The following is a republished press release from Catholic Charities of Tompkins/Tioga and NOT written by The Ithaca Voice. To submit community announcements directly to The Voice, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Community residents have answered the call to speak out in favor of bringing refugees to Tompkins County. Catholic Charities of Tompkins/Tioga has gathered 2557 postcards written to the president in opposition to his recent executive order which suspended refugee resettlement to the United States. Dozens of postcards to other elected officials were also collected.
The president’s January 27 executive order, now being reviewed in federal court, suspended the settlement of refugees to the United States for 120 days, cut the number of refugees accepted to the U.S. from 110,000 for this fiscal year to 50,000, and denied entry to Syrians indefinitely. In November 2016, Catholic Charities of Tompkins/Tioga (CCTT) had been approved by the U.S. State Department as a Refugee Reception and Placement Site and was planning to receive 10 to 12 refugee families this year. Two families from Syria and one from Afghanistan had already been assigned to CCTT; the timing of their entry to the U.S. is now unknown.
In response to the executive order and in coalition with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ advocacy efforts on this issue, the agency has been asking local faith communities, community organizations and individuals to write postcards denouncing the president’s new policy. The effort was the brainchild of Ann Marie Eckert, pastoral associate at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic parish.
Ms. Eckert explained, “I was outraged by the president’s actions and felt compelled to help organize a response that clearly stated our community’s readiness to welcome people fleeing war and violence. Our parish had been working hard to learn about the refugee crisis and to respond. Our parishioners are leaders in the grassroots community group Ithaca Welcomes Refugees; children in our faith formation classes and parish quilters had made quilts for refugee families on their way to Ithaca; and we had raised over $1000 to support Catholic Charities’ new refugee resettlement program.”
Over the course of the last 10 days, postcards have been flooding into Catholic Charities, from community members, local groups, Cornell University and at least 8 local congregations. Children and adults, immigrants, college and high school students, professors, and members of the clergy have all participated in this effort. Messages included hand-drawn images, personal stories and impassioned pleas to rescind the order and allow refugees into our community. Sample text from postcards can be found at the end of this press release.
Laurie Konwinski, Catholic Charities’ Deputy Director and Tompkins County Justice & Peace Ministry Coordinator noted, “Our agency is heartened by the overwhelming response of love and solidarity from this community. We stand with the U.S. Bishops and people of good faith from across the country and around the world in calling on the president to lift the ban on Syrians, expand not shrink the refugee program, and allow refugees in right now. Our world is facing the worst humanitarian crisis since the devastation of the Second World War. History will judge us on whether we responded with humanity and love or with fear and indifference.”
Selected quotes from postcards:
“My dad & most of his immediate family came here from Germany in 1938. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here, as all the rest of the family were killed by the Nazis. I cannot stand by while America closes its eyes to the suffering and trauma of people whom the America I know would welcome and shelter. I oppose the Executive Order on refugees – the vetting process is already strong, and this goes against everything this country stands for. ITHACA WANTS REFUGEES.”
“Dear Sir, I write today because I want the U. S. to welcome refugees. I lived in a refugee camp for 14 years, after Burmese soldiers burned and massacred my village. Almost 4 years ago I came to NY with my 2 children. I am a widow. I am thankful I can be here, and I want other refugees to come in peace, too.”
“I am a high schooler Ithaca New York. I wanted to say that Ithaca Wants Refugees! These people are not coming to harm us, but instead to escape from harm in their own countries. They’re simply humans looking for somewhere safe…”
“You have come from a life of limitless privilege. These refugees have not. They need our help, support, and love. Ithaca is willing to give that to them!! Grant us that, Mr. President.”
“The ban in not making America any safer, but causing people to suffer and separating families.”
“I oppose your Executive Order on refugees. The 2 – 4 year vetting process is already strong. Welcoming the displaced and suffering is our duty and only strengthens our country.”
“I work with refugees every day and they teach me daily the power of kindness and compassion. Lift the ban NOW.”
“I invite you to visit some schools around the country that are teaching English and job skills to refugees from all over the world. Ask how they were vetted, get to know them and their incredible dedication to becoming good, hardworking citizens of the U.S. refugee workers are consistently praised as loyal, reliable and essential to making American great.”
“We have a moral obligation to assist people in danger, especially since the strife in the Middle East stems largely from historic and current U.S. policies!”
“It is our obligation, as Christians, to care for vulnerable children and families fleeing war. Please reverse your Executive Order so we can behave in a caring loving way. –An 85 year old who wishes for peace & justice.”
“Jesus was a brown refugee.”
“Your life has been enriched by refugees whether you know it or not. My country and my community welcomes refugees.”
“Treating refugees AS the problem IS the problem. We should not stand quietly while others suffer.”
“President Trump, I’m not the most eloquent person and it’s not very likely that you will actually read this. However, I wonder if you’re thinking about the impact that your executive order on refugees is having on these people’s lives. I understand that you want to take care of your own first; you want to ‘make America great again’ and support Americans before letting more people into this nation. However, it is possible to both support Americans and assert America’s power as a world leader by welcoming those in need. Yes, accepting refugees may burden the nation by using additional government funds and demanding more care. But there are so many people in this nation that are willing to accept that responsibility and be compassionate. Be kind. The world wants you to do good.”
“Dear Donald, As a student, a grandchild of immigrants, an educator, and a person who greatly respects people of all nationalities and religions, I am strongly opposed to your recent immigration ban. I encourage – and beg- you to reconsider.”
“The pepol in Seiria are importint. they need are help! So you can help to! don’t tare the world apart” -Ella, 7 years old
Featured image provided by Catholic Charities of Tompkins/Tioga.