In Solidarity with Refugees: Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities of Onondaga County

At Catholic Charities of Onondaga County, our focus is on making a positive difference for people in Central New York, but as a Catholic organization, we’re proud to be part of a broader effort to serve the most vulnerable people around the world. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is one organization carrying out that goal. Like us, their work includes a focus on assisting refugees.

CRS is the international humanitarian agency of the U.S. Catholic Church and works with refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Greece, and other countries around the globe. CRS provides food, shelter, medical care, education and counseling to some 1.5 million Iraqi and Syrian refugees alone. Their staff are on the frontlines of the global refugee crisis where they see refugees arriving in other countries than their own scared, tired, and usually with little to no money or possessions. They all flee the same violence we’re trying to protect ourselves from.

In Greece, where CRS works with the Catholic church to turn vacant buildings into apartments for refugees, a father of six who recently fled Aleppo said “after a long trip, this is the most comfortable place where I can relax and rest.”

Just like our own families, every family deserves to be able to find that level of comfort and peace of mind. At Catholic Charities of Onondaga County, we work to provide that sense of security after refugees have arrived in Syracuse. We connect refugees to services related to housing, employment, learning English, legal assistance, and much more, including programing for children and youth. In the last few weeks, that work has been complicated by the National Security Executive Orders issued January 27th.

The implications of the Orders are extensive, but perhaps the one that has caused the most immediate confusion and unrest is the ban on refugee resettlement for 120 days. While this has since been blocked by the courts, there is a chance it will be reinstated. As is, the Orders halted the progress of 220 individuals who had been scheduled for resettlement in Syracuse through Catholic Charities in January and February.

The local human impact is significant. This ban interrupted family reunifications. In one case, two brothers traveling together were separated in the last stages of departure. One brother arrived in Syracuse the week of January 22nd. The other, who was scheduled to arrive the week of January 29th, has been banned indefinitely. These two brothers had been through significant obstacles together, supporting each other through many struggles, only to be separated within reach of their goal. In another case, a mother who’d worked for months to reunite with her son saw her hopes dashed by the ban. She does not know when or if he’ll be able to join her. There is immense concern in the local refugee community about the safety of family and friends abroad.

At Catholic Charities, we remain dedicated to serving the refugee
community in Central New York and to working with our elected officials to continue this humanitarian work. To experience the support of our community both locally and nationally, in the form of CRS, is empowering. There are many ways you can be part of this effort – see ways to participate here or donate. Thank you to all who have already joined us. We look forward to continuing this work together.

Michael F. Melara
Executive Director, Catholic Charities of Onondaga County

Maureen McCullough
Mid-Atlantic Director at Catholic Relief Services,

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