Refugee Receiption & Placement
What happens when refugees arrive in the U.S? Many people ask this question and sometimes many of those that attempt to answer their friends or family members do not tell the truth of the story for some reasons, especially financial reasons. For that reason, the Kyangwalinews Team has compiled the entire story of what happens , and this information is based on the interviews and also personal experience since some of our team members were also resettled here and went through the same process.
WHERE ARE REFUGEES FROM AFRICA COMING FROM?
Refugees are coming from all over the continent and they are from the following countries; DRC, South Sudan, Somalia. The camps that most refugees come from include camps in Ethiopia(Sudanese), Namibia (Congolese), South Africa( Congolese), Kenya( Congolese, Sudanese), Uganda( Congolese), Rwanda (Congolese), Zambia (Congolese). Kyangwali News was able to obtain specific camps from which refugees come from: Rwanda includes Gihembe, Byumba; Uganda, Kyangwali, Nakivale, kyaka I & II, Urban refugees from Kampala. many of the refugees from South Africa, Namibia and Zambia mostly come from cities as well.
PORTS OF ENTRY:
These are Airports where most refugees arrive at before being transported to different cities and towns that they finally reside for good. These Airports include Washington D.C Airport, JFK Airport in New York but these are large airports which means the families usually require to travel to different destinations across the U.S. For those in States of Pennsylvania or New York, Border Patrol Agents transport them to nearby airports by car and then hand them over to the Caseworkers who in turn take them home since most families arrive late night due to long flights. Those that have to go as far as the inland states of Michigan, North Carolina, Florida, Kentucky etc, they usually have extra tickets to fly them to airports close to the cities they will live in. According to Prisca Poly whose family was resettled in the State of South Carolina, she told Kyangwalinews that they arrived at JFK but had to be flown to Greenville Airport that is located in their home state of South Carolina and later driven to the city of Spartanburg where they live.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
After arriving at the final airport, you are welcomed by the caseworker or a volunteer working for organisations that are licensed to resettle refugees in various states. The volunteer will introduce himself to the family and then drive you to either your new home or the hotel based on how prepared they are. Sometimes because the caseworkers are unable to secure an apartment on time or maybe the apartment is not just ready with all utilities set, a family will have to stay at a hotel for two weeks or more as they sort out the housing issue. Most families are big with about 7-10 household members and that makes it difficult to find an apartment that is enough for them.
Many families do not like staying at the hotel since it is not what they expect and result in complaining and pressuring the caseworker to find them an apartment as soon as possible. For families that find a house immediately, they either find the house ready including laid beds and cooked food ready to serve themselves and eat. In rare cases, the refugees that arrived earlier are usually requested to volunteer prepare food for the new arrivals. This is very important since these families already know which type of food is best for the arriving families. For example a family from Tanzania or from Rwanda will know what type of food is best for another family that came from that respective area.
WHEN YOU FINALLY ENTER YOUR APARTMENT
After finally entering your apartment, one is always very excited but this is verily short lived. In that same week or the one following, the casework either comes to your house or gives you an appointment to meet at their office. This is not usually fun; a bunch of appointments to follow up with. Medical appointments, driving lessons, Social Security Administration, Food Stamps and many phone calls to make to set things in your names (utilities). You immediately adopt the word "Busy" for the first time. Besides all this, you don't know how to activate anything including your phone. If you don't speak English, you become miserable immediately because it is very difficult to communicate with anyone outside your family including your caseworkers. It is very difficult, you have a million questions with no answers. Don't give up, it is short lived. As time goes on, you forget all the above and you tend to adopt slowly.
The food Stamp cards vary from state to state. The one in the picture above is for the state of Pennsylvania. This is the card through which the state credits money based on family size. At the time of arrival, a family receives a lot of money but with time, as some members of the family start to work, this amount is decreased since one has the obligation of reporting changes in the number of household members and income as well. Some states require one to obtain a state identification card and this is usually because it is required if one applies for a job. What is most important among all the cards is the Social Security card, its everything you need.
STATE IDs and DRIVER LICENSE
The state IDs also vary from state to state and if you intend to change the state, you surrender the state Id of your previous state and obtain the new one. You only do that if you are planning to stay in that state. If you intend to stay in another state for a couple of days, you don't need to surrender your document. You simply keep it and you can use it to apply for a job while you are living there. Another important card to bear is the Insurance card. This is used when one is sick and it is a means of payment since the cost of medical expenses is very high and just like many Americans, newly arrived refugees need to be covered and they are usually covered by state sponsored medical plans. This can be either Medicaid or Medicare and this expires as soon as your income is enough based on the state you live in.