Panel discussion on political concerns of refugees and immigrants

On Tuesday April 4, Daemen students and members of the public gathered in the Wick Social Room to take in a comprehensive panel discussion, where several speakers outlined their work with refugee and immigrant communities.


Founder and chief medical officer of Jericho Road Community Health Center Dr. Myron Glick, began the discussion by expressing a belief in “two over-arching principles” relevant to all individuals including; “healthcare as a basic human right” and a view that “every life has intrinsic meaning.”


Glick talked in depth about his involvement with the Vive refugee shelter.  He added that before the election the shelter housed between “80 and 120 refugees.”  After the election the shelter was “pushing 200 refugees.”  This led to the opening of another cite and work with local churches.


Glick spoke specifically about the issue of healthcare.  Issuing concerns about the recent Republican led proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare).  He warned that a potential “assault on Medicare” would be problematic to individual’s access to treatment and medication.


Executive Director of Journey’s End Refugee Service Karen Scott (J.D.), pointed to the importance of understanding who refugees are and what they go through.  She mentioned several necessary factors are necessary for an individual to acquire the refugee title.  One necessary factor is that an individual would have to be “facing persecution from their own country” to be considered a refugee.


Scott continued adding that Journey’s End Refugee Service “brings refugee’s to the US through a formal process taking typically 18-24 months.”


She argues that refugee resettlement helps are US relations with allies, and drives local economies. She says, “the percent of refugees opening their own business is greater than native born individuals.” Karen also points out the economic impact that occurs when refugees “become homeowners.”


Furthermore, she mentioned the adverse effects that have come along with a few of President Trumps executive orders that have pertained to immigrants and refugees. She claims that the recent orders have helped to deter what was previously a “good dialogue” between immigration enforcement agencies and local advocates and attorneys for refugees and undocumented immigrants.


Expert on counter-terrorism and human rights Julia hall (J.D.) weighed in on the debate first by discussing the evolution of the public’s view of refugees.  Saying, people used to view the refugee issue in terms of “humanitarian response” and now many see the refugees as a “threat to security.”


She dove deeper into the political aspect of the issue accusing president Trump of “spiking fear” in the public by “equating particularly Muslim refugees and terrorists.”


She talked about the broader context of the political opinions of refugees, Discussing the increased resentment and violence against of refugees “all over Europe.” She says that leader’s rhetoric and policies have “emboldened” people to commit violent acts against, and exclude refugees.  The Counter-terrorism expert cites Poland where they have “refused to take any refugees.”


Hall closed her remarks by stressing the importance of everyone “to think of ourselves as citizens of the world.”


Social justice and civil rights activist Julie Algubani talked about her work to help refugee groups with legal aid.  For example, last week she was on the phone with a refugee and a translator.  The refugee did not how her child support card worked, because of her language barrier. Algubani, a paralegal, was able to help the refugee resolve the matter and gain access to the financial resource that she was entitled to and that would help her put food on the table.


Algubani emphasized language barriers and other factors that can alienate the refugee population.  She was raised in Erie County around a diverse set of neighbors who were Italian and Polish among other backgrounds. It confuses her why so many people find it hard to accept refugees and immigrants from other places given the diverse family ties that most Americans have to various ethnicities and countries.


She mentioned another story depicting cultural barriers. Saying, “when she was out with her friends who spoke Arabic, they stopped talking Arabic when they got to the restaurant because they were afraid someone would call ICE.”


She urged community conversation, pointing to a rally the organized in Columbus park to protest Trumps executive order. An individual at the rally told Julie that it was the first time they felt they could say what they wanted to since they came to the states.


Algubani closed her time and the event by telling the crowd to take their education and utilize it going forward.  A line that was consistent with theme of activism to which was echoed by each speaker.

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