WXXI AM News

refugees

On this Veterans Day, we hear the remarkable stories and sacrifices of three Afghan natives who served alongside U.S. troops in Afghanistan as interpreters. Their lives were threatened by the Taliban, and after great personal risk, they came to Rochester on Special Immigrant Visas. They share their stories.

Our guests:

  • Hanif Frotan, Afghanistan native who served alongside U.S. troops as an interpreter
  • Tamim Azizi, Afghanistan native who served alongside U.S. troops as an interpreter
  • Sami Skander, Afghanistan native who served alongside U.S. troops as an interpreter
  • Ellen Smith, director of Keeping Our Promise

Nabila Qadiri Kohistani is an Afghanistan native who came to the United States last year on a Special Immigrant Visa, or SIV. SIVs are awarded to Iraqis and Afghans who assisted U.S. armed forces and now face threats from the Taliban. Kohistani's work is dedicated to creating gender equality and empowering women throughout Afghanistan, and she has achieved success through USAID-funded projects.

This hour, she joins us to share her story and to describe the challenges facing women in Afghanistan. We're also joined by Ellen Smith from Keeping Our Promise, who shares the latest updates on the SIV program. In studio:

  • Nabila Qadiri Kohistani, Afghanistan native, and senior program focal point for the women's leadership program at Tetra Tech ARD in Kabul
  • Ellen Smith, director of Keeping Our Promise, a program of Refugees Helping Refugees

On this Veterans Day, we talk with refugees who served the U.S. military as interpreters in Afghanistan and Iraq, and who have come to America on Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs). By law, the SIV process should take no more than nine months, but bureaucracy and backlogs have forced candidates to wait for years. For many interpreters, an SIV is a matter of life and death: interpreters who served with U.S. forces are considered traitors by the Taliban.

This hour, our guests share the challenges they and their families have faced in coming to America. We also preview a film about SIVs called "The Interpreters" that will air tonight on WXXI-TV. In studio:

  • Mujtaba Haidar , Afghani interpreter for the U.S. military who came to America on a Special Immigrant Visa
  • Javayd Samadie. Afghani interpreter for the U.S. military who came to America on a Special Immigrant Visa
  • Ellen Smith, director of Keeping Our Promise, a program of Refugees Helping Refugees

The ImageOut Film Festival is back. The annual event presents LGBT arts and cultural experiences to promote awareness and foster dialogue. It kicks off this Thursday.

We preview this year's lineup, including a film called “For They Know Not What They Do,” which explores the evangelical church’s reaction to LGBTQ issues. We also discuss the film, "Unsettled," which tells the story of LGBTQ refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. after being persecuted in their home countries. Our guests:

In the current political climate, conversations about refugees often focus on numbers and policies. But both refugees and organizations helping them transition into their new lives want the public to understand the human side of their journeys. A number of local events honoring that experience will be held in advance of the United Nations’ World Refugee Day on June 20. According to the UN, the day commemorates “the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees” who were forced to flee their homes.

This hour, we sit down with two local refugees who share their stories, and we hear about a project meant to create employment opportunities for refugees. In studio:

A number of local faith-based groups are coming together to help refugees who served the U.S. military. The refugees – from Afghanistan and Iraq – have come to America on Special Immigrant Visas through an organization called No One Left Behind.

We discuss the current climate for refugees in the U.S., and we talk to local refugees about how they are adjusting to life in Rochester.

  • Ellen Smith, president of the Rochester chapter of No One Left Behind
  • Belal Ahmadi, interpreter for the U.S. military who arrived in the U.S. from Afghanistan in January 
  • Bashir Qayyum, interpreter for the U.S. military who arrived in the U.S. from Afghanistan in January 
  • Rev. Ken Pitcher, Grace Church, and executive director of Refuge Rochester
  • Rev. Jacqueline Nelson, Asbury First United Methodist Church
  • Rabbi Peter Stein, Temple B’rith Kodesh
  • Vicki Robinson, Messiah Lutheran Church
  • Chandee Searcy, member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-days Saints

Ayman Jarjour is a musician and humanitarian who is using his skills and talents to help refugees in camps around the world. He's in Rochester for a benefit performance on November 10. We sit down with him to discuss what he's learned through his work, and we'll hear from a local refugee who shares her story. In studio:

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 

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