State Letter #01-25
Events of September 11, 2001
TO: STATE REFUGEE COORDINATORS
NATIONAL VOLUNTARY AGENCIES
OTHER INTERESTED PARTIES
FROM: Carmel Clay-Thompson
Office of Refugee Resettlement
SUBJECT: Events of September 11, 2001
As we all struggle to understand personally the scope of the tragedy of September 11, we also consider the effect of these events on refugees and on the programs that support their resettlement here. The strength of the U.S. domestic refugee resettlement program has always been the commitment and quality of work that ORR's resettlement partners provide directly to refugees at the local level. This is ever more true today, as we begin to realize the impact on refugees from these events in terms of their personal trauma, their resettlement progress, and how it may affect future arrival numbers. In light of this, Dr. Nguyen Van Hanh, currently serving as Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and I write to relate what we have learned so far of the impact and to describe some of the steps we are taking to ensure a strong and resilient resettlement program.
We understand that approximately 100 refugees in New York City, who were hotel management trainees, were working at the World Trade Center on September 11. They were fortunate to survive the horror, but are severely traumatized. A former refugee working at the Pentagon is among those missing and presumed dead. Refugees who were not at the sites of destruction are also affected by the triggering of memories of war and refugee experiences. The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and ORR will be assisting the New York refugee program with emergency funding to help continue the operation of additional and necessary services in New York City. In addition, we have worked with other ACF programs to develop a guide for helping children cope with the disaster; and we encourage you to share this with all providers.
This is a time to assess the impact on programs and services, to work with mental health and educational leaders, as well as those who protect and provide security in our communities. It is also a time to consider new partnerships with these organizations. State Coordinators may want to convene their advisory groups and service providers to gather information on the effect of the
disaster on refugee children, on refugees who may be experiencing personal trauma, on potential or real economic hardships, and on ways in which refugee organizations are responding to these situations. We at ORR welcome news from the field and encourage you to provide information on the repercussions of September 11 events through your ORR project officer or State analyst. We are particularly concerned with the effects of these events on refugee children.
Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, ORR has heard of incidents of employment discrimination, bias and intimidation against refugees and other individuals perceived to be of Middle Eastern descent. ORR recommends that providers refer their clients to the appropriate government offices or community-based organizations for assistance. If an individual has been discriminated against by an employer because of race, religion or national origin, the individual may call the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) at 1-800-669-4000. The Office of Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) protects work-authorized individuals from employment discrimination based on their citizenship or immigration status and their national origin (for people working in businesses with four to fourteen employees). OSC's Worker Hotline is 1-800-255-7688. Individuals also may go to the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, website at www.usdoj.gov/crt for information about addressing discrimination related to housing, education, access to government services and law enforcement.
Finally, as part of our responsibilities under the U.S. Repatriate Program, we are preparing contingency plans for the return and reception of American citizens in the event they are forced to return to the U.S. from abroad as a result of international tensions or conflict. We will work closely with those of you who also carry similar responsibilities for the State's Repatriate Program.
A major challenge for all of us is to preserve and protect the humanitarian principles that guide U.S. immigration policy, and specifically the refugee program, while simultaneously guarding our national security. We at ORR are committed to keeping you informed of events and issues that may impact the refugee program. Together, we will move through and beyond this tragedy to find new ways of preserving the principles which underlie our welcome to refugees fleeing similar tragedies.