Juan Calderon and his family were forced to flee their country of Colombia to escape violence and death. Now in South Florida, they are using the power of business to rebuild their lives.
Luis Villatoro had just finished serving his two-year sentence in the Washington State Penitentiary for an incident involving his mistress. His time there left him traumatized after being sexually assaulted in his bunk. But he also became a Christian and vowed to never cheat on his wife again. Villatoro was looking forward to working, meeting with a psychologist to deal with the aftermath of the rape and spending time with his wife and children. He wanted to forget about his time incarcerated and move on with his life.
When Shahla Latifi was an 18-year-old pharmacy student living in Kabul, Afghanistan, it was arranged that she would marry a 50-year-old Afghan man living in Jacksonville, Fla. She was excited to leave a violent Afghanistan for a man who seemed kind and promised her she could finish her degree in the United States. Instead, Shahla was locked into a 22 years of mental, emotional, physical and sexual abuse - that she finally found her strength, and her words, to escape.
There is one last caseworker currently employed at the Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Program located in Jacksonville, Fla. Her name is Pat Nelms and she now has an office all to herself, though she used to share it with three other full-time employees. Even with only one caseworker left, the remaining employees in the Refugee Resettlement Program are still determined to help as many families as are still able to get through under the new administration.
President Trump’s proposed FY 2018 budget cuts, which went into place Oct. 1, reduced funding to the State Department’s “Migration and Refugee Assistance” account by 11 percent down to $390 million. This program supports processing the refugee overseas, transporting them here and helping with initial settlement. The “Refugee and Entrant Assistance” account, which funds food assistance, education, time-limited cash and medical care, was cut by 31 percent down to $479 million.
Though this may seem like a lot of money, the budget cuts significantly impact the ability of programs like Jacksonville’s Refugee Resettlement Program to adequately help the new arrivals to get on their feet. With less money and benefits to provide in the first 180 days and few employees to assist with legal proceedings and paperwork, refugees are largely left on their own now to navigate the unfamiliar territory that is the United States of America.
But in spite of budget cuts and layoffs, the Refugee Resettlement Program hosted over 50 refugees at their annual Thanksgiving lunch on Nov. 18. Refugees from all over the world attended for food, music, games and face painting. Here are some of the people we have let in – and a reflection of the millions we are keeping out.
What is going on in our country's immigration detention centers? Lawyers, NGO leaders and the immigrants themselves are raising concerns about human rights. What is happening behind the tightly closed doors of privately owned jails? Part 1 of an investigation series where lawyers, NGO workers and the detainees themselves share their experiences in the American immigration system.
When Rostand Ndong Essomba’s sister passed away unexpectedly, he was 14 years old. So he quit playing soccer to focus fulltime on basketball. This was a strange thing to do for a young boy who loved soccer; especially since Rostand and his friends considered basketball a “girl sport” at the time because it is played using hands instead of feet. But he did it to honor her.
Olomwene Emedi turns the key in the door to his apartment. He doesn’t know what he will find inside, but he figures it will be wet.
It's slightly less than 48 hours since Hurricane Irma swept through Jacksonville, Florida, causing historic flooding the city has not seen since the 1800s.
Introduction from the Journalist
My work with refugees mostly involves me trying to explain to people who don't know me and don't speak my language that I am not there to get them into trouble. Most of the time I can only hope that the interpreter is fully explaining that I am a journalist I'm there to help them tell their story. It also consists of some awkward moments with my camera pretty close to their face or the both of us staring at each other during an interview while the other one is speaking in a language we don’t understand at all.
Two years ago, Jose boarded a plane departing from Havana, Cuba. To the Cuban government, Jose was simply going on vacation to Ecuador. But for Jose, the plane’s wheels leaving the tarmac brought more relief than a break from work ever could. It signaled Jose’s successful escape from Cuba and the beginning of a two-year journey to try and reach the United States.