Manchester (NH) is an official refugee resettlement city. The State Department determines how many refugees the United States will take in each year and works through agencies to ease the transition. A colleague of mine lives in Manchester and was upset to learn about growing hostility to refugee placements.
Kathryn Marchocki writes in The Union Leader, “Mayor Ted Gatsas wants a moratorium on new refugee arrivals in Manchester after learning the city will receive a projected 600 refugees over two years, even though it now is the second-largest refugee resettlement community in New England.”
An alternative paper, The Hippo, goes into more depth. Here it quotes refugee supporters.
“ ‘For us, it’s a double-edged sword,’ said New Hampshire Catholic Charities’ Chesley. ‘The conditions they’re leaving are abhorrent. … But when the refugees come to New Hampshire, we witness the difficulty, the challenge. We also witness the evolution of a refugee’s life. The first few months here, they’re struggling. But there are so many wonderful examples of success.’
“There are many who realize just how much these refugees are bringing to the city. … [Rwandan refugee] Ntabaganyimana is one example of refugees’ giving back. He serves on a variety of community boards and organizations.
“The focus is always on challenges facing refugees or how refugees are impacting services. Ntabaganyimana would like a little more emphasis on the benefits of refugees and their successes. Sure, he says, there is an upfront investment in the refugees. But once they’re settled and acclimated, they’re contributing to the fabric of a community just like everyone else.”
Chesley points out that people have been migrating around the world forever. ” ‘That’s not new to New Hampshire. It’s not new to Manchester. The faces just look different and the colors are darker than the French Canadians or the Irish or the Polish, but the issues are still pretty much the same.’
“Refugees are working, and they are paying taxes. Ntabaganyimana guesses the refugees who are working are probably outweighing any impact that comes from refugees who aren’t able to find work quickly.”
The Hippo article also mentions a student from Suzanne’s alma mater, who has made a documentary on the issue. “Brendan Gillett is a student at Pomona College in California. He spent a great deal of time immersed in the refugee community while he filmed his documentary, Our Community. Gillett … suggested implementing a program that would spread responsibility and include not just resettlement organizations but also the general public. He suggested establishing a family sponsorship program in which a native New Hampshire family could work with and provide help (rides to appointments, the grocery store, etc.) to a newly arrived family.”