Refugee Voices

JUDGE HALTS TRAVEL BAN NATIONWIDE; REFUGEES AND OTHERS WITH VISAS CAN NOW ENTER U.S.

 

By Miraim Raftery

Photo courtesy ECM news partner 10 News :  Among the first to gain entry was an Iranian infant in need of heart surgery.

February 4, 2017 (San Diego) –  Travelers barred from entering the U.S. due to President Donald Trump’s sweeping executive order issued on January 27th must now be admitted due to a ruling by U.S. District Judge James Robard on Friday.  

The court issued a nationwide halt to the entire executive order, though the Trump administration has said it will appeal the ruling. The ruling applies to refugees previously approved for admission to the U.S., as well as citizens of seven Muslim nations including Syrians.  It also requires admission of green card holders with visas.

READER’S EDITORIAL: IMMIGRANTS ENRICH THIS COUNTRY

 

By Miriam [Mimi] Pollack

February 3, 2017 (El Cajon) -- Imagine you have had a good life with a stable job and family. Then, imagine that your life turns upside down, be it from war, religious persecution, or social unrest, and you have to start from scratch in a new country with a different language, culture, even alphabet! Welcome to the world of many of my adult ESL [English as a Second Language] students. Despite all that they have gone and continue to go through, they are very grateful to be here

EXCLUSIVE : IRC AND SURVIVORS OF TORTURE DIRECTORS SPEAK OUT ON REFUGEE RESTRICTIONS

 

By Miriam Raftery, Editor, East County Magazine

Hear our interview for KNSJ Radio by clicking the audio link

February 1, 2017(San Diego) – To learn the impacts of President Donald Trump’s executive action restricting refugee s’ entry into the United States,  we interviewed International Rescue Committee Executive Director David Murphy and Kathi Anderson, Executive Director at Survivors of Torture.

The order has created “fear for a lot of people” in San Diego, long a welcoming haven for refugees starting with the airlifts of Vietnamese boat people in the 1970s, says Murphy.  San Diego County takes in 3 to 4 percent of  all the refugees accepted into the U.S. each year.

Audio: 

NILE SISTERS FORUM STRIVES TO RAISE AWARENESS AND PREVENT FEMALE CIRCUMCISION

 

By Rachel Williams

Photo, left: “Here at The Nile Sisters we’re really trying to address health disparities and improve access to care for our refugee and immigrant population,” Susan Hagos, the health advocacy coordinator for The Nile Sisters Initiative, said.

February 1, 2017 (San Diego) -- The Nile Sisters Initiative hosted a panel at The Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice on female genital cutting (FGC), also known as female circumcision. Refugees and immigrants face several physical and mental health complications after undergoing the procedure in their home countries.

HOMELAND SECURITY SEEKS TO CLARIFY RULE ON TRAVEL FOR GREEN CARD HOLDERS

 

By Miriam Raftery

January 31, 2017 (San Diego) — On Sunday, following a weekend of chaos at airports around the world due to President Trump’s executive order banning travelers from 11 nations that led to detention of even legal U.S. permanent residents, the Department of Homeland Security and its Secretary issued statements that seek to clarify the policy.

REP. SUSAN DAVIS CALLS FOR REPEAL OF TRUMP ORDER TARGETING MUSLIMS AND REFUGEES, PRAISES COURT RULING STAYING ORDER

 

East County News Service

January 31, 2017 (San Diego) -- “Federal courts have rightly stayed President Trump's unconstitutional executive order banning Muslims and refugees. Immigration officials need to follow and respect the rule of the federal judges and allow those being held to have access to attorneys. The right of habeas corpus is a bedrock of our democracy,” says Congresswoman Susan Davis, who yesterday called on President Trump to left his executive order banning travel to the U.S. from  predominantly Muslim nations.

