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.
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 meet, she 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.
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.
The Trump Administration is using the pretext of the coronavirus pandemic to intensify its years-long attack on asylum seekers.
Families requesting safe haven at the U.S. border often have no choice but to flee dangerous situations. They have the legal right to request protection in the United States, and should not be criminalized or separated from their children. Policies that turn them away expose them to dangers that have only been exacerbated by COVID-19.
Find out how the administration’s policies put asylum seekers—the majority of whom are people of color—at increased risk and threaten to destroy the asylum system as we know it. Instead of protecting the public, the new proposals appear likely to worsen our unprecedented health crisis.
Border closures worsen the pandemic
Prior to the pandemic, the administration had taken steps to turn away families seeking safety. By placing an arbitrary daily limit on the number of asylum seekers who could be processed, and forcing asylum seekers to make their case from Mexico rather than inside the U.S., tens of thousands of people were being sent into harm’s way.
Then, in late March, the administration issued an order to immediately deny entry to non-citizens arriving at the border—with no opportunity to request sanctuary. In just six weeks, the Customs and Border Patrol denied entry to some 20,000 people, including 400 unaccompanied children. CBP considered these cases for an average of just 96 minutes each before deciding to turn back asylum seekers without any ability to bolster their case or provide more information. Although local communities in northern Mexico have made valiant efforts to welcome those turned away at the border, services are overwhelmed and asylum seekers often find themselves at risk of the same type of violence they fled.
The administration can and should implement public health measures, including screenings carried out by public health officials, to mitigate risks to asylum seekers, and must increase access to health facilities at the border. But current policies merely compound the danger both at home and abroad.
“Superspreader” ICE threatens asylum seekers—and public health
The U.S. continues to hold tens of thousands of asylum seekers and migrants in detention centers that are notoriously overcrowded, with track records of neglect for sanitation, medical care and personal safety.
ICE is likely dramatically underreporting COVID-19 cases in these centers, by a factor of as high as fifteen. But the little data we do have suggests that over twenty percent of the asylum seekers and migrants tested while held in detention are coming back positive for the virus.
Philip*, an IRC client from Democratic Republic of Congo currently detained at a private ICE facility in Texas, recounted his experience: “ICE does not respect any COVID public health measures—they don’t pay attention to the rules. Here I am in a room with over 100 people—like being in a crowded market. We are given soap and masks, but ICE agents do not wear masks, and do not respect quarantine—which is especially bad since we share so many spaces and materials. I have never seen them measure a single person’s temperature.”
Not only has ICE refused requests to release individuals held in these dangerous conditions, the agency is further facilitating the spread of the coronavirus through deportations, sending people straight from overcrowded detention centers to countries already struggling to control the pandemic due to strained health care infrastructure. Over 450 deportation flights have taken place in 2020, with nearly a dozen countries in Latin America and the Caribbean confirming deportees returned with the virus.
Given the conditions in detention centers, all ICE detainees must be released and allowed to follow public health best practices. The administration also must halt all deportations while the pandemic is ongoing, as these are accelerating the spread of the virus. A bill in Congress, the Immigration Enforcement Moratorium Act, would end many of these harmful immigration enforcement measures that are worsening our public health crisis.
On April 21, 2020 President Donald Trump called for an Executive Order to halt immigration to America. The International Rescue Committee rejects this announcement; and we need your support now more than ever.
Immigrants are making huge contributions to America’s response to the novel coronavirus, and historically, to America’s economy. There are growing gaps in the transportation and logistics industry where immigrants already make up 1.5 million workers. In food production, more than 700,000 immigrants work in agriculture or meat processing jobs, not including 200,000 guest workers in farms.
The shortage of healthcare professionals was well documented even before COVID-19 struck U.S. communities. Refugees and immigrants are integral to the COVID-19 response in the U.S. with 17 percent of the health system made up of immigrants, and 29 percent of doctors born outside of America. Immigrants also show high representation in fields that are relevant to seeking treatment for COVID-19 with 40 percent of medical and life scientists and 30 percent of chemist and material scientists, according to the CATO institute’s analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.
The IRC recently launched an online platform with partners for refugees and immigrants with medical training abroad but are not credentialed in the U.S. to join the fight against COVID-19.
Hans Van de Weerd, the Vice President of Resettlement, Asylum, and Integration for the International Rescue Committee said:
“With immigrants already working on the front lines in the U.S. to help fight the global pandemic, and more people eager to join and help from around the world, today’s announcement indicates that more help is not welcome and families must stay separated. This marks yet another heartbreaking and demoralizing development."
"It is a shame that this announcement comes as more and more immigrants and refugees continue to sign up to help, with nearly 500 people signing up on refugees.rescue.org to put their health expertise to work, knowing that doing so may put their own health at risk. There isn’t evidence that travel bans work to stop the spread of COVID-19, but there is plenty of evidence that our health care system needs more support and that immigrants enrich the economy and country. We need tests, not bans.”
“This immigration ban will impact families waiting for years to be reunited. It will impact newly-weds waiting to start their lives, and adopted children waiting to meet their new parents. It also comes on top of recent actions that cut off thousands of asylum seekers from seeking protection, including many families and unaccompanied children. When COVID-19 ends, it will take the united effort of all Americans – those born abroad and in the U.S. – to rebuild.”
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating.
We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.
Support this important cause by creating a personalized fundraising page.Start a Fundraiser