Wherever you go in Lancaster, PA – mostly in Lancaster City – one would read ‘’ No matter where you’re from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.’’ This welcome attitude makes Lancaster the Refugee Capital of America.
On Tuesday, April 10, 2018, Noel Andersen, National Director of Church World Service in Washington, DC, led a group of faith leaders – Daniel Sweeney, Social Justice Coordinator of Justice and Peace Scotland, Adrian Cristea, secretary of Dublin City Interfaith Forum… – from the United Kingdom to Lancaster, PA for a conference with Lancaster Church World Service and the immigrants’ leaders.
Stephanie Gromek, a community developer at Church World Service introduced the work of the Agency and its influence in the Community as well as in the refugees’ and immigrants’ population. A real boost to the growth of the economy of Lancaster County. This positive development was restricted by President Trump’s executive orders. The numbers went down from 100,000 refugees to be resettled nationally under Barack Obama to 50,000 under Donald Trump. However, only 22,000 were resettled up to know.
Christina Baer, also Community Developer at Church World Service explained why Lancaster is considered a Refugee Capital of America. She traced the first experience when the Vietnamese refugees landed in Lancaster in 1975. Lancaster opened its arms and welcomed those refugees and, even offered to sponsor them. Since that time, Lancaster has been practicing a William Penn’s quote used by Christine to conclude: ‘’Strangers are welcome because there is enough room for them all’’.
Despite the comfort offered by this County, there is still a work to be done between immigrants and the locals. Carrie Carranza of Immigration Services’ at Church World Service talked about challenges experienced by refugees and immigrants. To understand the immigration issues, people must learn from the refugees and immigrants themselves. Church World then initiated partnership with organizations such as Citizen’s Immigration & Refugee Action Committee – CIRAC and, Community Advocates such as Welcome Teams, Immigrant Leaders… Trough Exhibitions and events, Immigrants and Refugees tell their stories to make themselves visible to the people of Lancaster and of the United States of America.
Mustafa O. Nuur, founder of Bridge Possible, talked about this organization he started last year in Lancaster, PA. to connect local Refugees and immigrants with their neighbors. An easy way for people to experience global cultures around a table when sharing a foreign meal. On the same token, Andy Kalala, President of Congolese Community of Central Pennsylvania highlights the impact of people making difference in their communities and in the world. This magazine gives a voice to the voiceless and, through an award called A.I.M Award, 100 influential people – locals, nationals and internationals – were celebrated in Lancaster, PA.
Thomas Baldrige, President of Lancaster Chamber of Commerce concluded by highlighting the contribution of Refugees and immigrants to the economy of Lancaster. Refugees and immigrants don’t only work as employees but also as employers. In 2014, they created 1026 jobs.
‘’No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.’’ Could not only be read on Lancaster yards but also in Locals’ hearts.