Grounded by our belief in Jesus Christ and Catholic teaching, Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement program has been welcoming people to our Diocese since 1974. Chances are ... you know someone we helped. In response to the flood of misinformation spreading through social media and the high volume of inquiries we've received in the past few days, we've put together a list of FAQs concerning Syrian refugees in Louisiana and the refugee process. Check back for future developments.
You can help. Please share our message. Read the message from the Diocese of Baton Rouge and the Archbishop of New Orleans’ message about the Catholic Church’s role in resettlement. Get the real facts about the resettlement process from a reliable source. Open your heart and answer Jesus' biblical call to welcome the stranger.
How many refugees, and specifically Syrians, are in the Baton Rouge area?
A State Department web site reveals 15 total refugees, of all nationalities, have resettled in Louisiana in the month of October, since the Federal government announced it would resettle 10,000 Syrians throughout the nation.
None, 0, of these 15 are from Syria. Most are from Asia.
Currently there are no Syrians scheduled for resettlement in the Diocese of Baton Rouge through March of 2016.
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge resettled one, 1, Syrian last year, and that person subsequently moved out of Louisiana and their case transferred to another agency. Federal officials track these cases, not CCDBR, and these relocations are routine.
Can a refugee come into Baton Rouge and leave? What happens when they do?
Yes. At times, refugees choose to leave the Baton Rouge area to reunite with family members living in another state. If that is the case, we help to establish contact in another location and are aware of their destination. While our agency passes along such cases to other agencies and hence loses contact with the refugee, another agency takes over. Federal agencies remain engaged in tracking and following the refugee. Such cases are referred to as “out migration,” and it is inaccurate to say the refugee is “missing” simply because they leave our Diocese or that we have somehow lost them.
What safety and security processes are in place to protect U.S. Citizens from terrorists being embedded in refugee populations?
Multiple levels of security clearances by several agencies are required before a refugee is allowed into the U.S., and the process can take years to complete.
The Department of State begins a series of background checks after refugee status has been established overseas, starting with Consular Lookout And Support System (CLASS), a database listing individuals who have been denied visas, and extending to enhanced interagency security checks. Refugees are photographed and fingerprinted. Some undergo additional security reviews by a number of US law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
After an in-person interview, a DHS’s US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer conditionally approves or disapproves refugee status until the results of the security checks are received and cleared. Prior to departure to the US, refugees undergo a final interagency security check. Go here for more information on the government’s rigorous screening process.
Catholic Charities cooperates with local and state officials when questions about safety issues arise. We, too, are concerned for the safety of our community and are in contact with federal and state law enforcement and security officials and would report any suspicious activity … should that be necessary.
Regarding Syrians, it’s important to note that the Department of Homeland Security reports that there are no known, credible threats of ISIS being embedded in Syrian refugees scheduled to come to the U.S.
CCDBR has been resettling refugees for decades, and occasionally similar threats and concerns arise. This is not the first time we’ve dealt with such issues. As in the past, we will continue welcoming and helping refugees -- from wherever they arrive -- to integrate into our community and become our new neighbors.
Does the Governor’s Executive Order to stop state agencies from resettling refugees impact Catholic Charities?
Should we be notified of a Syrian arrival, we are studying the governor’s executive order to state agencies to refrain from resettling Syrians, but are unsure if it applies to us because we are not a state agency. We will need guidance from USCCB and the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement.
Why does Catholic Charities do this work?
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, implores us to remember the Golden Rule and help refugees rather than view them as a problem: “Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. … We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12). (Speech to U.S. Congress, 9/24/15)
How can I help?
- Pray for refugees living in fear around the globe, and those starting life in the safety of our country.
- Donate. The funding we receive doesn't cover all of the expenses to set up household for a newly arriving family. Make a donation online and designate "Refugee Resettlement" for your gift.
- Donate furniture and household goods.
- Volunteer as a mentor, teach English, sort donations, set up an apartment, cook a meal, teach employment classes ... change the life of a refugee and probably yours too.
- Educate yourself about refugees. The rumor mill is grinding, so take the extra step and find out the truth and share it with others. If you have questions, call us. 225-336-8700, ext. 412. Like us on Facebook for new developments.
Recent news coverage:
11/20/2015 The Return of Korematsu, The Atlantic
11/20/2015 This is not how a 'Christian nation' behaves: Robert Mann NOLA.com
11/20/2015 David Vitter Tries To Make Final Days of Louisiana Governor's Race About Syrian Refugees, BuzzFeed News
11/20/2015 Louisiana, The State We’re In, LPB (airs tonight)
11/20/2015 Anti-refugee backlash at local level turns ugly, MSNBC
11/20/2015 Louisiana Republican Stokes Fears of Syrian Refugees to Boost Struggling Campaign for Governor, Mother Jones
11/20/2015 Special Report Missing Syrians and An All-Too Present President, American Spectator
11/19/2015 Governors Target Syrian Refugees Already Resettled in U.S., Bloomberg News
11/18/2015 Refugee Flap Overtakes State Issues in La. Governor's Race, AP
11/18/2015 Vitter, GOP resort to hysterical lies about Syrian refugees in Louisiana, the Gambit
11/18/2015 La. sheriff vows to fight Syrian refugee relocation in his parish, WBRZ
11/18/2015 Rhode Island state senator: Put Syrian refugees in camps, Politico
Officials confirm threat made to Catholic Charities Diocese of Baton Rouge, The Catholic Commentator