The following story appeared in the March 25 Idaho Catholic Register.
Elaine Frost, front, and her mother, Emma, with Luke Kurby of Dell's Appliance. Elaine led the effort to secure donations for a washer and dryer for a refugee family. (Courtesy photo/ Catholic Charities of Idaho)
By Doug Alles and Donna Malone For the Idaho Catholic Register
POCATELLO – In December 2021, Catholic Charities of Idaho began resettling Afghan refugees in Pocatello. Some 15 cases that involve 26 people have been processed and a second phase of arrivals is expected this spring.
Currently, 62,000 of the 76,000 Afghan refugees brought to the United States have been resettled across the country, most notably in California, Washington, Arizona, Texas and Virginia.
Refugee resettlement is an extraordinarily busy and demanding task – and also extraordinarily rewarding!
Before greeting refugees at the airport, CCI staff have already arranged temporary housing, stocked the refrigerator with food and provided a culturally appropriate hot meal for them to enjoy when they arrive. That same day or evening of arrival CCI provides a brief housing and safety orientation, conducts a general intake interview, disburses some pocket money, and answers many questions.
Within two days after their arrival, staff are required to make a second home visit to see how the refugee families are doing. State Department paperwork abounds, and the orientations and home visits are time consuming. CCI staff follows Afghan cultural norms with each meeting, so the time always begin with great hospitality that includes tea and food and visits that usually last at least three hours.
CCI staff assists with aid applications to assist with cash, medical assistance, food stamps, change of ad-dress forms, Social Security Cards, and Selective Service registration. Within 90 days of arrival, the refugees have been helped with language training, how to use the bus system and the banking system. We help families enroll their children enroll in school and provide pre-employment training and begin job search assistance.
CCI also conducts immigration consultations and maps out the legal immigration process each refugee must follow. CCI’s ultimate objective is self-sufficiency and independence for each family.
These newcomers are adjusting to life in the United States, while, at the same time, meeting with different staff and volunteers who must help them work through time-sensitive Department of State activities. There is so much cultural knowledge that we assume people understand, but, yet, needs to be taught to those coming from other countries. New residents of a foreign culture, they are still trying to process all the personal changes they have experienced the past six months. Although it can be overwhelming, our new neighbors are adjusting and very grateful for the opportunity to be in Idaho.
There is frustration, of course. Some are still waiting after four months for the U.S. government to send documentation that will allow them to work. Those with family still in Afghanistan find it difficult to safely send money to support their family members in the United States.
Several refugees have significant medical issues from their experience, such as skin cancer and embedded shrapnel. Several need to replace teeth with dentures. Explaining to them their treatments, and follow-up care is difficult given the language barrier and the fact that treatment norms differ. Some suffer with depression and sometimes demonstrate unhealthy ways of adjusting to life in the United States. Catholic Charities assists with this, as well.
It has been especially inspiring to witness our first arrivals take on leadership responsibility by assisting later arrivals with translation support, furniture moving, and helping to establish permanent housing. Four of the young men who were pilots in Afghanistan helped CCI set up a new office in Pocatello.
CCI recently hosted a dinner reception at the Pocatello office, catered by a local restaurant, The Himalayan Flavor. Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad warmly welcomed the new arrivals. Following dinner, Cynthia Sibrian, CCI’s manager of Immigration Legal Services, provided a basic introduction to the immigration processes relevant to Afghan refugees.
The refugee families have been touched by the support from the Pocatello community and the many gifts donated to help them get a new start here.
One refugee who is so pleased with his permanent housing that he calls it the “house of his dreams.” He said he can’t believe that people in other nations would take such good of care of a total stranger.
In a demonstration of how everyone is involved in the resettlement process. Elaine Frost, a student at Pocatello’s Holy Spirit Catholic School, was able to secure donations to provide a washer and dryer for one of the families, with help from her mother, Emma, and the Parent Teacher Committee. Luke Kurby from Dell’s Appliance offered the washer and dryer at a considerable discount.
Deacon Scott Pearhill and Kathleen Lewis from Holy Spirit Parish, along with the Portneuf Valley Interfaith Fellowship, have been instrumental in generating volunteer and donation support. Many have given their time and money to ensure refugees have the furniture, clothes, and other items needed to start a new life. That is no small feat!
The Pocatello community has also stepped up to the challenge. CCI now has nine fully trained and vetted volunteers in direct service support, and 13 more are in the process of background
U.S. Bishops: Acknowledge the dignity of immigrants
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Administrative Committee has issued the following statement on migrants and refugees.
The Administrative Committee is led by the president of the Conference and is comprised of the USCCB’s officers, chairmen of the Conference’s standing committees, as well as a representative from each episcopal region of the United States. The committee operates as the board of directors of the Conference.
The committee’s full statement follows:
“The issues of refugees, migration, and forced displacement of people are not new ones, and there are many countries facing these challenges. Across the globe, families have been forced to flee their homes in search of safety and security. War, violence, racial strife, corruption and political instability, natural disasters, and poverty: these all still remain major factors in the lives of so many, which is why the numbers of people on the move, refugees, and people being displaced are at historically high levels.
As Christians, the words of Jesus must always shape how we think and how we act. The Apostle Paul emphasizes this when writing to the Philippians: Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:5).
Some may question why and how the Church supports refugees and migrants, regardless of race, creed, or color, but the simple truth is that Christ identifies with those in need: For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me (Matt. 25:35).
This means that when people are hungry and knock at our door, we feed them. When they come to our door cold, we clothe them. And when someone who is a stranger comes, we welcome him or her. The Church does this everywhere she exists. We do this because this is what Christ calls us to do. In the United States, much of the Church’s care for and ministry to refugees and migrants can be seen in the longstanding dedication and hard work of our Catholic Charities agencies.
The Conference has spoken time and again about the call to welcome and protect the newcomer. What is clearly true, and what the Church and many others have called for, is the urgent need for a comprehensive reform of our country’s immigration system. The U.S. immigration system is overly complex and unjust, often keeping family members apart. It must be fixed. The Church does teach that a country has the right to regulate its borders. At the same time, people have the fundamental right to migrate in order to preserve their lives and families.
What must always be in the fore-front of our thoughts and actions is the fact that each and every person, including the newcomer, is a brother or sister to us all and a blessing
to welcoming communities when given the opportunity to integrate. We must acknowledge not only the inherent dignity of immigrants, but also embrace their contributions and potential.
Sisters and brothers in Christ, let us embrace the ministry given to us by Jesus and reject the contemporary forces of division that tempt us with a false choice between our security and our humanity. Our great nation is capable of safeguarding both our humanity and our security.”
How you can
Pope Francis has called upon the Universal Church to pray and fast especially for peace in Ukraine. Catholics in the United States can also show their solidarity by participating in the annual Collection for the Church in Central Eastern Europe.
The Subcommittee Chairman on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe Bishop Jeffrey Monforton encourages bishops to provide emergency aid to Ukraine by contributing to the Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe. Your contributions will continue to provide emergency funds that are already helping the victims of the war with food and water, hygiene supplies, support, and other necessary humanitarian services.
To donate, go to igivecatholictogether and click on “USCCB National Collection,” and then on “Church in Eastern and Central Europe.”
Catholic Relief Services is also pro-viding meals and transportation to safe areas for people in Ukraine. To donate go to crs.org.
To donate to the Knights of Colum-bus Ukraine Solidarity Fund, go to kofc. org/secure/en/donate/ukraine.html.
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