faced. He needed to work, but his wife was struggling with a debilitating heart condition; his daughter was suffering from unstable diabetes; and his brother was confined to a wheelchair. After learning about the family’s circumstances, WRDA staff and volunteers began planning to meet their many needs.
Helping clients in complex situations requires coordination of efforts, collaboration across services and programs, involvement of the church, and community volunteer support.
The first year of resettlement is crucial in every case---especially in complicated situations. Therefore, staff across WRDA programs come together weekly to coordinate services and track client progress. The meeting is comprised of representatives from each area of service: initial resettlement, medical, education, employment, and counseling. And while the weekly meeting is not the only time for staff collaboration, it is key.
"The purpose of the case briefing meeting is to help staff coordinate and plan services, as well as communicate client progress," said Susan Sperry, Refugee Services Director.
With the goals of stability and progress toward healthy integration, the staff share information and collaborate on problem-solving. At the intervals of 3, 7 and 11 months post arrival, each household or individual case is reviewed and staff identify key areas for follow-up and service provision. Individuals or households struggling to adjust receive the benefit of a multi-tiered coordination of services.
Every case is different; therefore, the intensity of services varies too. According to Sperry, a team-based approach to case management is the most effective because refugees receive the layers of care needed to be successful in the U.S.
"The goal is to have each refugee family well-grounded by the end of the first year," said Sperry.
And while there is no exact definition for success, the vision of World Relief is to see people transformed economically, socially and spiritually, which can be understood in terms of some key benchmarks:
- The ability to pay bills, which means the individual or member of the household has a job with a steady income
- A network of support in the community, which includes friends, neighbors, churches, faith communities, and other service providers
Working together across disciplines and integrating volunteers, the team is able to address multiple and complex challenges in ways that individual workers cannot; for example, John and his family.
After securing a handicapped-accessible apartment for the family, their case manager brought together the medical coordinator and a representative from the education and employment teams. Together, the team prepared a proactive plan for stabilization and provided updates on the family’s progress during their weekly case briefing meeting. The plan was discussed with John and implemented through a combination of staff and volunteer activity designed to meet the goals of stability and progress toward healthy integration.
Within three months, John secured a job, his wife had heart surgery, both John and his daughter learned how to manage her diabetes, and the entire family was connected to volunteers from a local church.
Click here to learn more about the departments that make up Refugee Services at WRDA.
* For the protection of the client, we have changed his name to John for the purpose of retelling his story
The New Year is synonymous with a fresh start. As December draws to a close, many people commit to a resolution---often to manage their health, money, or time better. For a refugee leaving behind their home and culture, a new beginning can seem overwhelming. However, despite challenges and fears, refugees arrive in the U.S. with concrete goals for the future.
Prior to Christmas break, Karen Edwards, WRDA ESL Instructor in DuPage, gave her students a goal-setting assignment from their Step Forward 2 textbook. Students were asked to read an article about a person who wanted to become a chef, which led to a class discussion of goals and the steps required to reach the goal. Edwards decided to take the assignment further and asked the students to write a paragraph about their personal goal. And because many of the students are creative and artistic, she also asked them to draw an illustration.
“The assignment came alive when the students shared their goals during class in small groups,” said Edwards.
Sensing the students’ enthusiasm, Edwards asked if anyone wanted to come to the front of the class and be recorded on video---and several students were brave enough to do it. According to Edwards, students who shared on camera not only talked about their goals, but their dreams too!
Adil Idris Adam Ali has been in the U.S for only 11 months. Originally from the Sudan, he enjoys exploring nature and working outside. As a result, his goal is to become a geologist; however, in order to reach this goal, Adil knows that he must continue with English classes. Currently, he works third shift packaging magazines for distribution, but hopes to be moved to the first shift soon so that he can start taking classes at College of DuPage.
Maha Mohamed was resettled by WRDA approximately 18 month ago. She was working towards becoming a nurse in her home country of Sudan prior to fleeing to Egypt for safety. Today, she still dreams about becoming a nurse; therefore, she continues to attend WRDA ESL classes to improve her English. Maha’s goal is to start nursing school in three years. However, nursing is not her only goal. Due to her love of baking, Maha’s second dream is to be a chef.