GROSSMONT-CUYAMACA COMMUNITY COLLEGE BOARD TO VOTE FEB. 21 ON PROTECTING IMMIGRANT STUDENTS

 

East County News Service

January 31, 2017 (El Cajon) -- The Chancellor and leaders at Grossmont-Community College District have sent a letter to students in the wake of  President Donald Trump’s recent executive orders regarding immigration, border security, and a travel ban on people from seven nations, as well as his threat to establish a Muslim registry.  The letter affirms that the district’s governing board will vote February 21 on whether to adopt the following policies:

  • Grossmont and Cuyamaca Colleges are open to all students who meet the minimum requirement for admission, regardless of background, culture, religion, or immigration status. 
  • The Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District will not release any personally identifiable student information, including data related to immigration status, without a judicial warrant or court order unless authorized by the student or required by law.
  • The District will not cooperate with any federal effort to create a registry of individuals based on any protected characteristics such as religion, national origin, race, or sexual orientation.
  • The District stands proudly for the heritage of American community colleges as hallmarks of a diverse, engaged, and healthy democracy.

Below is the letter in full:

COURTS BLOCK PART OF TRAVEL BAN FROM MUSLIM NATIONS AS PROTESTS GROW; TRUMP CLAIMS ORDER IS WORKING “VERY NICELY”

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

Protest planned at 5 p.m. tonight at Lindbergh Field; immigrant attorneys warn demonstrators could be detained, caution non-citizens not to participate due to “grave” risks

January 29, 2017 (San Diego)—Multiple federal courts have issued orders temporarily blocking deportation of  legal residents detained at airports following President Trump’s executive order Friday, including a New York federal judge ruling on an ACLU suit that applies nationwide. While some remain detained and denied access to counsel per the ACLU, others were allowed to meet with immigration attorneys  and were soon set free at airports across the U.S., where large crowds gathered and greeted the arriving immigrants with cheers to welcome them to America (View video).

The court orders thus far protect only those already at U.S. airports or in transit. Other lawsuits are set to be filed Monday by civil rights and Arab-American groups seeking to overturn as unconstitutional the broader ban on admitting refugees as from seven mostly Muslim nations (Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Syria, Libya and Yemen)  listed as countries of concern by the State Department. 

The order also applies to  an estimated half million legal U.S. residents with green cards from those countries, as well as people who hold dual citizen in any of the seven nations as well as citizenship in U.S. ally nations including Canada and Great Britain.

TRUMP BANS REFUGEES FROM KEY MUSLIM NATIONS, ALSO BARS LEGAL RESIDENTS OVERSEAS FROM RETURNING TO U.S.

 

Order exempts nations where Trump has business ventures; protests erupt at airports nationwide

By Miriam Raftery, East County Magazine

Photo: A large crowd at JFK airport in New York is protesting the crackdown on refugees and immigrants tonight, where cab drivers have threatened to shut down airport traffic for an hour.  A smaller group of protestors has gathered at San Diego's Lindbergh Field airport,  CBS reports.

January 28, 2017 (San Diego)—An executive ordered signed Friday by President Donald Trump suspends admission of refugees from seven predominantly Muslim nations for at least 120 days pending “extreme vetting.”  Those nations are Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen, CNN reports. 

Despite banning refugees from Syria, Trump backed off his campaign pledge to establish a safe zone inside war-torn Syria for persecuted people.  

The order also puts a half million legal residents of the U.S. who are traveling overseas in limbo, unable to return home, and slashes in half the number of refugees the U.S. will admit this year from all countries.

CHALDEAN CHRISTIAN REFUGEES COULD BENEFIT FROM TRUMP EXECUTIVE ORDER

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

File photo:  Prayer vigil for Iraqi Christians in El Cajon

January 28, 2017 (El Cajon) – President Donald Trump’s sweeping order restricting refugees from predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. has been greeted with optimism by some in San Diego’s Chaldean Christian community, since Trump has stated on a Christian broadcasting station that he would give priority to persecuted Christians, after a tougher vetting process is implemented.

Mark Arabo, president of the Minority Humanitarian Foundation in San Diego, voices hope that the order could help save lives of Christians facing death at the hands of ISIS in the Middle East.  An estimated 400,000 Iraqi Christians have fled Iraq and another 80,000 have been killed or tortured, some by crucifixion and beheadings 

Some have suggested Trump's order could be unconstitutioal for discriminating against Muslims.

