Despite the controversy surrounding the Trump Administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ crackdown on illegal immigration, today across the world people are celebrating refugees.
County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper officially proclaimed today ‘World Refugee Day’ in Erie County saying she prefers to refer to refugees as ‘new Americans’.
The day celebrates the ways in which refugees have enriched communities across the globe. Erie County, itself, is home to 10,000 refugees.
Dahlkemper says, “To leave their own country obviously takes a lot of bravery and they’ve come here and they’ve really embraced our community. I think we’ve done a good job of embracing them back.”
The International Institute is aiming to get the facts straight about refugees. It’s a myth that refugees are a drain on society. According to the International Rescue Committee – 85% of refugees are working within the first 180 days of arrival.
Additionally, half of the world’s refugees are children under the age of 18. Refugees come from all over the world and these people are forced to flee their homes due to war and persecution.
Senada Alihovizc remembers fleeing Bosnia with her husband and two small sons. She tells us, “You know, I lived a normal life like everybody else did. I have my house, I start my family, and my husband was working so I decide to be a stay at home mom and somebody just decided that’s not my destiny… In one second I lost my house and everything. I flee my country.”
Alihovizc says she feels lucky that at least her immediate family survived. They went through the extensive process of resettling to a new country, ending up in Erie in 1993. “I was talking to one family and when I mentioned that I’m a refugee and you get the feeling like you said some kind of disease. So, you know, that was kind of… you know, that’s still in my memory.”
She says she feels much more accepted now and is happy that Erie is celebrating World Refugee Day and, more importantly, educating the public.
Dahlkemper says, “We see that we need them as much as they need to be here. We need them to help our community grow and be stronger”.