What do you think of the News-Sentinel editorial?

The Fort Wayne newspaper, News-Sentinel, recently printed an editorial about our city’s population of legal immigrants. That would include those of refugee status who have been given a new home because their home country isn’t safe or fit for them to make a life in any longer. The short editorial raises some questions to consider so I’d like to encourage you to read it at the link below and then add your thoughts, please, to the comments section of this blog post. Please remember to return to this page to post your comments here in this forum after reading the editorial. You may also want to post in the comments section under the newspaper’s editorial.

Please remember that civility rules on this blog and I will not publish a post that is mean spirited. I value your participation if it constructively adds to our city’s consideration of immigration and refugee resettlement.

You’ll find the editorial online at:

http://www.news-sentinel.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2011102180326

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3 Responses to “What do you think of the News-Sentinel editorial?”

  1. fred gilbert Says:

    The News-Sentinel editorial attack against refugees and the Burmese was shallow and ignorant and demands an historical and factual redress. Immigrant ingress has driven Allen County population growth for the second decade since 1990. Communities differ and change…duh!

    In Bloomington and Lafayette, Asian immigration is driven by student and HB1 visas engineered to bring business and education to the area. Your condemnation of Burmese for not showing success is cruel, provocative and ignorant. The problems in the recent refugee influx is an easy study with complicated reasons.

    First, the cruel regime in Burma displaces thousands through forced labor, child slavery, ethnic cleansing and rape while being supported by China and economic complicity by Thailand, India and ASEAN. They do not use family reunification or skill sets in the genocide. Unilateral U.S. sanctions prove meaningless. Next, Thailand, along with State Department complicity, accepted the closure of three refugee camps, whose twenty year history produced ghettoes with no jobs, business or education except by their own creation. The State Department agreed to admit thousands, even against local Fort Wayne cautions and objections. Job loss here, especially the closure of Vera Bradley contractors, Nishakawa leaving for tax credit welfare in Elkhart county, several factory closures and the general recession removed the job base on which the community had thrived since the mid 90’s. The community response to the influx of this new and different group was Herculean but the jobs base for the great successes of the 90’s was gone. Burmese have thrived and inspired many of us who know them.

    Local entrepreneur Bob Hinty showed how an innovative American businessman and a hard-working and creative immigrant community can build mutual success employing and training thousands. Banks, realtors, governments and a myriad of diverse employers helped new immigrants to build families, neighborhoods,
    churches, mosques and temples all over the city. Schools graduated hundreds, many going on to college success. Because of the Washington driven influx, the Office of Senator Lugar assisted in forcing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to recommend sweeping changes that would force local input into these decisions with assessment of all local issues, even though local “turf” creates waste and barriers.

    The Knight-Ridder funded successes in cultural and language expression is a bright example right under News-Sentinel noses. Your former reporter Mr. Linsenmeyer documented successes for nearly twenty years. Solving the current crisis began with the Burmese Advocacy Center and Burmese physician Khin Mar Oo and her temple community. In this season of Hoosier stupidity in editorials, foreign affairs and immigrant issues, do not add to the pain.

    Fred Gilbert

  2. Christine Marshall Says:

    I think the editorial was written in the spirit of trying to learn. So many people in Fort Wayne have these questions and most do not ask them quite so nicely or with the intent of gaining actual knowledge. There have been so many vitriolic attacks that it is refreshing to see them addressed in a manner that one wishes to respond to.

    We have been overwhelmed as a community. Anyone working with emerging populations knows that we are all challenged by the daunting task of helping newly arrived residents assimilate. Even ORR has slowed the number of primary placements in Allen County. But as human services providers, we arise to the challenge!

    Some of the population that the editorial was alluding to are secondary migrators. We do not have control over this. People with refugee status can move wherever they like. However, if they move out of their primary resettlement location before their education about our culture, our language, our societal norms is complete – that is what causes misunderstanding and prejudice on both sides.

    I believe that the social, governmental, not for profit, and educational organizations in Fort Wayne have had great successes. It just takes time. Cross-cultural training will answer some of the editorial author’s questions. As we teach newcomers about us – we need to learn about them. Education erases fear, which in turn erases hostility.

    Last weekend there were three different Burmese celebrations: Chin National Day, a cooking celebration at a Buddhist temple, and Mon National Day. Each distinct ethnic group in the Burmese culture has something unique to offer our community. One cannot leave these events without having learned something new and special.

    Are there serious challenges? Of course. There are with any population. But as always, the newest wave of immigrant/refugees are always looked at askance by locals.

    The best way, author of the editorial, to answer your questions is to attend some of these cultural events. Talk to the people who are leaders in the various communities. Talk to the people who are helping them live in what might as well be a different planet. And then, help! Donate a few hours a week to tutor someone learning how to speak English. Most of the faith based organizations in the area have educational programs. They need more people, like you, to volunteer your time.

    I believe the author is open to honest dialogue. After all, (s)he did end his piece with the words (paraphrased) “as a community we have more to gain from their presence than to lose”.

    As always, honest and open communication is the key to growth in our community. Denegration and finger-pointing is divisive and solves nothing. Even if we don’t like everything the author said, it is generating dialogue. Let’s keep talking…

  3. Terri Noone Says:

    My first response to this article was frustration that the only Asian group signaled out by the writer was the Burmese and in a negative connotation. The statement “At the other end of the spectrum are the Burmese in Fort Wayne” is offensive. That single statement implies that all Burmese in Fort Wayne are the same and that all Burmese are less than other Asian groups. I’ve seen countless media stories where this happens. Each time I wonder what the public reaction would be if the same statements were applied to other ethnic groups. Would the public nod their heads in agreement if they heard the statement above substituted with “the Caucasians in Fort Wayne”, “the Mexicans in Fort Wayne” or “the African-Americans in Fort Wayne”?

    The writer also seemed to be uninformed about the differences between immigrants and refugees. I found it interesting that the writer of this editorial ended the column with the words “yearning to breathe free”. Not just because that is the title of your page, but because refugees are THE classification of immigrants yearning to breathe free. Traditional immigrants are free to return to their home country at any time and to come and go at will. Refugees by simple definition are forced to leave their home country and must seek refuge elsewhere.

    Another important distinction between traditional immigrants and refugees is that unlike immigrants, refugees do not choose which country they are resettled. Yes, they can request and priority is given to family reunification, but that is not a guarantee. Therefore, they do not often have time to learn the culture or language of their sponsoring country.
    It is true that economic impact is a consideration for traditional immigration. However, the purpose of the US refugee resettlement is primarily humanitarian assistance and working together with the United Nations. I do believe the US policies on refugee resettlement need to be revisited. At the present time refugees are expected to find a job and become self-sufficient within three months of arrival. Little emphasis or money is spent on teaching refugees the language and our culture in order to be able to compete in jobs that pay a living wage. Other countries have instituted policies that require language learning before employment. To be true to the humanitarian purpose of resettlement, I believe our goal should be first and foremost focused on successful acclimation.

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