Arabo, while hopeful to get help for persecuted Christians,  also expressed a wish for the order to be expanded to protect other people persecuted by ISIS, regardless of their faiths.

TEMPORARY PROTECTED STATUS EXTENDED FOR SOMALIANS

 

Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

January 17, 2017 (Washington, D.C.) - Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson has extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for eligible nationals of Somalia (and eligible individuals without nationality who last habitually resided in Somalia) for an additional 18 months, effective March 18, 2017, through Sept. 17, 2018.

SYRIAN CHILD WHO TWEETED AMID BOMBING SURVIVES

 

By Miriam Raftery

December 19, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) -- Seven-year-old Bana Alabed’s tweets during the fall of Aleppo, Syria, have drawn global attention to the plight of people trapped in the city in recent weeks, drawing comparisons to the diary of Anne Frank.  An anguished plea during recent bombings, followed by days of silence, led to concerns that Bana may have perished—but now word has come that she is a survivor.

LOVE IS BLIND

 

Update:   Hear our interview with Amanda Matti, author of A Foreign Affair, (originally aired on KNSJ radio) by clicking the audio link here.

 

A Foreign Affair, by Amanda Matti (W & B Publishers, Kernersville, NC, 2016, 343 pages).

Book Review by Dennis Moore

December 1, 2016 (San Diego) - Amanda Matti, an El Cajon (San Diego) resident who served six years in the United States Navy, including a 2005 deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, has written a riveting true story of romance and war; A Foreign Affair. Matti provides graphic details of her experience in a war that many in this country felt never should have been.

LOCAL FAMILES URGENTLY NEEDED TO VOLUNTEER AND MENTOR SYRIAN FAMILIES IN EAST COUNTY

 

 

Hear our interview with Dilkhwaz Ahmed by clicking this oramge play button.

East County News  Service

December 10,2016 (El Cajon)—In an interview on KNSJ Radio, Dilkhwaz Ahmed with License to Freedom offered an urgent plea for help. Hundreds of Syrian families have just arrived in East County – with 50 to 60 more flooding in each day. 

The refugees fled a humanitarian crisis in their war-torn homeland, relocated here by the U.S. government at the request of the United Nations. Other countries are also offering shelter to refugees. But many who came here have large families, so their modest aid funds are scarcely enough to cover rent and food.  They need help to overcome trauma and learn how to build new lives in America. But there are not nearly enough people or resources to fill the desperate need.

Audio: 

A REVOLUTION OF STRUGGLE CONTINUES FOR SYRIAN REFUGEES IN EAST COUNTY

 

Fleeing violence in Syria, some fear homelessness in U.S.

Hear our radio interviews with Syrian refugees and those seeking to help them in El Cajon by clicking the audio link.

By Rachel Williams

December 1, 2016 (El Cajon) -- Within the Villas of Embasadora, a motel in El Cajon, Syrian refugees have converted their rooms into makeshift homes where it’s cheaper for families of eight, or eleven to survive, than in San Diego’s public housing where costs have risen sharply.

Audio: 

SYRIAN REFUGEES THANKFUL FOR NEW LIVES IN SAN DIEGO REGION

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photo courtesy of ECM news partner 10 News

November 25, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) – The youngest survivors of Syria’s civil war are a traumatized generation.  In the U.S., 80% of the 10,000 Syrian refugees admitted in 2016 are children—and nearly all have suffered unspeakable trauma. 

A CALL FOR COMMUNITY INCLUSION OF SYRIAN REFUGEES

 

By Rachel Williams

Photo (left to right): Ramla Sahid, founder and executive director of the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans; Shadi Martini, senior Syria advisor to the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees; Dr. Georgette Bennett, President of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding; David Murphy, former county director for the IRC in Ethiopia; Sana Shtasel, senior advisor to the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees.

Of the 16,000 Syrian refugees resettled in the U.S. in recent years, not a single one has been tied to terrorism. San Diego has more Syrian refugees than any other U.S. city.

November 22, 2016 (San Diego) – Shadi Martini was manager of a hospital in Aleppo, Syria, when the Assad regime began to prosecute suspects working in opposition. Martini and his coworkers provided undercover aid to the wounded and people suffering.  But in 2012, the secret network was discovered, forcing him to flee the country.

