Refugees | St. Louis Public Radio

Refugees

Immigration scholars (from left) Jorg Ploger, Adriano Udani and Florian Sichling discussed the incorporation of immigrants and refugees into their respective communities.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Thousands of miles separate St. Louis, Missouri, from Dortmund, Germany, but when it comes to immigration and refugee resettlement, the two cities aren’t so far apart.

Among the most pressing debates that link them are the “politically contradicting messages about the purpose of immigration,” as Florian Sichling describes the issue.

Anna Crosslin (left) and Betsy Cohen (right) address the decline of refugee resettlement in St. Louis.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

This year, the International Institute estimates the arrival of only 450 refugees arriving to St. Louis. That’s a sharp decline compared to the amount of refugee resettlement in previous years – 659 refugees in 2017 and 1135 refugees in 2016.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh addressed the decline of refugees arriving to St. Louis over the past couple of years. Joining him for the discussion was Betsy Cohen, executive director of the St. Louis Mosaic Project and Anna Crosslin, president and CEO of the International Institute of St. Louis.

A student works on an assignment in an introductory English language course at the International Institute of St. Louis. About 1,100 immigrants and refugees take English courses at the institute.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Maryam Bakhtari trained to be a doctor in Afghanistan. She never thought there would be a time when she couldn't practice gynecology. But as a new immigrant to the United States, her chosen field is beyond her. These days, she's focusing on a different kind of learning.

Bakhtari takes English classes at the International Institute of St. Louis. She’s among the approximate 1,100 adults who take the classes every year. The International Institute has the largest English for Speakers of Other Languages program in the St. Louis region. 

Alaa Alderie, a Syrian refugee, is the owner of Cham Bakery in St. Louis.
File photo | Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Alaa Alderie sought refuge in the United States several years ago, not long after Syrian authorities started looking for him because of his involvement in political demonstrations against President Bashar Al-Assad.

In 2012, he and his parents came to St. Louis, where his brother had arrived earlier, finding success in their new home. Alderie, who is Muslim, considers himself a “lucky refugee.” 

Nedim Ramic and Anna Crosslin discussed the issues refugees face today in light of World Refugee Day on June 20.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Tuesday marks World Refugee Day, a designation made by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The number of refugees and displaced persons in the world is higher than it has ever been since World War II, with some 65.5 million people displaced throughout the world right now.

The International Institute in St. Louis provides integration services for more than 7,500 immigrants and refugees each year.
File photo | Marie Schwarz | St. Louis Public Radio

The International Institute of St. Louis is seeking ambassadors of sorts.

The organization that provides integration services for more than 7,500 immigrants and refugees each year is recruiting volunteers to help spread the word about how those foreign-born residents benefit the community.

Musicians band together to support immigrant rights

Mar 17, 2017
The Rise & Scream poster gives the date and depicts a closed fist raised in the air.
Provided by Vincent Saletto

When Vinnie Saletto and his wife considered adopting a child from overseas, they turned to the International Institute of St. Louis to learn more about how immigrants fare in St. Louis.

As Saletto learned more about the Institute’s mission — and noticed an increasing wave of anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States — he felt compelled to support to the organization. So he turned to his passion, music, and began organizing a benefit concert for the institute.

The concert “Rise and Scream” will take place Saturday at 2720 Cherokee Performing Arts Center. About 90 people are contributing to the event —  from bands to artists, cooks to vendors. Many will voice opposition to the Trump administration's immigration policies.

The International Institute of St. Louis building.
File photo | Emanuele Berry | St. Louis Public Radio

A federal appeals panel's ruling last week lifted a travel ban for residents of seven predominantly Muslim countries, but it didn't change one crucial aspect of President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration: a 50,000 cap on refugees allowed to enter the United States.

That's is a significant drop, considering that the Obama administration raised the cap from 85,000 to 110,000 for the 2017 federal fiscal year, which extends from last October to this September. As a result, local organizations that resettle refugees, such as the International Institute of St. Louis, are finding themselves in a difficult position, having originally planned for a larger intake of people.

Soumya Chatterjee, a scientist at Saint Louis University, peers into a microscope in his laboratory, where he studies pathogens, such as tuberculosis.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

President Donald Trump's executive order last month reduced the cap of refugees allowed into the United States from 110,000 to 50,000. That means that fewer refugees will be resettled into areas like St. Louis.

But the cap also is curtailing disease research across the country. To understand diseases that are widespread in poor, war-torn countries, scientists study refugees from those nations that are infected with those diseases.

Grace Jo, now an American citizen, defected from North Korea at age six. She's now the vice president of NKinUSA, which advocates for human rights for North Koreans.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

As a little girl in North Korea, Grace Jo lived through one of the worst famines in North Korean history. While the official death toll from the notoriously most restrictive authoritarian country in the world is unknown, it is estimated that from 1994 to 1998, anywhere between 600,000 and 2.5 million people died of hunger.

