Refugee Voices

SOMALIANS PROTEST UNFAIR TREATMENT

 

By Janis Russell 

July 15, 2016 (San Diego) - Somalians have endured unfair treatment as employees at GTS (Glacier Technical Solutions).  On Tuesday, many of them lined up outside 555 W Beech St, where the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is located, to protest and make the public aware of their situation. 

"CHALDEAN VOICES: SEEKING PEACE AND OPPORTUNITY IN EL CAJON" AIRS AUG. 14 AT 1 PM ON KPBS

 

East County News Service

Photo: Chrestin, Salwan, and Sinan pray at St. Peter’s Chaldean American Church in El Cajon, California.

July 14, 2016 (El Cajon) - In light of the conflict in the Middle East and drastic increase in hostility and persecution over the past 10-15 years, thousands of Chaldeans have fled Iraq and are now seeking refuge in the United States. Over the past 30 years, they have arrived impoverished and traumatized; and, today, over 40,000 Chaldeans reside in the city of El Cajon, California.

ARABO STANDS UP FOR FATHER NOEL, PLANS APPEAL TO POPE

 

"Father Noel is amazing in the halls of Congress. We were able to get 20,000 more visas for Chaldeans to come here. For his success, he is being punished.  The church is saying that no Iraqi Christians should leave Iraq..Wewlil not allow himto be sent like a cow to slaughter.--Mark Arabo

By Miriam Raftery

July 12, 2016 (El Cajon)-- Friday is the deadline for Father Noel Gorgis to leave the St. Peter Chaldean Catholic diocese, under an order signed by interim Bishop  ShlemunWarduni and Patriarch Mar Louis Sako. Pope Francis previously intervened to overturn an order for Father Noel to be transferred to Iraq, after local Chaldeans made clear he is needed here, and that his life would be in jeopardy in Iraq.  The new order seeks to punish Father Noel for disobeying the Patriarch despite the Pope's wishes that he remain serving his parish here.

Now Mark Arabo, founder of the Minority Humanitarian Foundation and a prominent spokesman for Chaldean-Americans, is joning with other parishioners here to defend Father Noel.

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: BISHOP WARDUNI SPEAKS OUT ON PLIGHT OF CHALDEANS AROUND THE WORLD

 

By Miriam Raftery

East County Magazine was granted an exclusive interview yesterday with Bishop Mar Schlemon Warduni, who has been serving as interim Bishop  and apostolic administrator of St.Peter Chaldean Catholic Diocese since May, following the retirement of Bishop Sarhad Jammo.  Bishop Warduni leaves the U.S. today to head for Rome and then Iraq, awaiting appointment of a permanent Bishop for the San Diego region.

 Bishop Warduni has long served in Baghdad, Iraq under Patriarch Mar Louis Sako, and as Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops Council. He has worked to build over20 projects serving Christians in Iraq, including a church, senior citizens home, student/youth complex, homes for priests and a Bishop’s house. (Read his full biography here.)

In our interview, Bishop Warduni discussed the plight of Christians in Iraq and in refugee camps,  the challenges of keeping Chaldean culture alive,  the controversy over Father Noel Gorgis being asked to leave the diocese, and Bishop Warduni’s hopes for the future.

FATHER NOEL ORDERED TO LEAVE ST. PETER CHALDEAN DIOCESE ON JULY 15, 2016

 

 

By Miriam Raftery, East County News Service

July 10, 2016 (El Cajon)—In January 2015, Pope Francis issued a ruling to protect Father Noel Gorgis, a popular, zealous priest at St. Peter’s Chaldean Cathedral in El Cajon, as ECM reported. The Pope invalidated a decree issued by Patriarch Mar Louis Raphael Sako, which would have required Father Noel and several other U.S. priests to return to Iraq, where the Islamic State has been slaughtering Christian religious leaders. The Pope’s action was applauded by local Chaldean leaders. Father Noel has been a leading voice locally and nationally, on behalf of Chaldean-Americans and Chaldean immigrants.

But now the new interim Bishop for the St. Peter Chaldean Catholic diocese of San Diego, Shlemun Warduni, has issued an order for Father Noel to leave St. Peter’s effective Friday, July 15, 2016, multiple church sources have confirmed.  Bishop Warduni is a temporary replacement for Bishop Sarhad Jammo, who recently retired and had been a defender of Father Noel, as ECM reported.

