Letter: Welcoming Refugees from Syria

Letter: Welcoming Refugees from Syria

Letter to the Editor

The Montgomery County Council and County Executive Ike Leggett sent a letter to Robert Carey, the director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families, “to affirm Montgomery County, Maryland’s policy to be a welcoming community to refugees from around the world, including those from Syria.” The County Council and County Executive also signed on to the “Declaration from Metropolitan Regions on Syrian Refugees.”

Dear Mr. Carey,

We are writing to you today to affirm Montgomery County, Maryland’s policy to be a welcoming community to refugees from around the world, including those from Syria. We are disheartened that many governors have expressed opposition to having Syrian refugees make new homes in their states.

It is our understanding that the vetting process for determining whether a refugee may enter the United States is rigorous and takes from 18 to 24 months. It is initiated through a screening by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees or a United States Embassy (with a few limited exceptions). People who are selected for possible entry are subject to review by the National Counterterrorism Center, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Terrorist Screening Center, the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and the State Department. Once a refugee is approved to come to the United States, the State Department works with resettlement agencies to help the refugee find an appropriate state and city/community for relocation.

While refugee assistance is federally funded, we understand that programs are administered in partnership with states, as Maryland’s is administered through the Maryland Office for Refugees and Asylees (MORA). Refugees are provided with interim cash and medical assistance, and assistance with securing employment and housing, with a goal of helping them to be self-sufficient. Refugees who want to come to the Washington Metropolitan Area may receive assistance and services through one of the non-profit organizations located in Silver Spring that are part of the public-private partnership with the federal Department of Health and Human Services and MORA: the ECDC African Community Center, International Rescue Committee, and Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area. While the Suburban Maryland Resettlement Center is in Silver Spring, refugees are free to live in any community they choose.

We are writing to voice our welcome and support for those who are fleeing violence, cannot safely return home, and seek nothing but safety and freedom in America. We also understand how a spirit of welcome at the local level is critical, as the long-term stability and success for refugees and their children comes from the programs and services provided at the local level, through the assistance of local non-profits, and the support of neighbors and volunteers. We are confident that refugees will continue to be appropriately screened and, if they choose to make their new home in Montgomery County, will be valued members of our community.

Montgomery County Council

And County Executive Ike Leggett