Bringing to light what refugees go through

By Dong Zual - Staff Reporter

People come to America for a variety of reasons and their status is not all the same, a refugee and immigrant assistance expert told a Highline crowd this week.

Sarah Peterson, chief of Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance for the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, spoke Monday in conjunction with Highline Welcomes the World Week.

During the event, Peterson provided an overview of the refugee resettlement process, particularly in Washington state. She pointed out four main things she wanted to talk about:

• How do people become refugee, history and administration of refugee resettlement in the United States?

• Who's coming to Washing- ton?

• Who's coming to the United States?

• What is their experience as a refugee

A refugee is somebody who has to flee their home country because of a well-founded fear of persecution. And it's not just war, it can be persecution based on who they are as a person. It can be based on the race, their religion, their political opinions, their ethnicity, or their national origins. 

The first question Peterson asked was: "What would make someone leave the place they were born?" Audience members raised their hands and replied: "violence," "war," "opportunity," "tyrants," "lack of food," and "jobs." 

Peterson said asylum seekers are very much in the news recently and are people who fled their home country, go to someone's border, and ask permission to stay. 

 "In 2015, there was the crisis caused by all of the asylum seekers from Syria going on boats towards Europe. Today, we hear about asylum seekers that are on our southern border," Peterson said. 

The difference between migrant and refugee/asylee is the migrant doesn't suffer the prosecution. They seek better jobs, better education, and better life. 

"In the world today, there are 68.5 million people who are forcibly displaced. These are people who are persecuted, so they need that United Nations definition of feeling afraid to stay in their homes. Out of those, 20.45 million are actual refugees. They have had to flee their home countries. And 3.1 million people are asylum seekers," Peterson said. 

The second question Peterson asked was: "Where do refugees live?"

The audience responded, "refugee camps," but she said that "75 percent of refugees today live outside an actual formal home. They live in urban areas. They live in make-shift tents. And they live in as sometime what consider to be 'unauthorized immigrants'." 

Less than 1 percent of all refugees 25.4 million people ever get the opportunity to resettle, she said.   

"There are three different types of options the United Nations offers to people when they register with them. First, they always look for opportunities to go back home. Second, they look for opportunities to integrate into the community where they currently living. Third, refugee resettlement in a third country," Peterson said.

On average, only one in every 500 people ever make it to the United States, she said. 

Two-thirds of the 25.4 million refugees come from just five different countries. They are from Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia. 

The United Nations only looks at the most vulnerable refugees.

"Refugee resettlement isn't for everyone. It's someone who really needs it: The most vulnerable, they might have medical condition, women and girls at risk, children or survivor of violence and torture," Peterson said.

The most important thing to know is that a person who has committed a serious crime is never eligible for refugee resettlement. 

The United Nations believes that refugee resettlement saves people lives, she said. 

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Student Election continues

Voting for either candidate in the upcoming election can occur online between midnight on May 15 until 11:59 p.m. on May 16. You can vote at elections. You can also vote in person as well. Polling booths will be set up at the library entrance, Building 6 entry plaza, and at the Student Union in Building 8 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Election results will be post- ed on Friday at noon in Center for Leadership and Service.

Prepare for graduation

Graduating students are en- couraged to attend Grad Fair where they can accomplish many of the tasks needed to prepare for Commencement. At the Grad Fair, students can purchase commencement regalia, pick up cap & gown orders from online orders, join the Alumni Association, check in for Commencement, visit a cap decorating station, buy a class ring, get professional graduation photos taken, and celebrate with fellow graduating classmates. You can join the celebration at Building 8, 1st floor, Mt. Constance/Olympus on May 21 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Memorial Day Celebration

To celebrate Memorial Day, Veterans Services has arranged for the American Veterans bugler to play as a wreath is laid at the Veterans Memorial Plaza. Following the honor, Lourdes E. 'Alfie' Alvarado-Ramos, cur- rent president of the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs will give a speech inside Building 2. Hamburgers and hot dogs will be provided to everyone that attends. This event will take place in the Veterans Memorial Plaza & Building 2 on May 23 from 10 a.m. to noon.

Spring College Transfer Fair

If you are planning to transfer to a 4 year college or university in the future, be sure to attend this free college fair. Located in Building 8 first floor, come visit with admissions representatives from approximately 30 4 year colleges and universities. The fair is the perfect place to explore colleges and new options. Learn about the transfer process and deadlines, admissions requirements, scholarships, majors offered and more. This event will take place on May 28 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. can now do so. Running start and international students not eligible.

Drop-In Refugee Simulation Event

Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) will facilitate a simulation event called "Passages." Passages is an educational tool designed by the United Nations organization to create a better understanding of the problems that refugees encounter during their plight. The simulation takes about 15 minutes to complete. This will take place on May 15 from noon till 2 p.m. in Building 29,room116.