Help Refugees at Risk in the U.S.

by International Rescue Committee
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Help Refugees at Risk in the U.S.
Help Refugees at Risk in the U.S.
Help Refugees at Risk in the U.S.
Help Refugees at Risk in the U.S.
Help Refugees at Risk in the U.S.
Help Refugees at Risk in the U.S.
Help Refugees at Risk in the U.S.
Help Refugees at Risk in the U.S.
Help Refugees at Risk in the U.S.
Help Refugees at Risk in the U.S.
Help Refugees at Risk in the U.S.
IRC staff welcomes Afghan newcomers in the U.S.
IRC staff welcomes Afghan newcomers in the U.S.

In 25 cities across the United States the IRC provides an array of support to thousands of refugees each year during their crucial first 90 days. This includes placement in affordable housing, English classes and cultural orientation, temporary cash assistance and help finding their first job. We also provide critical services to individuals and families entering the U.S. as asylum seekers.

Our first priority is to protect people who have endured violence or persecution in their home countries from further harm and to help them successfully adjust to their new communities.

Clients who arrive to the U.S. as refugees are greeted at the airport and accompanied to a furnished apartment that has been stocked with an initial supply of food and other basic necessities. An IRC case worker orients them to their new community and provides a range of individualized support during their first three months such as temporary financial assistance, help enrolling children in school and assistance finding employment.

The IRC provides critical emergency services to asylum seekers including temporary accommodations, food, transportation and orientation services, health/mental health evaluations, legal information and referrals.

The IRC helps unaccompanied children seeking protection to reunite safely with family members or other sponsors and pursue their legal case in immigration court. We provide home study and post-release/follow-up servicesto children after being placed in safe homes to facilitate enrollment in school, connection to medical and mental health care, as well as legal representation in their claims for asylum or other forms of humanitarian relief, such as special immigrant juvenile visas or visas for victims of crime or trafficking.

We provide comprehensive, trauma-informed case management to victims of human trafficking in 10 U.S. states and provide technical assistance to other emerging anti-trafficking programs.

Following what are often arduous and traumatic experiences of migration, as well as challenging circumstances upon reaching their destination, the IRC works diligently to restore the physical and mental health of our clients. 

The IRC offers a comprehensive package of employment programs in all of our U.S. offices, so that refugees and other at-risk community members can achieve self-sufficiency, build a fulfilling career path, and contribute to the economic vitality of their communities.

The IRC understands that education is the key, not only to achieving self-sufficiency and economic wellbeing, but also to living a meaningful life and unlocking one’s full potential. We offer our clients of all ages throughout the U.S. opportunities to continue learning and building academic, technical, social-emotional and life skills.

In times of crisis, people often lack access to the necessary information, knowledge and opportunity to understand and secure their rights. The IRC works to empower people to reclaim their rights and regain control over decisions that affect their lives and futures.

On behalf of all of us at the IRC and our newcomer client communities in the U.S., thank you.

A family reunites after 5 long years of separation
A family reunites after 5 long years of separation

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Fresh produce grown by refugee farmers in Phoenix
Fresh produce grown by refugee farmers in Phoenix

In the United States, the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a food crisis. According to Feeding America, although the situation has improved somewhat, food banks have seen a 55 percent increase in the number of people seeking help.

Refugees and other new Americans are disproportionately impacted as many are employed in sectors that were hit hard by COVID-19. However, through the IRC’s New Roots program, newcomers to the U.S. are playing a significant role in helping their communities to find healthy, affordable food to feed their families.

What does it mean to be food insecure?

As defined by the United Nations, being food secure is when people have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food, that is culturally appropriate, always. Food insecurity is the lack of those necessities and can have a dramatic impact on someone’s life.

The IRC’s New Roots Program

The IRC’s New Roots program was founded to help refugees access land and make a living from agriculture. New Roots is made up of thriving community gardens and programs supporting food access, nutrition, and agriculture in twelve cities across the country from New York to California.

Through community gardens and farms, the program allows resettled refugees, new Americans, and their neighbors to grow food either to feed their families and/or to supplement their income. New Roots supports food access and nutrition in a way that is adapted to the person’s needs and experience, as well as local opportunities. For example, many refugees arrive in the U.S. with extensive experience in agriculture while others do not, and the programs vary accordingly. As of 2021, the IRC has a network of more than 62 New Roots gardens, farms, and markets, where more than 5,000 people a year grow, prepare, share, buy, and sell local, healthy foods in their communities.

