On Tuesday October 7, 2014 Civil Rights Policy Fellow Danielle Caron attended an event titled “Forced Out! From Conflict to Connecticut: The Story of Refugees in our State.” This event took place at the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford, CT and was presented by The World Affairs Council of Connecticut. The World Affairs Council of Connecticut is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that provides programs for students and educators with “real life work on critical global issues.” In attendance were many students who were members of the Model United Nations Special Committee on Refugees.
Giving the main speech was the Executive Director of Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS), Chris George. George, an ex-Peace Corps volunteer in the Middle East, educated the audience on what it means to be a refugee and how IRIS resettles refugees now living in Connecticut. “Hospitality trumps politics,” said George, when discussing refugees coming to the United States. Our country selects and screens 70,000 people with refugee status to be invited to the United States. Connecticut welcomes a large number of these people. IRIS then steps in to help these newly settled refugees find a place to live, healthcare, and jobs. It was also announced that IRIS is going to be initiating legislation at the next Connecticut General Assembly Session proposing a bill that the State of Connecticut allocates some funding for refugees. IRIS receives modest federal funding, but the state’s cost of living only allows that money to go so far.
Also in attendance were the International Institute of Connecticut (IICONN), an agency that “assists new Americans to become self-sufficient, to ensure that low income persons in Connecticut have access to affordable immigration services, and to strengthen families by helping them to obtain United States Citizenship and reunite with family members.”
The new Hartford Commission on Refugee and Immigrant Affairs (CRIA) was also in attendance. This Commission works to “create a means for refugee and immigrant voices to be heard and understood, to facilitate civic engagement among refugees and immigrants, and to recognize and legitimize issues of importance to new arrivals to the city of Hartford.”
The CHRO looks forward to connecting more with the organizations and agencies present at Forced Out!