HOPE FOR IRAQI CHRISTIANS SEEKS MATCHING FUNDS BY JULY 4 TO HELP 200 REFUGEE FAMILIES: ADOPT A FAMILY FOR JUST $1 A DAY

 

East County News Service

June 25, 2016 (La Mesa)—Hope for Iraqi Christians, a La Mesa based organization that assists Iraqi Christian refugees fleeing genocide in the Middle East, has received a pledge from the  Anahid Oram Memorial Refugee Fund to match $10,000 in monthly donations, sponsoring 100 families per month, but only if they can secure sponsors for at least 100 families by July 4. If that goal is met, the matching funds will mean that 200 families will be helped.

You can sponsor a family for as little as  $1 a day. Each donor will receive information on the family adopted.  Smaller donations will be pooled to help reach the total. Or consider adopting multiple families.

WHO IS AFFECTED BY SUPREME COURT RULING ON IMMIGRANT DEPORTATIONS

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

June 26, 2016 (San Diego)--President Barack Obama’s executive orders to protect an estimated 5 million immigrants, or nearly half the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., from deportation have been blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court. 

The actions puts many immigrants brought here as children and parents of undocumented immigrants at risk of eventual deportation; their fate now depends on the outcome of the next election. The high court ruling also takes away new healthcare coverage recently granted by California to certain undocumented people.

Here’s what you need to know:

LOCAL CHALDEAN CHRISTIANS REACT WITH FEAR AS SUPREME COURT DEADLOCK THREATENS DEPORTATION BACK TO RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION IN IRAQ

 

East County News Service

Photo: Iraqi Chaldeans rallied in El Cajon in 2014 pleading for the U.S. to help to save Christians from ISIS.

 

June 23, 2016 (San Diego) — Fear rippled through the community here, as word of Thursday's U.S. Supreme Court vote reached San Diego, home to the nation’s largest concentration of Iraqi Christians.

“Today’s announcement is alarming for immigrant families everywhere, but it is particularly frightening for Chaldeans,” said Mark Arabo, spokesperson for the Western U.S. Chaldean Catholic Diocese and the Minority Humanitarian Foundation, a San Diego organization that has rescued over 400 Iraqi Christians fleeing genocide in the Middle East and seeks to help another 700,000 victimized by religious persecution.

“People who came here to escape religious persecution and extermination at the hands of ISIS are now being told they have to go back. They’re terrified.” Arabo said.

READER’S EDITORIAL: STAND TOGETHER #WITHREFUGEES ON #WORLDREFUGEEDAY

 

By Elizabeth Lou

June 20, 2016 (San Diego) -- With all the cataclysmic incidences happening around the world, the refugee crisis is one of chief concerns in recent history. Refugees are a population of concern because they are displaced due to unwarranted circumstances including armed conflict and political or religious persecution. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are more than 65 million displaced people in the world. That is approximately the populations of two U.S. states, California and Texas combined. Every year during the month of June, the international community commemorates the plight of refugees, as well as their contributions to their respective host countries.

PARALLELS FROM THE PAST: EXHIBIT ON INTERNMENT OF LOCAL JAPANESE-AMERICAN STUDENTS IN WWII EVOKES FEARS “IT COULD HAPPEN AGAIN,” SAYS HISTORIAN

 

By Chisato Iverson and Miriam Raftery

 

June 16, 2016 (La Mesa) –For Donna Neimeier at the La Mesa Historical Society, preparing an exhibit on Grossmont High School students forced into internment camps during World War II provided troubling memories from her own childhood.

“I was in first or second grade when all of this happened. I knew that my Japanese friends were gone…We didn’t know where they went,” she recalled.  After  her friends returned, she recalls, “They were very withdrawn and they never talked about it..”

Now she reflects, “Here I am, 75 years later, learning about this whole thing…I think with prejudice and the way we all feel about prejudice now, it’s something that is very upsetting to me personally, that it happened.”   The most important reason for the museum’s exhibit, she believes, is to teach people about the past, in hopes that it will never be repeated.

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: GRACE KAMINAKA TSUIDA, JAPANESE INTERNMENT CAMP SURVIVOR FROM GROSSMONT HIGH SCHOOL

 

By Chisato Iversen

 

June 15, 2016 (La Mesa)-- Grace Kaminaka Tsuida, a student at Grossmont High School’s class of 1944, is a survivor of a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II.  As part of an AP class project at Grossmont High School , students documented the experiences of Grossmont students who were interned.  Their stories are documented in  Japanese American AP US American Reports  and can be seen in a special exhibit at the La Mesa Historical Society during June. 

Grace Kaminaka Tsuida  was born  Sept. 9,1926 in Lemon Grove. She made friends easily, like other children, until after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when the U.S. government sent her family and others to an internment camp.  After their release, they were given an apology from the government, though it failed to acknowledge the humiliation and confusion they experience.  Now, 67 years later, Grace’s niece, Judy Miyamoto, helped arrange for Grace to finally receive her Grossmont High School Diploma.