The gardens allow refugees to grow produce they ate back home that might not be available or affordable in American grocery stores. Many of the gardens are also located in areas classified as "food deserts" because of the inaccessibility of affordable fresh fruits and vegetables.

Menuka* arrived in Salt Lake City as a refugee from Nepal. A relative who lived nearby took her to visit the local New Roots garden. She was surprised and delighted by what she found. "We saw that everything we used to grow in Nepal, they’re growing here,” she said. Today, she grows Nepalese cucumbers and spicy Thai chilies in a plot she tends right next to her mother-in-law’s own garden bed.

Feeding the Community

New Roots is as focused on community as it is on farming. This emphasis became even more critical as the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Since April 2020, the IRC offices, New Roots, and resettlement teams have reached over 6,000 families with groceries and locally grown food. 10% of that food came from New Roots refugee farmers. One of those farmers was Tareke*, a refugee from Eritrea, working in Phoenix, Arizona. Tareke donated hundreds of bushels of swiss chard, fennel, garlic, green onions, and cilantro to be used in care packages delivered by IRC staff.

How else does the IRC help refugees in the US?

Thanks to your generous support, the IRC continues to help protect and rebuild the lives of resettled refugees, asylum seekers, and other vulnerable populations in more than 20 cities across the United States. We provide essential services including housing, health care, education, employment, and legal assistance to provide a solid foundation, helping newcomers integrate and thrive in their new communities.

* Last names omitted to protect privacy

Menuka grows traditional Nepalese vegetables
Menuka grows traditional Nepalese vegetables
Tareke grows food for other families in need
Tareke grows food for other families in need
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A DRC family builds a new life in Phoenix.
A DRC family builds a new life in Phoenix.

The Impact of Your Support: welcoming refugees in the U.S.

After four years of Trump Administration policies that harmed people seeking safety, President Joe Biden pledged to restore America’s long tradition of welcome. Following some critical first steps during his first 100 days in office, he increased his predecessor’s record-low cap on refugee admissions.

From harm to a new home

As a leading resettlement partner, with more than 20 offices across the United States, the IRC is scaling our support to provide newly arrived refugees with immediate aid, including food, housing and medical attention. 

With your support, each resettlement office can serve as a free, one-stop center for refugees’ needs during their pivotal first months in the country. Through a network of staff members and volunteers, the IRC is helping refugees learn about life and customs in America, secure jobs, learn English, and become citizens. We are providing most of the essential items they need to restart their lives here and help them overcome cultural barriers so that their adjustment is as easy as possible.

Through community gardening, nutrition education and small-business farming, the IRC's New Roots program is giving hundreds of refugee farmers the tools and training they need to grow healthy and affordable food and become self-sufficient.

This month we also began working again with partner agencies to relocate a select group of Afghan citizens granted special immigrant visas for their exceptional service to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. Together, we are providing services for these individuals, including medical care and safe resettlement by a sponsoring resettlement agency. 

The IRC has resettled more than 16,000 Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) recipients since Congress established the program in 2006, and is committed to ensuring that these families are given a chance to seek safety. 

Thank you for supporting refugees as they rebuild their lives in the United States.

Valentina was threatened by gangs in El Salvador.
Valentina was threatened by gangs in El Salvador.
Junaid is part of IRC's Hospitality Link program.
Junaid is part of IRC's Hospitality Link program.
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Diana founded business and app "Clyn"
Diana founded business and app "Clyn"

When Diana had to leave college and take a job cleaning homes, she thought she’d let her family down. Today, she’s using her experience to build an innovative new business—thanks to IRC livelihoods programs supported by generous donors like you.  

Diana's day starts around 5am and ends at 10pm. The 27 year old has an ambitious goal: she wants to revolutionize the cleaning industry. 

Diana was born in Kenya and came to the United States to earn a degree in mechanical engineering. She had to drop out in her finalyear when she could no longer afford her tuition and books. To make ends meetshe began cleaning houses full-time. 