Exiled from his home country of Burma, Kaw Tha Blay spent 13 years in a refugee camp prior to being resettled by World Relief in DuPage. Fortunately, Kaw was able to attend school in the camp and learn some English, but he craves more education. In fact, he wants to earn a teaching degree so that he can teach others English and how to use a computer. After experiencing so much conflict in Burma, Kaw believes that in order for people to live in peace together they must be educated; therefore, he hopes to reach his goal of becoming a teacher by the year 2030.
When Bibi Rai was just 16 years-old, he fled the Bhutan with his family for a refugee camp in Napal, where they lived for 18 years. Because his father passed away when Bibi was young, he only attended school for a couple of years because he had to help support his family. However, with little education and no understanding of English, he has landed a job, earned a driver’s license, and purchased a car. Mechanically inclined, Bibi is now working towards his goal of becoming a car mechanic. He would like to start preparing for his new career now, but knows that he must improve his English speaking and writing skills. Ideally, his dream is to start his training in the next six months.
Learning to speak, read, and write the English is the foundation to achieving any goal for a newly arrived refugee. If you would like to be a part of helping someone realize their dream by becoming an ESL tutor, contact Jamie Daling, Volunteer Services Manager, at 630-462-7566 x 1046 or email@example.com.
For those of us born in the United States, citizenship is not something we think about on a regular basis. However, for the refugee or immigrant who has fled their country due to war, oppression or violence, the pursuit of citizenship is always at the forefront because it means having a country to call home again.
In 2009, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services [USCIS] began the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program, awarding grants to immigrant-serving organizations to help them better assist permanent residents preparing for citizenship. In 2012, World Relief DuPage/Aurora [WRDA] submitted an application and was one of two Illinois organizations to receive this Federal grant.
“We were honored to receive this grant. It’s highly competitive---only 40 grants are given nationally each grant cycle,” said Karen Jealouse, WRDA Director of Education.
At the time of the announcement, the grant criteria did not allow for organizations to reapply when the grant cycle was over, which would end funding for Citizenship Classes, citizenship tutor training, and certain ILS services. However, in 2013, the guidelines were changed---allowing WRDA to reapply.
Last week, WRDA learned that the USCIS grant was renewed for another two years. The renewal means that the Immigrant Legal Services [ILS] department will be able to continue offering free services to those applying for citizenship, allocate time to more complex applications, and hire part time staff to assist with the administrative process. With regard to education, in addition to offering regular citizenship classes, the grant allows for clients with lower English skills to be served by our teachers who specialize in teaching those with little to no formal education.
Over the next two-year grant period, WRDA will be offering free citizenship classes in both DuPage and Kane counties. In addition to passing a civics test, the applicant must speak, read, and write English; therefore, the focus of each class is on helping the students gain the knowledge and tools needed to pass the naturalization interview. According to Andrea Gerhart, WRDA Education Projects Coordinator and citizenship teacher, the students come to class already internally motivated because obtaining citizenship is so important to them.
“As a teacher, my goal is to equip the students in such a way that they walk into their interview with confidence,” said Gerhart.
Former citizenship student, Sara Gomez, believes that without World Relief classes, she would not have been as prepared for her interview.
“I could have memorized the questions on my own, but I wanted to become a citizen from the inside and outside,” said Gomez.
Motivated by her two children who are citizens by birth, Gomez never missed a class because she wanted to learn all that she could about U.S. history.
“I wanted to understand how freedom was achieved and how women got the right to vote in the U.S.,” said Gomez.
Furthermore, without the commitment of attending a class, Gomez says that she may have not put aside the time every week to study.
Currently, Sara’s mother is starting the application process towards U.S. citizenship and Sara is urging her to enroll World Relief classes. Citizenship classes will begin again in October in Wheaton. For more information on these classes, contact the DuPage office at (630) 462-7660.
