This week there were no cultural orientation classes at CRIS, so I spent some of my free time speaking to different employees to get a sense of the other tasks CRIS performs. I spoke to Nathan Szabados who works in resettlement as a program coordinator applying for benefits for clients through the county and coordinating with Church World Service (CWS) and Episcopal Migration Ministries to create case files before refugees arrive in the U.S. Nathan sat me down and explained to me the long and complicated AOR (Affidavit Of Relation) sponsorship program designed to help bring family members of refugees already resettled to the US who were left behind for one reason or another, or their cases were lost in the camps. Up until 2008, the AOR process was easy to apply for and CRIS was resettling upwards of 1000-1500 people a year. However, the government realized that some former refugees were committing fraud by claiming non-family members and so the whole program was nixed. Now CRIS resettles around 600 people a year and ZERO through the AOR program. Nathan attempted to explain the complex processes behind the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and their new form process. To explain the entire thing would mean writing a novel, but the main lesson I learned was that although it is necessary for immigrant and refugee resettlement to be determined at the national level, the bureaucracy and ambiguity of the AOR forms means a whole lot of wasted time with no results for refugee families in America or people living in the camps abroad. Of the hundreds of AOR’s the CRIS staff have completed, none of have resulted in refugees being resettled in the U.S., and this is true for all other non-profit refugee organizations in America. I feel like the AOR’s represent the frustration some of the CRIS employees feel with government bureaucracy, its size, complexity, and murky guidelines that makes reuniting refugee families extremely difficult and time consuming and result in wasted resources and overflowing refugee camps.
Another issue talked about around the office deals with President Obama and his asking for close to $4 billion from congress to deal with the Central American child immigration dilemma on the U.S.’s border with Mexico. The main concern for CRIS and other organizations like CRIS, is that the Office of Refugee Resettlement plans to reprogram $94 million from their budget for refugee services to deal with the child migrant dilemma which would mean a drastic cut to many of the services CRIS and other non-profits offer to their clients and the reduction in CRIS’s staff size. I realize funding and the loss of funding are problems all non-profits face, but in my mind this not only affects the non-profit employees and the people they serve in central Ohio, but also people abroad. Refugees living in camps who have been waiting to be resettled in the US or to be reunited with their family but are now told they have to wait because there just isn’t enough money for them, for their needs, their lives.
Below is a link with more information on the budget dilemma and below that are the numbers to Ohio’s senators. If you can call them and ask to approve the emergency funds President Obama has proposed, you would be helping to improve the lives of child migrants at our border and refugees abroad: