Some international newcomers are expected to be admitted to Missouri and Kansas in the coming year after their respective governors have taken action to admit them.
President Donald Trump moved in late 2019 via executive order to allow states to block any resettlement of international refugees, defined by the United Nations as any group of people that has been displaced from their homes by war or other mortal threats against their will.
Gov. Laura Kelly, the Democratic chief executive of the Sunflower State, acted in late November to exercise the authority granted to her by Trump to admit refugees, saying she will gladly welcome them into the state. Gov. Mike Parson of Missouri, who belongs to the president’s Republican Party, responded on Dec. 30 in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the Show Me State will also keep its gates open to refugees.
“Missouri has a long and rich history of immigration, dating back to America’s earliest explorers, fur traders and missionaries,” Parson said in the letter. “Today, Missouri’s population includes thousands of former refugees who have become vital members of our communities.”
Where future refuges will come from, how many and when for the coming year remain to be seen, though Parson said that since 2002, nearly 18,000 refugees from 45 countries have obtained new homes in Missouri. Parson indicated that refugee assistance agencies in St. Louis, Kansas City, Columbia and Springfield will as before handle the bulk of future refugee resettlements.
“Refugees are some of the most broken people on this planet,” said The Rev. Anne Pittman, a nondenominational Christian minister in St. Joseph. “I mean, no one chooses to go into a land that is foreign to them and try to make it because they’re excited about where they’re from. Being a refugee, by nature, is one of the most broken places to come from.”
The U.N.’s High Commissioner for Refugees interviews and examines people who end up in one of several temporary resettlement camps worldwide. If U.N. personnel determine that a subject refugee is unable to return home safely, a complicated resettlement process begins, which can result in a person or family’s placement in a safe nation willing to accept them as permanent residents.
According to the Pew Research Center, the U.S. accepted about 33,000 such refugees in 2017, and about 28,000 in 2018. Once the U.S. agrees to accept refugees and completes an extensive vetting process of each person, the refugees travel to American soil at the government’s expense and are given assistance in setting up a residence, learning English and finding employment. They also are put on a fast-track to naturalization as U.S. citizens.
Amro Nabil, a Muslim imam who founded the Islamic Center of St. Joseph in 2008, came to the U.S. years ago from Egypt, though not as a refugee. He said it is important to remember that refugees from war-torn nations, such as Syria, are of various ethnic backgrounds and faith traditions. Whether they are Christians, Muslims, Jews, or follow another faith tradition, Nabil said, he is overjoyed to welcome them to Missouri with open arms.
“We want them here, and we want to show the best of our community,” Nabil said. “So hopefully, we work together and get to know each other. That, in my opinion, is what real happiness is.”