What is a Refugee?

Holy Trinity Parish has been a strong support to the refugee ministry that happens at Mary’s Place on Lexington Avenue in the city. What follows is a Q & A published by Mary’s Place which I think is well researched and even handed. I hope you find it helpful. Holy Trinity will continue to support the works of Mary’s Place.

Fr. Tim

Things we should all know about Refugees in Rochester.

As you know, Mary’s Place, a ministry of the Cathedral Community, has been serving refugees in northwest Rochester since 2009. The recent suspension of U.S. refugee admissions for at least several months, has caused anxiety in the refugee community and deep concern among our parishioners.

Below we have answered some of the most frequent questions about the refugee situation and Mary’s Place, located in the former Holy Rosary Church on 414 Lexington Avenue.

What is the difference between an immigrant and a refugee?

An immigrant is any person living permanently in a foreign country. In recent years approximately 1 million authorized immigrants have entered the United States annually. Authorized immigrants arrive with Visas and have or acquire “green cards,” which prove they have the right to live and work here as permanent residents.

An undocumented immigrant arrives without a visa or official permission to reside here. Estimates put the number of undocumented immigrants at about 11 million nationwide, but that number has stabilized in recent years.

Refugees are people driven from their home countries by war, persecution and violence. Their status must be certified by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, which determines that they would face persecution, even death, if returned to their home countries. There are no “illegal” refugees here; they are resettled with the support and assistance of the United States Government.

How many refugees are settled in Rochester every year, and where do they come from?

In recent years, between 700 and 750 refugees have come to Rochester annually, but that total spiked to nearly 1,200 in 2016. (Since 1980, more than 15,000 refugees have been settled in Rochester.) Rochester’s newest refugees have come from Burma, Nepal, Sudan, Somalia, Congo, Syria and several other countries.

Do refugees represent a terrorist threat?

No. Since 9/11, 800,000 refugees have been admitted to the United States. Sources differ slightly, but agree that just two to five refugees have been charged with attempting to provide support for a terrorist organization. None have been charged with carrying out a terrorist act.
How are refugees vetted before they come to the United States?

After a lengthy investigation by the United Nations to determine refugee status, those designated for resettlement in the United States, are interviewed multiple times and cross-checked against numerous data bases and watch lists by the Departments of State, Homeland Security, Defense and the FBI. This already “extreme vetting” practice takes 18 to 24 months and has clearly been effective in denying admission to refugees who might pose a threat.

Does the U.S., as President Trump says, give preference to Muslim refugees over Christians?

Absolutely not. In 2016, 46 percent of incoming refugees were Muslim, while 44 percent were Christians – a small difference. But, last year was the first since 2006, according to the Pew Research Center, when Muslims outnumbered Christians among refugees.