The experience inspired Diana to create an app, Clyn (pronounced “clean”), that she hopes will make cleaners’ jobs easier and challenge stereotypes. 

While developing the app, Diana continued to clean professionally and also launched a successful modeling career. She also found time to create “Boss Lady,”a series of networking events to empower women entrepreneurs in Phoenix, Ariz., where she lives. Today, with some help from a loan from the International Rescue Committee’s microenterprise program for refugee and immigrant-run small businesses, Diana is making her idea a reality. 

Below, Diana talks about her vision for her business, the challenges she’s experienced and her outreach to fellow entrepreneurs. 

How did you come up with the idea for Clyn? 

It was a dark time, to be honest. I'm the only one in my family in the United States and the only one who has come this far. After I had to drop out of school, it was hard on me. I felt like I was a disappointment. 

But then, as I was meeting other people cleaning houses, I started understanding I wasn’t the only person going through this. Everyone has a unique story, whether that’s an opportunity that didn’t work out or they just came to the U.S. or they’re simply doing their best every day working their butt off. 

I wanted to create an app that would help cleaners, as well as plumbers and other home service providers, have consistent business because that was the hardest thing for me, finding consistent jobs through referrals. 

How does the app work? 

Clients can search for cleaners or other home service providers in their area. For cleaners, it offers the opportunity to more easily market themselves and connect with clients. Clients have the option to save money by providing their own in-home supplies. 

What was it like creating a business? 

It’s been a long journey. I had this idea in 2015 and have been working on it since, while still cleaning professionally, developing my modeling career—I actually teach in an agency now—and holding down other jobs. 

I had used various developers and kept running into problems: a company would dissolve or something else would come up and they simply couldn’t deliver. So when lockdown came, I was, like, “You know what? I’ll just do it myself.” 

I taught myself how to code and I built a small app—not the best app but it was working! That helped me understand what kind of developers I need, so now I have an in-house team of three app developers and two web developers. 

I see a problem and I want to make a solution and, on the other side, I have no choice but to make this happen. There's an entire family waiting for me to figure it out here in the U.S. I want to help provide for them. 

How did you connect with the IRC? 

I had actually met an IRC staff member when I was doing modeling for an African fashion show in Phoenix. We got along really well! Then I connected with the organization when I found out about the microenterprise program. 

The loan has been really helpful to give me a bit of a runway. With it, I was able to cover my team's salary for the three-month marathon it took to build the app. 

How has COVID-19 impacted your plans? 

A lot of cleaners are getting more jobs, both to sanitize in the pandemic and because people working from home want a good environment. 

We’re concerned about protecting cleaners more than anything. What we've seen with our competitors is that they're just saying, “Be careful, wear a mask.” But that's not really enough. We're trying to set a standard that the cleaner has to have the face mask, a face cover, shoe gloves and hand gloves. 

We expect our “Clyners'' to follow these standards and others as well. For instance, their cleaning supplies need to be color coded so, for instance, you don’t use the same cloths in the bathroom and in the living room. These are the nitty gritty details that people are looking for and that allow us to showcase our cleaners. 

You’ve said you want to change perceptions of cleaners. Can you talk more about that? 

This is work that most people don't want to do, but it has to be done. So I want to give them the dignity that they deserve. They are doing a hard job, almost breaking their back maintaining people’s homes so they can work or spend time with their families. 

When you arrive in the morning and the office is so clean, you don’t always think about the person who cleaned it the night before and the high standard they have. Most people won't tolerate a coffee stain on their desk that's sat for three days, so you can imagine how much cleaners do so we can actually focus on the things that are important to us. 

While our competitors focus on the end client, we built our app with the cleaners and their needs in mind. We make sure dollars go into their pockets and we market them as the community heroes that they are. 

How have people working as cleaners responded to the app? 

They are very excited. I sometimes get calls from people who are like, “This is what I need!” They like that it’s simple and they appreciate the scheduling function quite a bit. 

I also have had cleaners ask me to add things to the app. For instance, I now include a space for people to ask specific questions: What do you use to remove marks on the stovetop? If you’re cleaning in someone else’s home, you can’t risk spoiling anything. 

You host “Boss Lady” events in Phoenix. What are those? 

