Delmarva's Congressional Delegation Weighs in on Refugees - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Delmarva's Congressional Delegation Weighs in on Refugees

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Sen. Chris Coons appears on MSNBC to talk about Syrian refugees Sen. Chris Coons appears on MSNBC to talk about Syrian refugees

DOVER, Del. (WBOC) - Dozens of governors, including Maryland's Gov. Larry Hogan, have refused to have Syrian refugees settled in their states in the wake of last week's terrorist attack in Paris. Whether that refusal is legal is up for debate.

Some congressional Republicans are asking for a "pause" in resettlements.

On Wednesday morning, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, talked about the refugee issue on MSNBC.

"We need to do our homework and have a responsible, bipartisan conversation about what is the refugee screening policy, what are the weaknesses or threats that we now need to assess in light of this Paris attack," he said.

Coons added adequately funding and supporting the Department of Homeland Security is essential to ensure people are properly vetted.

Many Republicans have expressed concerns about how well that vetting actually works, including Rep. Andy Harris, R-Maryland, who represents the Eastern Shore.

"We don't have the ability to figure out who is here to do us harm and who isn't," Harris told Baltimore CBS affiliate WJZ. "If this administration doesn't set up that capability, then we should never take immigrants from areas of the world where people want to do us harm. This is one of those areas of the world."

The Obama administration doesn't seem to be backing off its plan to admit 10,000 more Syrian refugees into the US.

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, said he wants to look at the refugee program.

"What I want to make sure as far as America is concerned, that any person who is a foreign fighter trained by terrorists, that we know who they are, and if they attempt to come into our country, that they are apprehended and arrested before they can do harm," he said.

The House will vote Thursday on legislation designed to increase screenings for Syrian and Iraqi refugees looking to enter the United States. The bill avoids religious screening and a complete end to the country's refugee program.

Federal officials say 31 refugees have been resettled in Maryland so far. Gov. Jack Markell, D-Delaware, said three families have ended up in the First State over the past year or so.

Wednesday WBOC spoke with the CEO of Jewish Family Services of Delaware, Dory Zatuchni. The organization handles refugee settlement in the First State. WBOC asked Zatuchni about how it works.

1. What is the resettlement process like for refugees, and what services are available to them? 
JFS' Émigré Program's case manager typically meets face-to-face with refugee families at least twice a month and touches base by phone up to ten times a week on average in order to personally speak with every member of the family.  Meetings and phone calls often take place on weeknights or weekends to accommodate the refugee’s work and/or school schedule.  The case manager will meet with clients and their potential or current employers in order to improve job retention as well as the administration or teachers at schools that their children attend.

As can be expected, it is easier for refugee families with some level of English proficiency and adults with a good education to assimilate to an American way of life.  However, most clients have minimal English language proficiency.  These émigrés require more intensive case management.  Those with low English language proficiency are referred to ESL programs and connected with other people who have immigrated from the same home country or area to help their transition.  

The case manager connects émigrés to Employment and Training vendors and visits potential and current employers in order to advocate for the client, mediate problems that may arise, and provide cultural orientations for both the client and the employer – all with the intent of improving job retention.  After one year in the program, clients will be employed or in the process of obtaining employment training or English language instruction, unless they are exempt from the Work Requirement as described above.  Some may have their driver’s license and their own private car and insurance – this is particularly important in Sussex County where the majority of émigré clients live and where public transportation options are minimal.  

After one year in the program, members of the refugee family will know how to navigate their community and other parts of the state and how to accomplish certain basic things for themselves without needing much help or support from the program.  Those who did not know how to speak English prior to entry into the United States will be able to communicate informally or formally in English.  They will also understand many laws and regulations such as traffic rules, filing tax returns, drunk driving and various common violations.

Families with school aged children will learn how to interact with the public and/or charter school(s) that their children attend.  The case manager will assist them in attending parents-teachers meeting, taking their children for vaccinations, and applying for educational opportunities.  Refugees will gain an understanding of the United States credit market and how to guide against predators etc.  Some may have started the process of buying a home, or may have already bought a modest home.  Others may have engaged in a short-term training program, especially in health care related fields/areas where we have encouraged many refugee families to focus considering the availability and retention levels of jobs in the industry.  

2. How does the process work, and how long does it generally take?
Typically, for a single refugee adult, JFS begins by conducting an intake within ten days of the refugee client’s referral from any of the statewide Social Services Centers. This intake is designed to capture all of the basic data and other pertinent information about the client, which then guides our program staff regarding the immediate and long-term needs of the client.

Based on the data and information gathered through the intake process, JFS works with the client to develop an initial customized self-sufficiency plan.  This is typically completed within one to two weeks after the intake.  The self-sufficiency plan outlines specific goals based on the refugee’s needs with focus to and priority on employment and acclimation.  

Once the self-sufficiency plan has been completed, all clients receive a mandatory referral for medical screening as well as for employment and training opportunities. These referrals are necessary and are completed for all clients, but are mandatory requirements for individual refugees who are receiving Refugee Cash Assistance from social services as well as Able-Body Refugee Adults receiving food stamps benefits. These referrals are designed, in part, to help clients fulfill any work requirements tied to their financial support while at the same time helping the client become more economically self-sufficient.  Additionally, if the refugee client is English language deficient and has problems comprehending the Employment and Training vendor’s program, then we find an alternative program such as English as Second Language.  

JFS also provides all clients with:  1) an immediate job referral; 2) employment support assistance; and, 3) a monthly face-to-face visit to the client’s residence to provide additional care management support.   The care management we provide includes but is not limited to ensuring that the client has proper identification, following up on simple things like obtaining Work Authorization, driver’s license or state ID etc. to address a host of domestic needs.  As this process unfolds, we also initiate job search contacts with various employers based on the client’s capabilities, education and skills, as needed.\

3. How is JFS involved in assisting refugees?
Jewish Family Services of Delaware (JFS) has resettled immigrants since the agency’s inception in 1898. Services offered then included acculturation, shelter, financial assistance and education. In 1988, the agency’s Émigré Services Department was created to accommodate a significant increase in refugees arriving from the former Soviet Union. Since then, the agency has successfully resettled over four hundred refugees from countries such as Bosnia, Egypt, Serbia-Croatia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sierra Leone, Syria, Guinea, Iran, Vietnam, Liberia, Russia, Ukraine and China.

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