To review the steps to citizenship, visit www.worldreliefdupageaurora.org/citizenship-information. Or if you would like to learn about becoming a Citizenship Tutor, helping students who require help outside of class time, contact Jamie Daling, WRDA Volunteer Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 630-462-7566 x 1046.
The New Year is a time to reflect on the past and plan for the future. At World Relief, our past includes a long history of meeting humanitarian needs and serving the world’s most vulnerable. Around the globe, World Relief has faithfully served people affected by war, poverty and disaster.
This year, World Relief will honor the past and look towards the future in celebration of 35 years of refugee resettlement services in California, Georgia, Illinois and Washington--- and 70 years since World Relief was founded! As one of the original areas where refugee resettlement began in the U.S., we are doubly excited---celebrating 35 years of resettlement in DuPage and 15 years of service in Aurora!
“It is a testimony of God’s faithfulness and of the vision of these communities that World Relief has grown here and communities have been open and welcoming to refugees and immigrants,” said, Emily Gray, WRDA Executive Director.
World Relief has selected the image of a tree as the symbol for the anniversary year because of its similarity to the experience of immigrants and the World Relief local ministry. Immigrants have all been separated from their original roots and seek roots in a new place. And through the support of churches and volunteers, the roots grow deeper and stronger over time. Eventually, the immigrant becomes firmly planted—learning English, gaining new job skills and investing in the growth of their community. While some hardships are experienced along the way, similar to a sturdy tree, the immigrant is resilient and their limbs grow strong---producing much fruit.
Throughout 2014, we will observe the anniversary each month here in the newsletter with an article on our history and announcements of special anniversary opportunities. In addition, we will weave the celebration into our regular yearly events such as Refugee & Immigrant Sunday and our annual Benefit Dinner; however, our big celebration will take place in conjunction with our annual World Refugee Day Picnics. We ask that you reserve the weekend of June 20 for WRDA celebrations, which will bring together both former and current immigrant clients, volunteers, community partners and employees.
In 1979, the founders of World Relief’s ministry among refugees, Grady and Evelyn Mangham, cast a vision of hope. And by partnering with those willing to stand and welcome the stranger---many lives have been transformed over the years. While the mission of World Relief has evolved, it has never wavered from the goal of empowering the local Church to serve the most vulnerable, and to see refugees, immigrants and members of their communities become fully-functioning, integrated participants in society.
Today, WRDA is a grounded organization with many dedicated volunteers, donors and community and church partners. Over the coming year, together we will celebrate God’s faithfulness and all of the new beginnings that have been planted by WRDA and your service to the foreign-born.
A Donor’s Point of View
Bruce Barton became a World Relief donor after working on The Life Application Study Bible. After five years of working on the Bible, Bruce and his wife, Mitzie, made the decision to donate a portion of their total giving---one third to their church, one third to evangelism, and one third to the poor. At the same time, Bruce was working with Youth for Christ in Carol Stream---across the street the World Relief offices. Approximately 25 years later, the Barton’s are still faithful World Relief supporters.
“As a donor, I think we are supposed to be responsible about our giving and I feel good about giving to World Relief,” said Barton.
Barton believes that financial giving is not primarily an emotional response. While he enjoys hearing success stories about refugees getting a good job, earning citizenship, or starting a small business, those stories are not a means-to-an-end. Instead, Barton views these stories as a conformation that World Relief is doing a good job with the resources entrusted to them.
“For me, it is like watching a magician. After the first three tricks, you just start to trust the results--- and everything World Relief does backs up their promises with quality,” said Barton.
When asked about his involvement as a World Relief donor, Barton relates his commitment to the feeding of the 5,000, which is found in all four Gospels. He believes the Bible mandates that we proclaim God’s word by showing His love and concern for others.
“Jesus trained his disciples and told them to feed the people, which says to me that we too are called to serve and give physical help to others. Or in other words, continue to feed WRDA---the conduit that serves refugees,” said Barton.
Finally, when asked what he would say to a potential WRDA donor, Barton responded, “If you are moved to give to refugees then World Relief is the best place---you can count on them to handle your money well.”