The events are for women entrepreneurs at all levels. I take everything that I’ve learned in the year and I just give it away. I bring together incredible women in the Valley [the Phoenix metropolitan area] to share their expertise, whether it is on finances, professionalism or building a business. 

When I began building my business, I wished for a network of people who were more experienced than I was to sit down and share what worked and didn't work for them. 

I figured there were other women in the area, including many more successful than me, who would be willing to advise others. Meeting like this strengthens us all as a network, and even the very successful women can learn from one another. 

What has surprised you as you build your business? 

My resilience, because we've had a lot of failures. 

I’ve also learned about being consistent. It doesn’t matter how bad you are at coding, for example, as long as you have a vision that you stick to. You can get the support that you need. 

Nothing else will drive you other than purpose. For me, I imagine the person I’m trying to help. I’ve been in their shoes and I know how it felt. And I don’t want anyone else to feel that way. 

What are your personal goals for 2021? 

I would like to get more investors and more funding, and to start to bring in revenue. And then, you know, just expand from that. I also started Clyn Technologies, which helps people make sure that they have a good digital presence. 

Personally, I want to take care of my family in Kenya. They’ve been very patient with me and I’m excited to be able to take care of them. 

What do you hope to see in the U.S. in 2021? 

I want to see a better economy and better pay for people. That means bringing them up to speed with technology and not just replacing them. I think a lot about schools and how they need to incorporate technology and finance and make sure what the students are learning is up-to-date. 

"Nothing else will drive you but purpose."
"Nothing else will drive you but purpose."
Diana proudly continues to develop & improve Clyn.
Diana proudly continues to develop & improve Clyn.

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Reuniting with family after 13 years of separation
Reuniting with family after 13 years of separation

The legacy of the Trump Administration includes a dizzying number of policies targeting people seeking safety in the United States. The administration has turned away refugees, sent asylum seekers into danger, and diminished America’s global standing as a place of refuge for those seeking safety.

President-elect Joe Biden has promised to be different. As a candidate and again after his victory, he committed to raising the refugee resettlement target to 125,000. He also said he would reunite families and reverse policies that have been devastating for asylum seekers.

But what will it take to restore America's legacy of welcome and global leadership, particularly during the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic? 

A victory for immigrant youth—but there’s still work to do

On Friday, December 4, a federal judge ordered the Trump Administration to fully reinstate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the program that protects undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. The program, which the administration has been trying to shut down since 2017, will have to accept new applicants, and current DACA recipients will secure the right to work for two years, rather than one.

As many as 300,000 new applicants could join the existing 800,000 DACA holders as a result of this change. More young people will no longer have to fear being deported to a country where they may not speak the language and that they may not have seen since they were children, or even infants.

Although President-elect Joe Biden said he would reinstate the DACA program, only Congress can enact a permanent solution. U.S. senators and representatives must pass legislation to provide protection—and a pathway to citizenship—so DACA recipients can live their lives without fear of being deported or separated from their families.

“I have to prepare for my future, but I have to be aware that my plans for my future may not happen,” said Lupe, a DACA recipient and youth leader originally from Mexico who spoke to the IRC earlier this year. The twenty-two year old was clear that preserving the program was only half of the battle.

“We get to breathe for a bit, pero nuestra lucha sigue [our fight keeps going].”

Ending cruel policies at the U.S.-Mexico border

The Trump Administration’s increasingly restrictive policies violate international and U.S. asylum laws and have resulted in inhumane treatment of asylum seekers at our southern border. The Biden Administration will inherit and have to address these policies, which include separating children from their parents, limiting asylum eligibility, and unlawfully expelling people in need of humanitarian protection in the U.S.

While the IRC has outlined comprehensive recommendations needed to protect asylum seekers and preserve pathways for other people seeking safety, it is up to the president-elect's incoming administration to put a new asylum system in place that not only addresses the damage done in the past four years but also pushes the U.S. to do more to ensure the dignity, safety and recognition of rights for all.

A family seeking asylum at US/Mexico border
A family seeking asylum at US/Mexico border
5 yr old asylum seeker drew his house in Guatemala
5 yr old asylum seeker drew his house in Guatemala

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International Rescue Committee

Location: New York, NY - USA
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