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 tips@ithacavoice.com.

Catholic Charities of Tompkins/Tioga is pleased to announce that the first family to be welcomed to Tompkins County through the agency’s new refugee resettlement program is scheduled to arrive later this month.

Renee Spear, executive director of the agency, explained, “After months of preparation, Catholic Charities of Tompkins/Tioga (CCTT) was approved by the U.S. State Department last October as a Refugee Reception and Placement Site. We have recently gotten word through that we will soon be receiving a family from Afghanistan as the first people to be welcomed through our new program.”

The Ithaca-based Catholic Charities agency is launching the new refugee resettlement program under the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services program, the largest refugee resettlement program in the U.S.

Sue Chaffee, Director of CCTT’s Immigrant Services Program said, “This family is entering the U.S. under the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for people who were employed by or on behalf of the United States government in Afghanistan or Iraq. The rigorous process of obtaining SIV status is administered by the U.S. State Department, which issues these visas in very limited numbers. This is a different immigration status than people who have been vetted and designated as refugees by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. However, once these SIV holders enter the U.S., they are welcomed and oriented to life in this country through refugee resettlement agencies like ours.”

Ms. Chaffee continued, “In order to respect the privacy of this family, and in recognition of the upheaval and trauma they have experienced, we are not going to make their name, address or further details about them available to the public. However we have been working closely with the Ithaca School District, local physicians’ offices, the local grassroots community organization Ithaca Welcomes Refugees and others to help ensure this family will have a warm welcome and a smooth transition to our community.”

A presidential executive order signed in late January suspended refugee resettlement in the U.S. Last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld a ruling from a lower federal judge that blocked parts of the executive order, which allowed refugees who had advanced booking notices into the country again. Because of the uncertainty of how further court cases will be decided or new executive orders will be worded, Catholic Charities staff is unable to predict the timing of any future resettlement of refugees. Ms. Spear explained, “We are honored and grateful for the outpouring of support for our agency and for the refugees we hope to serve. However, we cannot at this time give any further information on how and when our program will unfold. We stand committed to this program and will continue to serve immigrants and refugees already living in Tompkins County through our Immigrant Services Program.”

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at koconnor@ithacavoice.com and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.