Thereafter he served as an organizing assistant for Syrian refugees in a neighboring nation. Later, he joined the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian refugees in Jordan.

 “What I have witnessed is suffering is not limited to my country,” Martini said during a post-election discussion on refugees held last Thursday in San Diego by the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees and The Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans.

NEWCOMERS’ COLLABORATIVE WORKSHOP IN EL CAJON DREW OVER 100 PARTICIPANTS

 

Source: Newcomers’ Collaborative

November 20, 2016 (El Cajon) -- On Saturday, November 5th, 2016, 91 Spanish Speakers and at least 24 children attended a resource event coordinated by the Newcomers’ Collaborative, a workgroup of the El Cajon Collaborative. The event provided an opportunity for newcomers to browse local resources and attend workshops on navigating the education system, immigration and civic engagement, Child Welfare Services, domestic violence, equal housing rights and employment. Attendees were also able to apply for public benefits such as Cal-Fresh and Medi-Cal on-site, or ask questions regarding their eligibility or specific case.         

EAST COUNTY MAGAZINE WINS AWARDS FOR COVERAGE OF BORDER FIRE, COVERT CANYON AND IRAQI IMMIGRANT ISSUES

 

East County News Service

October 27, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) -- East County Magazine editor Miriam Raftery picked up three awards in San Diego Press Club’s 2016 Excellence in Journalism Awards competition.

Our entry titled “Border Fire Leaves Residents Burned Over Bureaucratic Bungling” won the Wildcard category; this year the wildcard topic was “life on the border.”  Our media outlet beat out media in all categories for this prestigious award including TV, radio, newspapers and magazines countywide.

A TRUE STORY OF LOVE AND WAR

 

A Foreign Affair: A True Story of Love and War, by Amanda Matti (Available at Amazon.com, 2016, 354 pages).

Preview by Dennis Moore

October 19, 2016 (San Diego) - I can’t wait to get my hands on this book, as the author, an El Cajon resident has indicated to me just today that she will be mailing it out to me for my review in the East County Magazine. She will also appear on our “East County Magazine Live!” radio show to be interviewed with all the salacious details of this book. A Foreign Affair has all the ingredients of true love and intrigue in a foreign country, which the author describes as “love at first sight” between herself, as a U.S. Navy Analyst, and her Iraqi translator Fahdi, in war-torn Iraq.

JERRY JONES TAKES STAND AGAINST REPEALING LEMON GROVE’S WELCOMING CITIES ORDINANCE

 

By Jonathan Goetz

October 19, 2016 (Lemon Grove) -- At prior meetings citizens have voiced concerns over marijuana. But at last night’s Lemon Grove City Council meeting, instead of pot they were talking about potholes.  Council also heard arguments that the city lacked priorities when it passed a Welcoming Cities Resolution.  The resolution was modeled after a White House initiative to help newcomers by assisting refugees and immigrants integrate into communities.

SOMALI-BANTU ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA PRESENTS ANNUAL FUNDRAISER SEPT. 17

 

East County News Service

September 6, 2016 (San Diego) -- The Somali-Bantu Association of America, a nonprofit dedicated to providing guidance and services to empower Somali Bantu and other refugees as they integrate into American life, presents its annual fundraising benefit, RAJA = HOPE!  The event is a cultural celebration featuring music, dancing and cuisine of the Somali-Bantu community.

U.S. MAY END USE OF PRIVATE IMMIGRATION DETENTION FACILITES

 

East County Magazine reported on complaints about a CCA private immigration detention facility in San Diego County back in 2011

By Miriam Raftery

August 29, 2016 (Washington D.C.) – Just one week after the U.S. Justice Department announced plans to phase out its use of 13 private prisons due to reports of serious abuse and ineffectiveness, as ECM reported,  Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson today called for a review to determine if use of private immigration detention facilities should be eliminated. The review should be done by November 30.

SOMALIANS PROTEST UNFAIR TREATMENT

 

By Janis Russell 

July 15, 2016 (San Diego) - Somalians have endured unfair treatment as employees at GTS (Glacier Technical Solutions).  On Tuesday, many of them lined up outside 555 W Beech St, where the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is located, to protest and make the public aware of their situation. 