Now 90 years old, Grace granted an exclusive interview with East County Magazine.   Please read her compelling story.

MISS MIDDLE EAST USA PAGEANT WINNERS RECEIVE CROWNS, SHATTER STEREOTYPES

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

 

Photo: Ben Kalasho presents scholarship check to Zhala Tawfiq, Miss Middle East USA 2016

 

June 3, 2016 (San Diego) — “Our goal is to empower and embolden Middle Eastern women and redefine the world,” said Ben Kalasho, president of the Chaldean-American Chamber of Commerce, organizer of the  Miss Middle East USA Pageant. “This was such a unifying event in San Diego; the nation must see that there are strong, independent women from the Middle East who aspire to lead by example and promote equality and women’s rights.”

NEW BISHOP ARRIVES AT SAN DIEGO’S CHALDEAN DIOCESE

 

East County News Service

May 16, 2016 (El Cajon) – Pope Francis has named an interim replacement for the Chaldean Catholic Diocese of San Diego after the resignation of former Bishop Sarhad Jammo.  Bishop Jammo drew controversy for his efforts to prevent local priests from being sent back to Iraq, where their lives would be in danger due to ISIS attacks on clerics.

IRC INTERNATIONAL FILM SERIES ON REFUGEES CONTINUES MAY 16 AND 23

 

East County News Service

May 15, 2016 (San Diego) -The International Rescue Committee (IRC) in San Diego’s 8th Annual International Documentary Film Series continues May 16, and 23, screening three compelling documentary films that shed light on what life is like for refugees around the world. Plus, each film will be followed by Q&A with a guest speaker who has relevant firsthand experience providing humanitarian response to conflict and disaster.  See flyer on the website for schedule and details.

A MOTHER’S COURAGE: THE STRUGGLE OF AN ASYLUM-SEEKER

 

By Jaime Rodriguez-Sosa

Photo: Adenike O sought asylum to protect her daughter from violence and genital mutilation. Now she works as a Certified Nursing Assistant after completing a licensing program, also volunteering to train prospective students at Nile Sisters.

May 11, 2016 (San Diego) -- The California State Refugee Service Bureau states that since 1975, California has provided refuge to 700,000 people, with San Diego County being the most notable recipient of refugees in the whole state. On average San Diego resettles 2,500 refugees per year, with areas such as City Heights among the most prominent areas for resettlement. These numbers are expected to increase in coming years, with refugees from Syria being accepted to resettle in the United States.

HOPE FOR IRAQI CHRISTIANS RAISES MORE THAN $270,000 FOR REFUGEES

 

Nonprofit, Knights of Columbus Host Fundraiser to Support Victims of Genocide

By Reema Makani Boccia

May 7, 2016 (El Cajon) -- Hope for Iraqi Christians, a nonprofit organization supporting Christian refugees persecuted by ISIS, and the Knights of Columbus Mar Toma Council #10981 raised over $270,000 during a fundraising event on Thursday, May 5th in ElCajon. There were nearly 500 guests in attendance at the invite-only event hosted at the St. Peter’s Cathedral church hall.

GOVERNOR SIGNS MINIMUM WAGE HIKE; LOCAL CHALDEAN BUSINESS GROUPS SPLIT ON MEASURE

 

By Miriam Raftery

April 5, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) – Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law a bill that will raise California’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022.  The increase will be gradual, with the minimum wage going up from $10 an hour to $10.50 next January, $11 the next year, then rising by $1 a year, after which raises would be tied to the cost of living.  Small business will have an extra year to comply and the Governor could waive increases in bad economic times.

IRC/KAISER COMMUNITY GARDEN GROWS HOPES FOR NEW IMMIGRANTS

 

 

By Mimi Pollack

March 30, 2016 (El Cajon) - It is not easy leaving your home and moving to a new country as an immigrant or refugee. Many immigrants and refugees’ lives are shattered by political or religious conflict and they have to flee their countries. The ones who arrive in the United States have to learn a new language, and get accustomed to a new culture and different types of food. Not only that, many immigrants and refugees go from living in a rural place where they had land, or perhaps a house in the city with a garden to living in  small, urban apartments. Sometimes, they feel homesick and long for what they had back home. 

POPE’S EASTER MESSAGE CALLS FOR COMPASSION FOR REFUGEES

 

East County News Service

Photo: Pope Francis, from his Twitter feed

March 27, 2016 (San Diego) – On Good Friday, Pope Francis washed the feet of European immigrants including Christians, Muslims and Hindus, demonstrating his outreach to people of all faiths and calling for world peace. 

