News about millions of refugees fleeing the Russian army invading Ukraine dominates today’s headlines. For those looking to help, it can seem somewhat overwhelming.
Recently, the City of Dallas launched a Welcoming Newcomers page for those who would like to volunteer or donate to federally recognized organizations that aid refugees or to national groups that provide services to immigrants and refugees in Dallas.
Federal law defines a refugee as a person who has demonstrated that they were persecuted—or fear persecution—due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or by membership in a particular social group, before arriving in the U.S.
Christina da Silva, Dallas’ Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs officer, said the website is a collaborative effort to centralize the resources and efforts of three local refugee resettlement agencies: Catholic Charities of Dallas, the International Rescue Committee, and the Refugee Services of Texas.
Da Silva’s office continues to communicate with resettlement agency partners, but as of March 22, she said no Ukrainian refugees were headed to Dallas.
Dallas is a Certified Welcoming place
Da Silva said Dallas has a long, proud history of aiding refugees. The city is one of 12 Certified Welcoming places in the U.S., as defined by the Welcoming America nonprofit organization. Dallas is the only Texas city with that certification.
“The City of Dallas has served as a safe haven for individuals fleeing violence for many decades,” she said. “Post-WWII, Vietnamese Americans have become the country’s largest refugee population, and Texas has the second largest population in the nation. Subsequently, Vietnamese is the third most-spoken language spoken in Dallas, besides English and Spanish.”
East Dallas, for example, is home to thousands of Cambodian refugees, who fled the Khmer Rouge in the 1980s, she said.
“Vickery Meadow is now home to more recent refugees and immigrants from Cambodia, Bhutan, Burma, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Bosnia,” da Silva said.
Resources and support for resettlement
The city also hosts a website—the Community Resources Welcoming Hub—to serve as a tool for resettling refugees, offering connections to volunteers who can give instruction in English, family services, jobs, immigration services, and even tips on acculturating to life in the region and the U.S.
Not all immigrants are refugees, da Silva said.
“I think it is important to note that many refugees have to go through multiple levels of questioning and interviews to prove that they can qualify for the designation of being a refugee,” she said. “That means that immigrants can arrive through a variety of ways—the refugee process is just one way. Some people come on a visa, others through a family member, or even asylum.
So, what does a successful resettlement assistance outcome look like in Dallas?
According to da Silva, “We envision that Dallas will be a city that ensures that immigrants and refugees are welcomed and have equitable access to services as well as full integration into economic opportunities and civic life.”
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