Wednesday, September 9, 2015

More talk on US, Canada accepting more refugees, with the question of how to house and support them -- need churches, volunteers, and ultimately personal sponsors (with "spare bedrooms")?

Late Tuesday, Vox posted the posted a link on Facebook, “The shameful US response to the Syrian refugee crisis, by the numbers, by Joe Posner, Joss Fong, and Estelle Caswell, here. 

I posted the following comment:

“For VOX -- one question -- why don't the "rich Gulf states" do more? Second -- how will Syrian refugees not having relatives in the US be supported? Huffington-Canada suggests an answer and churches will do so, which is what the Pope has asked for in Europe of parishes. But in the US, we don't "take care" of our own homeless. Difference -- most immigrants want to work -- is it that easy to employ the,? Also, screening them - ISIS or the like could try to exploit this hiding terrorists, don't know how likely. How do you manage this? Big issue. Not as clear cut as Vox makes it look.”

There is one Facebook “like” so far.

I think we need to ponder what issues we can face if the US (and Canada) do decide to admit a large number of refugees from Syria and elsewhere in the region without known relatives already prepared to take them in. 

John Troy has urged Toronto citizens to offer shelter to up to 1000 refugees – apparently in their own homes.

Australia has reportedly offered to shelter 12000 refugees in Australia.  Does hosting refugees mean they have political asylum (in the legal sense)?
You’d have to get past the “Muslim” issue and the possibility (however remote statistically) that terrorists could hide in the stream, which Peter King (R-NY) has talked about.
Most likely, non-profits would be encouraged to register as sponsors.  By and large, these would be congregations (Catholic parishes and mainstream protestant churches).  These congregations could raise money through normal “love offerings”, but they would probably have to promote sponsorship among individual members.  Some might have the resources to rent townhomes or apartments and supervise them.  Churches would tend to present the “personal risk” (like security) as a “matter or faith” and sacrifice (maybe comparable in some way to national service or joining the military). But there would also be the risk for religious abuse (expecting Muslims to convert to Christianity) with some groups, as already reported in Germany.

The example of the fall 1980 Cuban refugee crisis sets and example.  In Dallas, as I have written, there was a large call among the local Metropolitan Community Church (well before the founding of the Cathedral of Hope) for individual people to “take them in” with “spare bedrooms”.  No one at the time pondered the security implications.   I talked to someone about this, and found out that a sponsor would need to learn Spanish (take it at a local community college) and essentially give up his or her job to spend days with the refugee – hardly practical.  This was seen as a big problem in the LGBT community since about 25% of the refugees were thought to have fled Castro for anti-gay reasons.  

So, as I have written on the LGBT blog, there is the potential for a comparable issue today with refugees from Russia, Uganda, Nigeria, etc.  Organizations in New York City, Chicago, LA, and Washington (DC Center) have worked quietly on the issue for the past two years with little public attention so far.  That could change.

Few people stepped up to this (I did not) in 1980. Catholic Charities (on Lemmon Ave. in the Oak Lawn area of Dallas at the time) also tried to work on the issue, with little effect (but would not accept gay volunteers).

So all of this can come down to a personal level eventually, the way any war can.  One can ask – why don’t the "rich" Islamic Gulf States do more – and that’s something the Obama administration and members of Congress (both parties) should pursue, vigorously. (Obama just hosted Saudi Arabia.) But eventually, conflict can put even well-off citizens back home in a moral bind, and challenge them to step up.  That is what so much more conflict in our culture is eventually all about. 

CNN just reported that John Kerry has just said (Wednesday) that the US will take in "more refugees" but wouldn't specify how many. Tom Andrews (United to End Genocide) spoke on CNN today about volunteers in the US with "spare bedrooms" just now?  

How does US (citizen) responsibility compare to the refugees from violence in Central America, already an issue?  

How does it compare to taking care of our own homeless?
I still don’t think the media has put together all the pieces of this crisis together. One other thing, in our discussion, distinguish "migrant" from "refugee". 

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