In his Easter Sunday mass at the Vatican, the pontiff stated, ““This day invites us not to forget those men and women seeking a better future, an ever more numerous throng of migrants and refugees, including many children, fleeing war, hunger, poverty and social injustice.”

He also criticized those who seek to stop migrants fleeing persecution in the Middle East and North African from seeking a safe haven in Europe and other regions.

KERRY DECLARES “GENOCIDE” BY ISIS AGAINST RELIGIOUS MINORITIES

 

Action is “monumental step forward” – Mark Arabo, Minority Humanitarian Foundation

By Miriam Raftery

March 20,2016 (San Diego’s East County) — Since 2014, local Iraqi Chaldean leaders have been speaking out and urging the U.S. to take action to halt what they termed “genocide” committed by ISIS against religious minorities including Christians, Yezidis, and others.  

HOUSE PASSES MEASURES TO DECLARE ISIS ATTACKS GENOCIDE, CALL FOR SYRIAN WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

March 16, 2016 (San Diego’s East County ) – The House of Representatives this week has passed two measures aimed at holding ISIS and the Syrian regime accountable for atrocities committed in the Middle East. One would declare atrocities by ISIS to be war crimes, the other calls for a war crimes tribunal to address Syrian actions.

HEAR OUR INTERVIEW: BEN KALASHO SPEAKS OUT ON CHALDEANS' CONCERNS IN THE ELECTION

 

 

March 16, 2016 (San Diego's East County) -- Ben Kalasho, president of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce, sat down with the East County Magazine Radio Show on KNSJ 89.1 FM to discuss concerns of the Chaldean community in the presidential primary election. In our interview, which originally aired on KNSJ last week, Kalasho speaks about the issues that matter most to the Iraqi Chaldean and Middle Eastern communities from an international and domestic standpoint.

He also discussed the new Mega TV news network that he helped launch, which debuted earlier this month. In addition, he shared his thoughts on the Grossmot Union High School District's redistricting proposal that divides the Chaldean voting block--and what steps he thinks should be done at the state level to assure fairness in elections for Chaldean Americans.

To hear our interview, click the link above.

Audio: 

CHALDEAN CHAMBER PRESIDENT THREATENS LAWSUIT IF “GERRYMANDERING” SPLITS CHALDEAN VOTERS IN GUHSD

 

 

District board expected to vote on redistricting plan today at 4 p.m.

"...Our Chamber will not accept any gerrymandering or divisive planning for political purposes and would be readily committed to engage either legally or politically to ensure a fair and equitable approach for the betterment of our community.” -- Ben Kalasho, Chaldean American Chamber president

By Miriam Raftery

February 25, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) – Ben Kalasho, president of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce in East County, has issued a press release calling on the Grossmont Union-High School District board to be “transparent and pragmatic” in its decision on how to transition from at-large to district elections. A vote on which map to approve is expected at today’s GUHSD board meeting at 4 p.m. at the East County Regional Education Center, 924 East Main St. in El Cajon.

FORMER REFUGEE AND BOSTON MARATHON WINNER MAKES THE OLYMPICS—AGAIN

 

 

By Liz Alper

 

Photo:  Keflezighi in the 2014 Boston Marathon.  Credit to Gr5 on Wikipedia

 

February 15, 2016 (Los Angeles) - Two years ago, ECM ran a story on Meb Keflezighi, the incredible local refugee-turned-athlete who won the Boston Marathon in 2014.

 

Always dreaming bigger, Keflezighi is realizing one of his biggest dreams two years later--he's going to his fourth Olympic games, this time in Rio de Janeiro.

WHITE HOUSE LAUNCHES TOUR TO SUPPORT IMMIGRANT AND REFUGEE INTEGRATION IN COMMUNITIES

 

East County News Service

January 30, 2016 (Washington D.C.) – This week, the White House Task Force on New Americans (Task Force) launched the White House Regional Convenings on New Americans. This initiative, aimed at strengthening and supporting local immigrant and refugee integration efforts, is part of a multi-city tour that will run over the course of the next several months.

COUNCIL DECLARES 2016 “YEAR OF INCLUSION”

 

By Miriam Raftery

January 14, 2016 (San Diego) – The San Diego City Council has proclaimed 2016 as the Year of Inclusion.  The proclamation notes that immigrants comprise 23 percent of the population in our region, with over 100 languages spoken by San Diego residents from around the world.

The proclamation recognizes organizations in San Diego dedicated to helping s build a “culture of civic participation among new generations” that empower leadership and activism. The city's welcoming gesture toward immigrants comes at a time when anti-immigrant has been on the rise nationally and among some prominent political figures, most notably Republican presidential frontrunner candidate Donald Trump.

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