Faizan Syed, Jessica Mayo and Anna Crosslin joined St. Louis on the Air to discuss the local impact of President Trump's executive orders on immigration.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Last week, President Donald Trump signed a series of executive orders that sent the lives of many into chaos — in St. Louis and across the world.

Summer Albarcha stands with friends at a rally to show support for immigrants and refugees outside Sen. Roy Blunt's Clayton office. This week, Blunt released a statement expressing support for President Trump's executive order on immigration. (Feb 2, 2017
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Protesters gathered outside Republican U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt’s office in Clayton Wednesday to voice their opposition to President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Hamishe Bahrani, at the restaurant she created with her husband: Cafe Natasha's. Bahrami sits in front of a wall of infused gins; her specialty.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

The call came in the middle of the night; Hamishe Bahrami’s childhood friend would be unable to visit from Iran.

“Today, she was supposed to arrive in St. Louis,” Bahrami said Monday. “She was so excited to come, visit St. Louis and see my life in person. We don’t know if we’re going to see each other again.”

Anna Crosslin is joined by St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay to talk about the importance of immigrants in the region. Jan 30, 2017
Erica Hunzinger | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis leaders are decrying the Trump administration’s executive order that bars refugees from coming to the United States for 120 days. The order also prevents those from seven Muslim-majority countries – Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia – from entering the U.S. for 90 days.

5 Questions About The Law And Trump's Immigration Order

Jan 30, 2017

President Trump's executive order on immigration late Friday ignited nationwide protests — and a slew of legal challenges.

At least four federal judges across the country have blocked part of the order and temporarily ensured refugees and travelers who reached U.S. soil would not be deported.

Here's an explanation of what happened so far and what could come next.

Bosnia Memory Project to expand work in area high schools

Jan 6, 2017
Bosnians gathered near the Sebilj Fountain
File photo | Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Affton High School teacher Brian Jennings will never forget watching former student Dino Svraka record an oral history contribution for the Bosnia Memory Project a couple of years ago. He’s still struck by how Svraka, a Bosnian American, captivated his students.

“That justified everything I’ve ever tried to do as a teacher,” Jennings said.

Jennings teaches a class on Bosnian American history in partnership with the Bosnia Memory Project at Fontebonne University. He began the collaboration about five years ago after meeting the organization’s executive director, Ben Moore.

Faizan Sayed, executive director of Missouri’s branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations, organized a news conference to speak out against current events in Syria.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Several of the 300 families of Syrian refugees who have settled in the St. Louis area this year are still afraid to publicly condemn their former government's attacks on Aleppo — even living so far away from their native country.

“They’re worried that someone’s going to see their picture or their [social media] feed on TV, they’re going to find out who [they are] and they’re going to hurt their family in Syria,” said Faizan Sayed, executive director of Missouri’s branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations.

Sayed reached out to at least 20 Syrian families asking them to speak at CAIR press conference Thursday denouncing the bombardment of rebel-held neighborhoods in Aleppo. Every single one turned him down.

Arjun Sidhu holds an American flag while sitting with his mother, Mandeep Sidhu, originally from India, at a naturalization ceremony held at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site on Nov. 10, 2016.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

While much of the nation remains at odds over the results of the November elections, some people are feeling more optimistic for the future than ever. Newly naturalized U.S. citizens in the St. Louis region are excited to be a part of the country, and many are raring to vote.

At a naturalization ceremony held last week at the International Institute of St. Louis, 39 people from 24 different countries stood together in front of a crowded room for the first time as new citizens.

Among them was Lenilson Pereira Dos Santos Coutinho, a clinical medial physicist who was born in Brazil. Coutinho, who came to the United States for graduate school, laments not being able to vote on Nov. 8. Now that he’s a citizen, he can’t wait for future elections.

Kamila Kahistani cast her first vote as an American citizen in 2016's November election.
Jenny Simeone | St. Louis Public Radio

In response to an outpouring of client concern, local immigrant advocacy organizations are hosting information sessions on what a Trump presidency will mean for St. Louis immigrants.

Among those who are concerned is Kamila Kahistani, who arrived in the United States with her sister seven years ago from Afghanistan. She was a refugee when she came via Russia, escaping war in her native country. Kahistani, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen five years ago, doesn’t worry about how immigration policy changes would affect her. But she does worry for the family members she’s petitioning to bring into the country.

St. Louis resident Imre Jokuti, who fought in the Hungarian resistance, drinks a toast to those lost during the 1956 failed revolution against the Soviet Union during a commemoration Friday, Nov. 4, 2016.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Friday marked the 60th anniversary of the Soviet Union's crackdown that ended the Hungarian revolution. 

Imre Jokuti of St. Louis fought with the resistance before he fled. He shared the memories of his escape from Budapest:

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