Djoua Xiong came to the U.S. as a Hmong refugee from Laos to escape violence and start over in a safe place; however, God had a very specific mission for Djou.
During the mid-1970’s Djoua and his family were among the Hmong people seeking political alyssum. Upon arrival in Wheaton, his first job was as a dish washer at Wheaton College and then in the shipping department at Tyndale Publishers. Djoua adjusted to the culture and language quickly, and as a result he became a leader and advocate in the Hmong community.
Djoua was in the U.S. for a short time when he was recruited by Catholic Charities to serve as a case manager and help resettle other refugees arriving from Southeast Asia. In 1980, Djoua left Catholic Charities and accepted a position with World Relief to serve refugees being resettled throughout the Midwest. But as his family grew, Djoua wanted to be at home more; therefore, he approached World Relief with the idea of opening an office in DuPage County. His request was granted and he became the first official resettlement director for World Relief DuPage.
The DuPage office opened in 1982 with one case manager and a secretary, and together they resettled 100 refugees the first year. During his tenure as director, with the help of volunteers, Djoua and his staff resettled thousands of refugees, from approximately 20 different countries. “I would go to churches to speak and people were very sensitive to the refugees’ needs and responded,” said Djoua.
According to Djoua, during the early years churches and families would host newly arriving refugees in their homes, enroll the children in school, and run the ESL classes. When Djoua left World Relief in 2000 to serve as president and CEO of Overseas Tribal Service, Inc., the DuPage office had both a strong volunteer and Church network---and nearly 50 employees!
Some of Djoua’s accomplishments as director include: establishing local refugee churches, a summer youth program, an on-site counseling center, a senior adult program, a community garden, and a program for refugee women to sell their handmade goods.
Today, Djoua continues in his advocacy work by helping to create access for missionaries to serve the tribal people of Southeast Asia.
Update: Director’s Reflections
One of the benefits of looking back at the history of WRDA is seeing God’s faithfulness. Over the years, God has shown through as He used people like Djoua – transforming them from refugees into faithful servants who serve and advocate for others. His faithfulness has shown through people like Bruce and Mitzi, who have both lent their talents and been faithful financial supporters.
Recent events have led us at WRDA to realize how very dependent we are on God and His faithfulness through his people. Last month in this newsletter, we shared concerns about public funding that was originally designated for refugees is now being used to meet the desperate needs of unaccompanied children entering the U.S. Congress did not take action before its recess, so funding cuts to several of our refugee programs have gone into effect. This re-allocation of funds represents the largest single drop in public funding WRDA has experienced in recent years. As a result, we have scaled back several programs and we will face further reductions in October if Congress does not approve sufficient funding in the FY15 federal budget.
While this drop is dramatic, over the past several years public funding has been decreasing steadily---yet God has been faithful. Even in the face of these cuts, we believe He will again be faithful through His people. We believe that, as Bruce and Djou said so well, churches and individual donors are willing to step up to serve refugees and provide for the funds World Relief needs to continue to be a part of serving refugees, immigrants, and local churches.
I want to highlight two ways that you can be a part of helping us meet current challenges:
- On Friday, September 26 WRDA will host its annual benefit dinner at Piper’s Banquets. This is always an important event for us, but never more than this year in light of these funding cuts. It will be an inspiring evening of seeing how God has worked in the lives of immigrants and volunteers, as well as hearing a special message from Evelyn Mangham, one of the co-founders of World Relief’s Refugee Ministry 35 years ago. You can help to fill the hall with supporters, friends, churches and sponsors. Tickets are available now. Click here for more information.
- We are 2/3 of the way toward our goal of raising $15,000 to meet a challenge grant of another $15,000 from the IDP Foundation for teaching Job Readiness ESL, which prepares refugees for jobs in the U.S. The deadline for this match is fast approaching, so if you are willing to help us reach this goal, click here and choose “Help a Child or Adult Learn English” to designate your gift to this match. Or, for more information, contact Bill Janus at email@example.com.
