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Compassion for others has its limits

November 03, 2007

To the editor:

It seems as if every time I pick up the newspaper I see an article about Hagerstown and how unwelcoming we are. There are many cities all over the United States that feel the same as we do. I feel it is time to present some of the facts, since initially the refugees were not given proper treatment here.

1. Volunteer church groups such as Virginia Council of Churches get paid by our government for resettling refugees. Since they are a nonprofit group, no one can figure how much goes to the refugees directly and how much for administration.

2. HCC was paid for every adult to learn English as a second language. There were many women who, because of their faith, were not allowed to attend regularly by their husbands. Some of them would only attend one class and then never go back. College courses are not cheap.

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3. The responsibility of the volunteer agencies was only 90 to 120 days more or less. How would anyone in our country like to go to a foreign country and be on their own after that length of time?

4. The police, fire and other agencies were supposed to be notified regularly where the refugees were living, due to language barriers. This was not done until the incident downtown.

5. For some languages, we have no interpreters. Even to get their driver's license, which they can get without speaking English, the MVA has no interpreters for some languages.

6. The local church groups under "Interfaith" were supposed to help with transportation and all other areas with volunteers. About six months ago, I asked why the local churches could not each sponsor a family financially and every other way until they were on their own. I was told they could not do this because there were only three churches involved.

7. After the office of Virginia Council of Churches was told of a possible shutdown, there was a reverend hired to try to get more churches involved. I don't know how many he got. When I attended the forum at HCC, one clergy member said the churches had that day signed a proclamation. I figured this would then be a church project. I was told it was not a church project but instead a community project.

8. If a church wants to bring in and sponsor a family of refugees, it can still do so without government aid. A refugee family already here can also sponsor a family through a government program even though they have not been in our country very long themselves.

9. When a refugee resettles in our country, they can later bring their relatives here. There was an article in The Baltimore Sun where a gentleman refugee was living here now and is planning on bringing his wife and four children later on. So 50 refugees could turn into a thousand or more, depending on the number of relatives.

10. I will use the example of the gentleman in The Baltimore Sun article. At the present time he can live off $10 to $11 per hour, but there is no way he can keep his family on what he makes now.

11. The employers may take a tax credit for hiring refugees.

12. There is something called IDAs where if a refugee wants to save for a car, education, home, etc., he can save a certain amount each week, which will be matched by the government.

13. At the present time, we are bringing about 50,000 new refugees each year into our country. This does not include relatives of those already here. It also does not include immigrants and illegal immigrants.

14. Our population is larger than it has ever been in the history of our country.

I am not opposed to conservative refugee resettling. Every article I read says we are a rich country. We have it better than most. Even though we are doing well now our country is trillions of dollars in debt. We have to have compassion, but still cannot help the whole world or pretty soon we are going to need help ourselves.

Louise Dawson

Hagerstown

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