WXXI AM News

refugees

About half of the children under the age of five separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border were reunited with their parents by Tuesday’s deadline, but the Trump administration says it was not able to reunite all of the children in that age group by that time.

Local immigrants are reacting to this news and to policies set by the White House. We hear their immigration stories and what being in America means to them. In studio:

  • Akil Al-Jaysh, refugee from Iraq, U.S. citizen, refugee case manager at Catholic Family Center, and adjunct lecturer of Arabic at SUNY Geneseo
  • Tek Acharyam, refugee from Bhutan, U.S. citizen, case manager and social worker
  • Rose Tomlinson, immigrant from Jamaica, permanent resident, and small business owner
  • Lisa Hoyt, director of immigration and refugee resettlement at Catholic Family Center

Have you ever had a conversation with a refugee? An upcoming cultural fair will give participants the opportunity to learn about people of different backgrounds by experiencing aspects of their cultures.

The organizer of “From Strangers to Neighbors” says the fair is one way to break down stereotypes and remove the fear sparked by controversies surrounding the Trump administration’s immigration ban. Our guests help us preview the event. In studio:

  • Samiha Islam, organizer of From Strangers to Neighbors
  • Sareer Fazili, president of the board of directors at the Islamic Center of Rochester
  • Alma Omerhodzic, Bosnian refugee and program participant
  • Obaida Omar, representative of Catholic Family Center who works to help integrate refugees into the Rochester area

Nearly 85,000 refugees were admitted into the United States in fiscal year 2016, and New York was one of three states that helped settle more than a quarter of them. 

We're joined by refugees living in Rochester, who share their compelling journeys and discuss the challenges they face. Plus, we talk about how the community can help them settle into their new lives, especially around the holidays. In studio:

  • Abdullahi Mohamed, refugee from Somalia
  • Parwez Askarzada, refugee from Afghanistan
  • Kar Nar, refugee from Burma/Thailand
  • Karen Elam, community relations director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester 

Somalia. Bhutan. Nepal. The Democratic Republic of the Congo. Burma. These are a handful of the many nations represented among Rochester’s refugee population. While their ethnic and cultural backgrounds are quite different, their stories of survival and their paths to Rochester have similar themes. And on World Refugee Day, those stories will come together in an effort to advocate for refugee rights and build bridges when there may be misunderstanding. 

For years Rochester resident Deborah Haber wanted to find a way to tell her parent’s story. Eventually she did, on a theatrical stage. It’s a story of one of the darkest times in world history. It’s a story of the implications of displacement for those facing persecution during the Holocaust. It’s a story of the power of a fighting spirit. And as the co-creator and producer of the musical Moses Man explains, it’s also a story that connects to our nation’s current political climate, from anti-semitic hatred to the refugee crisis. So what was once a personal story is now one that Haber wants to personalize for everyone and she’s doing it through a week-long multi arts event. Deborah Haber joins this edition of Need to Know to share more about Finding Home: Shine the Light (in Rochester March 23 - April 1).

We discuss the Trump administration's order on immigration by focusing on who is impacted, both locally and abroad. We try to answer our listeners' questions, and we discuss the possible results. Our guests:

  • Iman Abid, organizer for NYCLU
  • Mustafa Almansuri, translator for the U.S. Army who is originally from Iraq
  • Alma Omerhodzic, treasurer and board member for the Islamic Center of Rochester, and former Bosnian refugee
  • Mike Boucher, co-director of counseling and community work at St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center

After weeks of crisis in The Gambia, is the small African nation on the precipice of stability -- or will the tumult exacerbate a refugee crisis? The short story is that The Gambia was ruled by a rather typical strongman figure, who lost a surprising election this fall and declared that he would accept the results. Days later, he changed his mind and declared a national emergency. Now he's in exile, and Gambians around the world are taking a fresh look at the possibility of finally returning home. But residents in The Gambia are justifiably on edge.

We examine the crisis, and what comes next. Our guests:

  • Benjamin Lawrance, professor of international studies and director of international and global studies at the Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Assan Sarr, assistant professor of history at Ohio University
  • Baba Galleh Jallow, assistant professor of African and world history at La Salle University

With so much talk about refugees, we thought it would be important to hear real-life stories -- not just hype and headlines. What is life like in America as a refugee? How have refugees adjusted to living in Rochester?

Our guests help us understand. In studio:

  • Benjamin Lawrance, professor of international studies and director of international and global studies at the Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Meron Semedar, refugee from Eritrea 
  • Maung Thet Win, Karen refugee from Burma
  • Falmatu “Ayni” Jibril, RIT student and refugee from Somalia
  • Mike Coniff, executive director of Rochester Refugee Resettlement Services

After the attacks in Brussels, Senator Ted Cruz offered two ideas to fight terrorism. First, he said he wants law enforcement to actively patrol Muslim neighborhoods in the United States. Second, he said it's time to stop accepting refugees from any countries with al-Qaeda or ISIS presence.

Our guests come from the local refugee community, and we discuss what their process was like, along with their thoughts on the Senator's proposals. In studio:

  • Jim Morris, resettlement director at Catholic Family Center
  • Obaida Omar, case manager at Catholic Family Center, former refugee from Afghanistan, and member of the local Islamic community
  • Ellen Smith, coordinator of the Rochester Chapter of No One Left Behind
  • Aleem Akrami, former combat driver in Afghanistan
  • Omar Soufan, University of Rochester biomedical engineering student from Syria who established a rehabilitation and physical therapy clinic for injured refugees living on the Syrian border

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter is in studio for a half hour to discuss a broad range of issues, including the Syrian refugee crisis and her position on the SAFE Act. 

In our second half hour, WXXI's Karen DeWitt joins us from Albany to talk about the fraud and extortion convictions of ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Leader Dean Skelos.

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