Refugees in Utah

Girl bullied at school

President Trump’s policy on immigration has limited how many new citizens come into our country. Last year the ceiling was 50,000. This year, it is 45,000, and next year it will be 30,000.

Out of those 50,000 incoming refugees last year, Utah has welcomed with open arms 1,200 refugees. Many stayed in Salt Lake, but others settled in Utah Valley. Utah has always been willing and warm with welcoming strangers. However, last summer, Salt Lake really shined as hundreds came to celebrate on World Refugee Day. During the festival, “British-American singer and actor Alex Boyé, born of Nigerian parents, would be Utah’s new ambassador for refugees, replacing retired Utah Jazz player Thurl Bailey in the role,” said the Salt Lake Tribune.  The day of music, food, stories, and forming new friendships brought smiles to everyone’s faces.

Discouragingly, Utah immigration agencies have had to cut back on the numbers of immigrants they have been resettling, due to the new policy, and it has been impacting families. “For refugees waiting for resettlement and family re-reunification, this misguided policy shift has kept families apart and is a significant hit on the most vulnerable people in the world. Keeping loved ones separated in this way certainly adds to the agony refugees find themselves, to no fault of their own, having to endure,” said Patrick Poulin, executive director of International Rescue Committee’s Salt Lake City office. ” Deseret News.

According to Deseret News, “We had a system that was working for more than 40 years. The system was not built overnight. It was infrastructure that was built over the years and it was working fine. The vetting process was working well.”  It’s unfortunate that circumstances mainly beyond our control has affected so many lives, but what are we doing with the reach we have?

Many people may think that immigration doesn’t affect them, and that we’re so far away from it that it doesn’t concern us. This just isn’t true. Refugees are everywhere in the world, in Utah Valley, in Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain and in Westlake. We have refugees in our own school. Did you know that? I didn’t until recently.  Deserte New has an article about 8 Ways You Can Help Refugees in Utah Right Now and the ideas are great, but I’d like to propose 3 ways to help refugees in Westlake right now. And remember, you don’t have to be from a different country to need refuge.

  1. Be welcoming. Try to get outside of your comfort zone and meet new people. Be friendly and inviting. Really try to be a great friend.
  2. Speak up. If you do know someone who is struggling, with school, home or money, try to be their advocate. Let a trusted teacher, coach or adult aware of your friend’s situation so they can help.
  3. Participate in a volunteer project. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to volunteer at a church where refugees were staying after school. It was an eye opener.

I read to kindergartners and hung out with older kids. These kids came from families where they were the only ones who spoke english, and they spent most of all their time trying to get caught up on school work. They were very poor and lived in small apartments, it was hard to see their need, and this was just in Salt Lake City. I know people in our community need our help, and we need to find them. I believe my short time getting to know these people helped me more than it helped them. They were so inviting, warm, and friendly that I was taken back.

Refugees are an inspiration to Utah, these new citizens come from unimaginable circumstances, to make their way in a completely new country, some with only the shirts on their backs. We need to let these people into our lives, for both of our benefits.