105 words rest beneath the Statue of Liberty.
They were written 136 years ago.
Time has taken its toll on the brass inscription.
The words, once crisp, have faded.
And maybe, their meaning has too.
Every two seconds, someone around the world is displaced from their home. Driven away from everything they know by violence, war, or relentless prosecution.
68 million people — 43 since you started reading this article.
And the clock keeps ticking, and ticking, and ticking. 25 million are refugees. Forced to leave their home country, looking, as we all are, for a chance at a better life.
Less than 1% of this group are considered, “strong candidates for resettlement in the United States.”
The two year process is the definition of thorough.
Screening and interviews by eight federal agencies including the State Department, Department of Homeland Security, and the FBI. Six security database checks, biometric tests, medical tests, fingerprints, even iris scans.
Then maybe, maybe, vetted refugees will be offered the opportunity to be, “woven into the rich fabric of American society.”
But that fabric is wearing thin.
At a time when there are more refugees than any point in human history, the United States’ quota has been slashed to its lowest level in 40 years — from a peak of 85,000 at the height of the Syrian crisis, to a mere 30,000 openings this year.
More people, less spots, and a strong message from our nation’s top office:
“Find somewhere else to go.”
Despite all this, refugees who make it through the grueling resettlement process are offered their shot at the American dream.
They’re placed around the country, including here in Charlotte, where two resettlement offices will receive approximately 300 people who will call the Queen City home this year.
Upon arriving in Charlotte with nothing but their names, refugees are greeted by staff and volunteers from the Carolina Refugee Resettlement Agency.
Operating since 1996, CRRA has helped thousands of local refugees begin their new lives. From housing, to jobs, to education, CRRA is a critical resource for their first 90 days and beyond.
Executive Director Marsha Hirsch leads seven staff members and a small army of volunteers to help make the transition as smooth as possible. And despite controversy on the national level, she says local support for the CRRA is at an all-time high.
But federal funding is not. With fewer admitted refugees comes less funding, and a near constant need for donations of time, money, and supplies.
Hirsch insists that Charlotte has stepped up to the challenge, but there’s always more work to be done. And with every refugee CRRA resettles, they send a powerful message to us and the world:
“Here, you are welcome.”
So while the nation debates those 105 words overlooking New York Harbor, here in Charlotte, CRRA strives to embody Lady Liberty’s most famous words.
“... give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
The Queen City lifts her golden crown to you.
Learn more about the Carolina Refugee Resettlement Agency here.
Become a volunteer.