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PACKED HOUSE DISCUSSES REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT IN POUGHKEEPSIE
BY JIM LANGAN • ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED 11/9/16
In what seemed like something of a microcosm of the national debate on immigration and America’s willingness to embrace refugees fleeing war-torn countries in search of a better life, a capacity crowd filled a lecture hall at Vassar College on Sunday to discuss the issue.
A group called the Mid-Hudson Refugee Solidarity Alliance has been in discussions with the refugee resettlement organization Church World Services Network about their plan to open a resettlement office in Poughkeepsie.
According to organizers, the refugees would be from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and would all be entering the country legally. They would also be eligible for food stamps and other government assistance. The initial indication is that about 80 refugees are expected to arrive in early 2017.
The Church World Services Network told the packed crowd the refugees would be “85 percent self-sufficient within six months.”
The proposal received a mixed reception with some concerned about safety issues and the financial impact such an influx would have on local municipal services and schools. A particularly agitated resident left the meeting after questioning why healthcare and housing for seniors aren’t paid for, but would be for these refugees.
Proponents of the project said while they were cognizant of community concerns, “We still need to try to make a welcoming home for refugees.” Speaker and Vassar College Professor Maria Hohn argued that residents of the Mid-Hudson Valley can no longer turn their eyes from all the suffering.
The only real consensus achieved at the meeting was the need for another community discussion. The next meeting has been scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday, November 10 at Christ Episcopal Church in Poughkeepsie.