Since 2000, Syracuse has welcomed more than 10,000 people from overseas. Many of them arrived in the City as refugees, escaping violence in places like Somalia, the Sudan, and Syria. It’s hard work to get those people to the City, to help them fit in, to get them housing and a job, and it takes a whole constellation of allied organizations, businesses, and neighbors to do that work well.
This is work to be proud of. For too long, Syracuse found its pride and identity in vain things–national prominence borrowed from name brands, ill-defined and ill-conceived notions of growth. But it’s a truer pride that Syracuse, even with all of its challenges, continues to accept and embrace an ever-larger portion of the human family. The City is keeping the Nation’s promise to ‘lift its lamp beside the golden door’ and fulfilling the sacred duty to ‘welcome the strangers,’ even if they are some of the ‘least of these.’
Keeping that promise and fulfilling that duty have changed Syracuse for the better. Refugees are renewing old neighborhoods–fixing up homes and opening businesses. They are bringing new life to institutions like the Farmers Market and the Public Schools, and to old community fixtures like DiLauro’s Bakery and St. Vincent DePaul Church.
But now that’s all in jeopardy. On June 17, the Post-Standard published a letter from Beth Broadway, CEO of InterFaith works, that talked about all kinds of artificial barriers that the federal government has thrown up to make it hard for people to come to America. The numbers don’t lie–Syracuse is on pace to welcome 72% fewer refugees this year than it did in 2017. The prospects for 2019 are even worse.
That is all the result of a poisonous national politics. A politics that demonizes people who are made in the same image as all of us. A politics that criminalizes self-improvement and replaces compassion with cruelty– that attempts to deny our commonality. Ultimately, this politics harms us all, because we are all created equal, and so when we dehumanize these others, we equally dehumanize ourselves.
Syracuse will suffer spiritually and practically from the effects of this politics. It will suffer from the loss of that good work, and it will suffer from the loss of so many good people who would otherwise have added to all that the City already has. But Syracuse can keep its pride by fighting for those people at every opportunity.
In her letter, Ms Broadway talks about three ways that we can do this:
› Write letters, make phone calls and speak out for refugees with elected officials.
› Invite a refugee to speak to your congregation, club meeting or social group through InterFaith Works’ Spirit of America program.
› Volunteer with any of the refugee-serving organizations in Syracuse. We can use English tutors, drivers, organizers, friends to teach people about our community and more.
We can also give money to InterFaith Works, Catholic Charities, the Northside Learning Center, or any other that works with refugees directly or indirectly.
June 20th is World Refugee Day. This should be an occasion to celebrate Syracuse and the good work that the City is doing, but that work is now in jeopardy. Take June 20th as an opportunity to make a personal commitment to that work and, in doing so, make Syracuse a city to be proud of.