Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Rochester NY’s Catholic Family Center

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 25, 2011

The Penfield Post in upstate New York has an article today profiling Rochester’s Catholic Family Center and a local hospital that works with refugees.

Irondequoit, N.Y. — “Opposite” is the word Dim Sian Huai has for her life in Rochester for about the past two years.

Originally from Burma, in Southeast Asia, Dim obtained refugee status and lived in Malaysia before moving to Rochester with her brother and sister.

“The place (Rochester) was chosen for me,”…

…According to 2008 data, the latest for which data is available, 87 percent of refugees coming in to New York state were resettled upstate. Of that 87 percent, 16 percent of those refugees are settled in Rochester.

I think the environment here (in Rochester) is easier, and housing and jobs are semi-decent,” [Jim] Sutton [a physician’s assistant and director of community medicine and the refugee health program for Rochester General] said. “Plus, Catholic Family Center is one of the better resettlement agencies in the country.”
He works with refugees primarily from a medical standpoint, and organized a conference on the topic earlier this year. The response to that two-day conference surprised even him. It drew 400 participants from 29 states.

“There are three traumas refugees go through,” Sutton said, pointing first to whatever happened in a refugee’s
native country, then becoming, in effect, “a person without a country” in a camp, then resettling in the U.S.

“We see a lot of symptoms of unhealed trauma,” Sutton said, “yet it’s also extremely rewarding to help someone who’s so vulnerable and wants to do the right thing … Even a little bit of help always gets a smile and a thank you.”

…Sutton works closely with people like Jim Morris, associate director of refugee services at Catholic Family Center.

The center has a three-month resettlement program, Morris said, during which they provide or arrange “core services” — like housing and education — as defined by the federal government.

The national network with whom the center works sends biographies of potential refugees who might settle in Rochester, Morris explained, and the center accepts about 99 percent of them.

…Most are resettled in the city of Rochester because they need to be close to public transportation and city services, Morris said, but added that he knows families that have relocated to Henrietta, Pittsford, Perinton, Brighton and beyond after their initial arrival.

…“There’s value in understanding other cultures and people,” Morris said, adding that refugees are also rejuvenating some whole blocks and neighborhoods in Rochester. “It’s a story of urban development… Read more here

A local volunteer reported in October that a neighborhood in Rochester where CFC was resettling refugees has the highest crime rate in all of New York state.  Politicians in states losing population have long succeeded in pressuring the federal government into placing refugees in these areas (often extremely dangerous areas) and I never hear public or private partners in the resettlement program criticize this.

Also, I see that CFC says it takes 99 percent of refugees that the USCCB offers them, which differs from statements that other private resettlement agencies have made about their national affiliates forcing them to take refugee clients.

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