In 2016, Pope Francis declared a “Year of Mercy” for the universal Church. One of the ways that he called upon Catholics to practice the mercy of God was by inviting every parish and monastery in Europe to sponsor a refugee family. Upon hearing the Pope’s message, Bishop Barber invited every parish in the Diocese of Oakland to co-sponsor a refugee family in partnership with Catholic Charities. Since then, more than half of our parishes in the diocese have responded and have volunteered to participate in this effort with Catholic Charities to sponsor refugees who have been vetted and cleared by the Department of State.
Catholic Charities of the East Bay has a long history and demonstrated experience with serving the immigrant, refugee and migrant community in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. Last year, CCEB served more than 26,000 residents in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, helped nearly 1000 people enter the pathway to citizenship and resettled 63 refugee families from countries all around the world.
For more than a year now, the Gospel Justice Committee of our parish has been discussing how we might be able to join the effort to help refugees whose lives have been threatened by religious or political persecution, war, poverty and violence. After much thought and deliberation, I am pleased to announce that St. Joan of Arc Parish will become a co-sponsor with Catholic Charities of the East Bay and assist with the refugee resettlement effort. We have a dedicated core team of volunteers who are already at work preparing an “Information Night” which is scheduled for May 7, 2017. On April 22 and 23, 2017, some of our volunteers will be present after all the Masses to offer you more information about a variety of ways in which you can help.
We have a wonderful opportunity in this Refugee Resettlement Co-Sponsorship Program to live out our parish mission: To be Christ for Others as Christ is for us. I hope that you will consider offering your help in this important effort.
God bless you! Fr. Ray Sacca
a moment of grace
a prayer for refugees
God of our Wandering Ancestors,
Long have we known
That your heart is with the refugee:
That you were born into time
In a family of refugees
Fleeing violence in their homeland,
Who then gathered up their hungry child
And fled into alien country.
Their cry, your cry, resounds through the ages:
“Will you let me in?”
Give us hearts that break open
When our brothers and sisters turn to us
with that same cry.
Then surely all these things will follow:
Ears will no longer turn deaf to their voices.
Eyes will see a moment for grace instead of a threat.
Tongues will not be silenced but will instead advocate.
And hands will reach out—
working for peace in their homeland,
working for justice in the lands where they seek safe haven.
Lord, protect all refugees in their travels.
May they find a friend in me
And so make me worthy
Of the refuge I have found in you.
from Catholic Relief Services
Refugee Resettlement Video
This video by Catholic Charities of East Bay shares the story of a family sponsored by St. Raymond’s parish.
Learn more about the Refugee Resettlement program below and if you have any questions please contact parishioner Rodger Powers by email or at 925 820-1887.
PRIOR TO ARRIVAL
- Identify appropriate and affordable housing
- Raise funds for housing expenses during the first three months.
No money shall be given directly to refugee families but shall be directed through the Refugee Resettlement program at Catholic Charities
- Set-up a home by collecting household goods and furnishings
- Stock the kitchen pantry
- Provide a warm welcome with an airport pick-up
- Prepare a welcome meal
ON-GOING AFTER ARRIVAL
- Mentor: Assist with English language and culture; assist with financial budgeting; introduce them to financial/bank services, health services and health providers; introduce to the public transportation system
- Community Guide: Help orient refugees to the new community; help register school aged refugee children in school
- Assist with Job Development English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, resume building, basic computer skills
- Home Visits: Periodic visits during the first three months
- Provide a new/used cell phone with a short-term service plan to insure communication with the refugee family
- Coordinate and maintain frequent communication with CCEB’s Refugee Resettlement Case Manager
Refugee Vetting Process
Refugees Entering the U.S. Already Face a Rigorous Vetting Process
By HAEYOUN PARK and LARRY BUCHANAN JAN. 29, 2017 – The New York Times
The current screening process for all refugees involves many layers of security checks before entry into the country, and Syrians were subject to an additional layer of checks. Sometimes, the process, shown below, takes up to two years.
- Registration with the United Nations.
- Interview with the United Nations.
- Refugee status granted by the United Nations.
- Referral for resettlement in the United States.
The United Nations decides if the person fits the definition of a refugee and whether to refer the person to the United States or to another country for resettlement. Only the most vulnerable are referred, accounting for less than 1 percent of refugees worldwide. Some people spend years waiting in refugee camps.
- Interview with State Department contractors.
- First background check.
- Higher-level background check for some.
- Another background check.
The refugee’s name is run through law enforcement and intelligence databases for terrorist or criminal history. Some go through a higher-level clearance before they can continue. A third background check was introduced in 2008 for Iraqis but has since been expanded to all refugees ages 14 to 65.
- First fingerprint screening; photo taken.
- Second fingerprint screening.
- Third fingerprint screening.
The refugee’s fingerprints are screened against F.B.I. and Homeland Security databases, which contain watch list information and past immigration encounters, including if the refugee previously applied for a visa at a United States embassy. Fingerprints are also checked against those collected by the Defense Department during operations in Iraq.
- Case reviewed at United States immigration headquarters.
- Some cases referred for additional review.
Syrian applicants must undergo these two additional steps. Each is reviewed by a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services refugee specialist. Cases with “national security indicators” are given to the Homeland Security Department’s fraud detection unit.
- Extensive, in-person interview with Homeland Security officer.
Most of the interviews with Syrians have been done in Jordan and Turkey.
- Homeland Security approval is required.
- Screening for contagious diseases.
- Cultural orientation class.
- Matched with an American resettlement agency.
- Multi-agency security check before leaving for the United States.
Because of the long amount of time between the initial screening and departure, officials conduct a final check before the refugee leaves for the United States.
- Final security check at an American airport.
Sources: State Department; Department of Homeland Security; Center for American Progress; U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants; Refugee Council USA
Click HERE to see a list of FAQs from Catholic Charities of the East Bay (CCEB)