Seven years after her arrival we visited the Kpukumu household on a Sunday afternoon. Family members were bustling about in nervous excitement preparing for a festive family meal. Florie observed everything with the calm of an old matriarch. When we sat down to talk she explained to me why she shares the little she has with LIRS.
Today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. LIRS has a special concern for persons with disabilities as a number of refugees that are resettled in the US have a disability. Currently this population has been struggling with even greater challenges. On October 1, 2010, close to three thousand elderly or permanently disabled refugees lost their major (or sole) source of income and face a bleak future. They rely on modest cash assistance called Supplemental Security Income (SSI) as their only source of income.
Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed by voice vote a revised version of the Help Haitian Adoptees Immediately to Integrate Act of 2010 (Help HAITI Act), bipartisan legislation that would provide permanency to over 1,000 Haitian orphans who were evacuated to the United States after the devastating January 12, 2010 earthquake and placed with American families.
State Senator Mike Bennet filed an immigration bill recently that seeks to transform Florida’s immigration enforcement guidelines so that local police can inquire into the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being an undocumented alien. Bishop Benoway believes, “we are called to reach out and welcome the stranger and immigrant among us. We do not want to push them further away or isolate them from participation in our communities and life together.”
The U.S. refugee family reunification program was suspended in 2008 because of various cases of alledged fraud in submitting affidavits of relationship (AORs). It is scheduled to restart in 2011 with new guidelines that might reduce fraud, but at the cost of creating high walls between refugees and the loved ones they left behind.