I ask you to pray for immigrants coming to our communities, to pray for the Church to rise up to welcome immigrants in the name of Jesus, and pray for us here at World Relief as we endeavor to do what God places before us each day. I hope to see you in September!
Emily B. Gray, LCSW
When *Qing’s mom got the opportunity to leave China in 1994 and study in the United States she was faced with a difficult decision. Her student visa did not allow her to work in the U.S., so she had to leave little Qing behind in China with family. At first Qing’s mother was fortunate, after completing her studies she was offered a job and granted a work visa. As a result, five years later, Qing’s mom was able to reunite the family by bringing Qing to Chicago.
Qing did well in school and adjusted to the new culture quickly. Although she was from a different country, her upbringing in the suburbs of Chicago was similar to her classmates----until she turned 12-years-old. In 2001, Qing and her mother learned that their attorney missed the filing deadline to renew their visas---leaving them undocumented and without a remedy. Without legal status, Qing’s life changed considerably.
As she got older, she was not able to attain milestones like her peers. She could not get a driver’s license, work, or attend college. Qing and her mom faced the possibility of deportation every day, even though life in the U.S. was virtually all Qing had ever known.
In May of 2003, the Illinois House Bill 60 opened-up new educational opportunities for undocumented students after high school. As a result, Qing was able to attend and graduate from one of Chicago’s top universities; however, she was not able to pursue a career---until August 2012.
On June 15, 2012, President Obama issued a memo calling for pro-active deferral of deportation for certain young people who were brought to the U.S. as children. The executive order, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA, allows children who meet specific criteria to apply for a type of permission to be in the United States for two-years. While it is not a path to permanent residency or citizenship, if the applicant is accepted, he or she can get a Social Security number, and Employment Authorization Card, and obtain a Driver’s License---depending on the state.
When Qing heard about the DACA program she wasted no time gathering all of the required records that she would need for her application. And upon being accepted into the DACA program, she landed a job in her field.
“Now I have the ability to contribute to the country where I was raised and be self-sufficient, “said Qing.
Furthermore, DACA gave Qing the opportunity to apply for “Advance Parole” giving her permission to travel to China to visit aging family members, with an approval for re-admittance back into the U.S. Because DACA is a two-year authorization, Qing is currently in the process of renewing her application, but hopes for the opportunity to become an American citizen one day.
Camilia Rubiano has a similar story. She was just six-years-old when she was brought to the United States from Colombia. According to Camilia, as a kid her legal status was never an issue because kids don’t talk about citizenship; they just treat each other the same.
During her sophomore year in high school, her mom heard about DACA and encouraged her daughter to look into it---this was the first time she realized that she was undocumented.
“This was the first time I understood why having a Social Security number mattered,” said Camilia.
Camilia applied and was accepted for DACA in 2012 and is also in the process of renewing her application. With DACA she was able to obtain a driver’s license and a work permit. Currently, she is studying towards a nursing degree at College of DuPage and working two jobs to support herself. Although DACA has provided opportunities, Camilia would like to be a U.S. citizen and have a voice as a voter. And while she would like to visit Colombia one day, she considers the U.S. her home.
*For the protection of our client, we have changed her name to Qing for the purpose of retelling her story.
Click here to learn more about DACA and the DACA renewal process. To schedule an appointment with Immigrant Legal Services call 630-462-7660 for the Wheaton office and 630-264-3171 for the Aurora office.
Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Because DACA is an executive order and not a law; it can be revoked at any time. According to the Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition of evangelical leaders, the only true remedy is for immigration law to be reformed to meet the current realities of our country. As a partner organization, World Relief believes that our national immigration laws have created a moral, economic and political crisis; therefore, our nation’s leaders need to work with the American people to pass immigration reform that: respects the God-given dignity of every person; protects the unity of the immediate family; respects the rule of law; guarantees secure national borders; ensures fairness to taxpayers; and establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents. Click here to learn more about the Evangelical Immigration Table and how you can take a stand for comprehensive immigration reform.