"CHALDEAN VOICES: SEEKING PEACE AND OPPORTUNITY IN EL CAJON" AIRS AUG. 14 AT 1 PM ON KPBS

 

East County News Service

Photo: Chrestin, Salwan, and Sinan pray at St. Peter’s Chaldean American Church in El Cajon, California.

July 14, 2016 (El Cajon) - In light of the conflict in the Middle East and drastic increase in hostility and persecution over the past 10-15 years, thousands of Chaldeans have fled Iraq and are now seeking refuge in the United States. Over the past 30 years, they have arrived impoverished and traumatized; and, today, over 40,000 Chaldeans reside in the city of El Cajon, California.

ARABO STANDS UP FOR FATHER NOEL, PLANS APPEAL TO POPE

 

"Father Noel is amazing in the halls of Congress. We were able to get 20,000 more visas for Chaldeans to come here. For his success, he is being punished.  The church is saying that no Iraqi Christians should leave Iraq..Wewlil not allow himto be sent like a cow to slaughter.--Mark Arabo

By Miriam Raftery

July 12, 2016 (El Cajon)-- Friday is the deadline for Father Noel Gorgis to leave the St. Peter Chaldean Catholic diocese, under an order signed by interim Bishop  ShlemunWarduni and Patriarch Mar Louis Sako. Pope Francis previously intervened to overturn an order for Father Noel to be transferred to Iraq, after local Chaldeans made clear he is needed here, and that his life would be in jeopardy in Iraq.  The new order seeks to punish Father Noel for disobeying the Patriarch despite the Pope's wishes that he remain serving his parish here.

Now Mark Arabo, founder of the Minority Humanitarian Foundation and a prominent spokesman for Chaldean-Americans, is joning with other parishioners here to defend Father Noel.

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: BISHOP WARDUNI SPEAKS OUT ON PLIGHT OF CHALDEANS AROUND THE WORLD

 

By Miriam Raftery

East County Magazine was granted an exclusive interview yesterday with Bishop Mar Schlemon Warduni, who has been serving as interim Bishop  and apostolic administrator of St.Peter Chaldean Catholic Diocese since May, following the retirement of Bishop Sarhad Jammo.  Bishop Warduni leaves the U.S. today to head for Rome and then Iraq, awaiting appointment of a permanent Bishop for the San Diego region.

 Bishop Warduni has long served in Baghdad, Iraq under Patriarch Mar Louis Sako, and as Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops Council. He has worked to build over20 projects serving Christians in Iraq, including a church, senior citizens home, student/youth complex, homes for priests and a Bishop’s house. (Read his full biography here.)

In our interview, Bishop Warduni discussed the plight of Christians in Iraq and in refugee camps,  the challenges of keeping Chaldean culture alive,  the controversy over Father Noel Gorgis being asked to leave the diocese, and Bishop Warduni’s hopes for the future.

FATHER NOEL ORDERED TO LEAVE ST. PETER CHALDEAN DIOCESE ON JULY 15, 2016

 

 

By Miriam Raftery, East County News Service

July 10, 2016 (El Cajon)—In January 2015, Pope Francis issued a ruling to protect Father Noel Gorgis, a popular, zealous priest at St. Peter’s Chaldean Cathedral in El Cajon, as ECM reported. The Pope invalidated a decree issued by Patriarch Mar Louis Raphael Sako, which would have required Father Noel and several other U.S. priests to return to Iraq, where the Islamic State has been slaughtering Christian religious leaders. The Pope’s action was applauded by local Chaldean leaders. Father Noel has been a leading voice locally and nationally, on behalf of Chaldean-Americans and Chaldean immigrants.

But now the new interim Bishop for the St. Peter Chaldean Catholic diocese of San Diego, Shlemun Warduni, has issued an order for Father Noel to leave St. Peter’s effective Friday, July 15, 2016, multiple church sources have confirmed.  Bishop Warduni is a temporary replacement for Bishop Sarhad Jammo, who recently retired and had been a defender of Father Noel, as ECM reported.

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