Back in March and early April Fredericksburg, VA area churches had said ‘no more!’—no more refugees should be resettled until the hundreds recently brought to the Fredericksburg area were properly resettled and their needs met. Now comes news that the troubled Catholic Diocese of Arlington refugee office has reformed itself somehow and more refugees will be coming to this region of Virginia.
As many as 100 refugees could come to the Fredericksburg area in the next year.
Officials with the Catholic Diocese of Arlington’s Office of Migration and Refugee Services announced the expected arrivals seven months after area church leaders asked the federal government to stop the flow of refugees here.
But refugee services officials also announced different leadership and more staff in the local resettlement office.
And area volunteers hope that this time around, refugees will be resettled successfully, thanks to the shakeup in the refugee services office.
“I believe we can do this in a much better way than we experienced last March,” said the Rev. Ted Snow, pastor of Regester United Methodist Church in Stafford County. Snow said he is “a staunch supporter” of resettlement, but in March he joined area local leaders criticizing the local process.
Over the past five years, more than 500 refugees have resettled in the Fredericksburg area.
Federal government drops off refugees and promptly forgets them!
I’ve heard that many times before, as well as the complaint that there is little communication with the federal contractors, like the Catholic one here in Fredericksburg.
In the past three years, local officials have criticized the resettlement process, saying it seemed that the federal government invited the refugees in, dropped them into the area and promptly forgot about them.
They also complained that the local resettlement office was understaffed and failed to communicate with groups offering to help refugees get on their feet here.
Tensions rose as church leaders, social workers, educators and volunteers struggled to meet the demands of an often needy population. They provided transportation, English classes, summer camps, jobs and financial help.
In March, about 20 volunteers, clergy, social workers and educators met with resettlement leaders and state and federal government officials.
That meeting did little to smooth tensions, but the refugees services officials promised to communicate more with the community.
One local church leader says ‘no thanks,’ we will take care of the still struggling refugees previously brought to the area.
Other church leaders said they are going to give the new leadership a chance, but they aren’t sure things will improve.
Some who have helped with resettlement efforts in the past have said they won’t attend the meeting. They plan to concentrate on helping the refugees who are already here.
The Rev. Larry Haun, one of the most vocal leaders calling for a halt in local resettlements, will not attend. His congregation, Fredericksburg Baptist Church, still helps dozens of newcomer families with transportation, money, tutoring, school supplies, clothes and more.
“I wish them well. I hope it goes well, but we’ve got more than we can do with what we have now,” Haun said.