Hyde Park must take a stand for refugees

To the Editor: 

Thousands of refugees are already living in Chicago. They are our neighbors, our co-workers, and our children’s classmates. Many are recent arrivals who, having endured the devastation of war or persecution in their home countries, have managed to adapt to a new life by carrying out the daily struggle toward self-sufficiency. Last month’s sweeping executive order has blocked, temporarily or indefinitely, thousands of other refugees from entering the United States. But it also threatens to undermine relief organizations like RefugeeOne who have welcomed them, resettled them, then supported them for several months after their arrival. In the last year alone, RefugeeOne has resettled nearly 1000 refugees in Chicago. We at the Hyde Park Refugee Project encourage our neighbors to come together now as a community to stand with these individuals and families, to support the many refugees who now call Chicago their home.

In partnership with RefugeeOne, the Hyde Park Refugee Project recently welcomed our first family from Syria. Since their arrival in late December, this family of five has already made great strides toward independence. Our mentoring and tutoring teams have been struck by their eagerness and determination, and by their cheerfulness in the face of difficult conditions. It is thanks to the help we received from the Hyde Park community in the form of volunteer hours, material donations, and financial support as well as to the broad range of services provided by RefugeeOne – from job placement and language training to school readiness and immigration services – that the courage and strength of these new arrivals has already been rewarded so visibly. Although last month’s executive order effectively blocked entry to another Syrian family we were poised to accept, the Hyde Park Refugee Project will continue to work to support refugee families already settled here in Chicago.

Because the Trump Administration’s refugee policy may impact federal funding for relief organizations, the need for support from local communities is more pressing than ever. We encourage readers to email us at hydeparkrefugeeproject@gmail.com to learn about practical ways to be involved here in Hyde Park in supporting refugee families. But we also stress the importance of supporting RefugeeOne directly. The best and most efficient way to have an impact on the thousands of refugees already in Chicago is to contribute to RefugeeOne (www.refugeeone.org) or other refugee relief organizations in the area.

The Hyde Park Refugee Project is also in the process of organizing a series of community-wide discussions this spring on the topic of refugees. Send a note to the email address above to receive information about the series as it becomes available and updates on developments in the Hyde Park Refugee Project. We thank you for your interest and support.

Marianne Crusius, Greg Golley, Lisa La Vallee, Dorothy Pytel, and Penny Visser
Volunteers for the Hyde Park Refugee Project