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Letterrs to the editor

October 06, 2007

Refugee program lacked oversight



To the editor:

This is about the article in the Thursday, Sept. 20 Daily Mail about the refugee forum of Wednesday, Sept. 19, in which I am quoted. Heather Keels took an accurate but small chunk of the larger question I asked that evening. I would like to complete, as well as I can from memory, what I said that evening: "How come, with all the programs these smiling folks from the State Department and MONA, and the Religious Organizations talked about, we in the community found out about the refugees in our midst through a Hazmat Incident? That's made all the difference here. We are not racists. We wouldn't be against folks in our community who have arrived through an orderly process." That, I believe, comes close to part of what I said.

Someone in the audience said that she could explain and then played her material for laughs which she got! "Hysterical illness" is a phenomenon that has happened here and a great deal oftener in the older, packed with workers, buildings of the metro area. A large group of people, such as the seven refugees in the building on East Franklin Street say they are ill and those around them suddenly, hysterically, experience the same symptoms. "There is nothing funny about this situation," as I said at the forum that night and also, "Real people are suffering here."

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Imagine yourself in a strange land, sick, suddenly surrounded by men in huge, orange space suits. Not able to communicate in either direction. No interpreter. No way to get yourself one or any help for that matter. An ill woman driven to extremes sends her child into the streets for help and this whole tragedy continues to unfold as a result.

The rest of my part of the dialogue? That evening went to trying to elicit from a Richard Cline, said to be the head of the Virginia Council of Churches operation here, what he meant by 50 refugees with church sponsorship were targeted for this area for this year. Were that true, the church sponsorship, "an orderly fashion" for their assimilation, I believe that no one would object. We are not racists.

However, I have since come to understand that what he meant was not sponsorship in the sense of taking them in and being responsible for them. Kline's "sponsorship" refers to a "proclamation of support" from some churches with no real hands-on help.

I would like to close by repeating something else I said that night, "I find (the) history lesson patronizing." A State Deartment man talked of Germans and Irish originally coming here.I know my own history, sir, and not one of my people was brought here under a government program, nor given one thing or even any general assistance by the government. I am the first, as far as I know, to require assistance from government programs with my heat, etc. You would do well, sir, whoever you are, to rent and watch a DVD of the movie, "Gangs of New York" and then, to save your integrity and perhaps even your soul, get another job. Everyone on that stage that night, and apparently a good many in the audience, should look to the welfare of their own integrity and souls.

Mary W. Haines

Hagerstown




Churches can still bring refugees to Hagerstown area



To the editor:

The Hagerstown faith community is disappointed that Virginia Council of Churches isn't going to bring more refugees to Hagerstown, but they can still bring a family for their church through the Private Sector Initiative - a program of the U.S. State Department.

This program went into disuse in the early 1990s when church groups stopped using it, presumably because they preferred being compensated by the government for their work with refugees.

As I understand it, the Private Sector Initiative allows a church or other such group to sponsor a refugee family.

The family must be completely cared for, housed, supported and helped to assimilate by the church group.

The refugee cannot access welfare for two years, unlike the program just closed in Hagerstown where refugees can begin receiving welfare benefits within 30 days.

Such an undertaking would truly be a charitable act done in the spirit of the Good Samaritan.

Ann Corcoran

Keedysville




A word from the 'unwelcoming' on refugee resettlement



by Judith K. Warner

It looks as if those of us who questioned the refugee program will go down in Washington County history as "unwelcoming." This is a handy way for the local journalists and clergypeople to dismiss our concerns, but it is far from the truth.

It is an example of the liberal mindset that cannot conceive of any reason for not welcoming everyone in need, except for mean-spiritedness.

I know it well; I used to feel that way myself. I got a warm glow just thinking about people of different races and ethnicities mingling together.

And I'm perfectly happy now for everybody to mingle who wants to. In fact, when I moved to Washington County 15 years ago I was impressed by how many inter-racial couples I saw at events in the county, and how little notice or comment they received.

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