The Great Wall of Hagerstown

October 13, 2007|By GEORGE MILLER

To the editor:

Now that the decision to close the Hagerstown Refugee Office has been made, I am compelled to comment on what I feel is a great injustice to our fellow man. The little town of Hagerstown will not have any great impact on the world's problems but it will continue to be recognized as a place where people of different backgrounds, races and religions are not openly welcomed.

I have been involved with the refugee resettlement effort in Hagerstown since January 2005 and I am saddened and disappointed, not because of what the refugees will miss by not coming to the Hagerstown area, but rather by what the local region will miss by not befriending the refugees.

In working very closely with the refugees, I never met a group of people who are more appreciative of the smallest kindness shown to them. The refugees ask only that they be given an opportunity to work and earn a living for their families.


Despite their limited English language skill, which they work at improving every day, the refugees have demonstrated their excellent work ethic. As of this date, all employable adults, both men and women, work full-time.

Most of the young people who have already graduated from local high schools are going to college while working.

Refugees pay taxes and bring in far more money to the county than they ever received from the community. I venture to say that the most impoverished people in our community have far more resources than the refugees, who show up at the airport with all of their possessions in a plastic bag and are met by a case worker who is the only human being in America who knows them.

I feel disappointment for the community members who did not support bringing refugees to the area and never took the time to meet any of the refugees.

Community leaders who said they did not know about the resettlement effort until the Franklin Street incidence either did not read The Herald- Mail newspaper which featured several front page articles, beginning with the first refugee family arrival in February 2005, or chose to ignore it.

While the decision not to bring additional refugees to the unwelcoming Hagerstown area is very sad, of more serious concern to me are the statements by Penny Nigh and Kelly Cromer, implying that the city government should approve relocating refugees to this area. Such statements imply that certain groups must receive approval of local government before relocating in the Hagerstown area.

While I recognize the impracticality of building the "Great Wall of Hagers-town" out of bricks and mortar, it is clear that such a wall of inhospitality exits in the minds and hearts of many local people.

George H. Miller

Former program coordinator

Hagerstown Refugee

Resettlement Office

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