New York City—In honor of World Refugee Day, June 20th, Voice for Refuge celebrates the accomplishments of refugee public servants from around the country. Former refugees are vital members of our American communities. They are teachers, healthcare workers, community leaders, and elected officials.
Refugee elected leaders from around the country issued the following statements reflecting on World Refugee Day and what representation means for their communities:
Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (MN-5): “I believe every person deserves to be treated with humanity and empathy. As someone who lived in a refugee camp for four years, I dreamed of one day being lucky enough to call the United States home. I know finding a home is a matter of life or death for children and families around the world, which is why I fought to get President Biden to follow through on his campaign promise to increase the refugee admissions target. Now, we must work to ensure the cap meets the scale of the refugee crisis and our obligations for refugee resettlement. I am hopeful many people living through unthinkable situations will also be able to call the United States their home.”
Representative Kaohly Her, Minnesota State Representative: “My life in America, my role as a State Representative, I am my ancestor’s dream. This is what they fought for. The sacrifices they made so that I could have this life. I represent the potential of all refugees.
“My hope is that love and respect will prevail so that all people can be celebrated and valued. The richness of our country comes from its people. When we honor the history, culture, and traditions of our diversity, there is no obstacle we can’t overcome and no problem we can’t solve.”
Representative Tram Nguyen, Massachusetts State Representative: “Fleeing an oppressive regime in Vietnam, my family found refuge in the U.S. when I was 5. Like the Voice for Refuge Action Fund, I believe that refugees deserve a voice in the policies that impact them, and that motivated me to run for office in 2018. As a Massachusetts State Representative, I continue to fight for vulnerable communities. Asian refugees in particular have suffered greatly this past year due to COVID-19 bigotry; my goal is to make the Commonwealth a more inviting home where all refugees can find safety and prosperity.”
Representative Safiya Wazir, New Hampshire State Representative: “As a former refugee, I’m proud to serve in the NH State House and share refugee voices and experiences with others. I’m glad I can show other refugees that the dreams and success that seemed out of reach are actually possible. I look forward to a year full of new opportunities for everyone, native born and newcomer alike.”
Representative Kayse Jama, Oregon State Representative: “Being the first Muslim, and first former refugee in this office has meant a lot for me and my community. I believe that representation matters. However, we need to think beyond this. We have a lot of work to do and a huge disparity to address regarding social and economic justice. I don’t want to be symbolic. It is important that we get things done and tackle pressing issues in our community as well.
“One of my core principles is that people who are impacted by issues must take a leadership role in solving those issues. Therefore, we need to continue campaigning and working to elect more immigrants and refugees and continue supporting them in carrying out necessary legislation.”
County Commissioner Nafisa Fai, Washington County, Oregon: “I am honored to be elected the first Black Muslim Refugee Woman to the Washington County Board of Commissioners. This would not have been possible without the support of Washington County residents in District 1 who showed up via the ballot box with overwhelming support. Your vote is a true testament to the change the community has been has been eager to see.
“The journey for refugees can be daunting. Refugees come here determined to prosper and feel safe in their new homes. I look forward to improving how we can make Washington County a more prosperous and safe place for all current and future refugees.”
Voice for Refuge is the first 501(c)4 organization created to advance pro-refugee policies at the national, state, and local level and to hold elected leaders accountable to upholding America’s legacy of welcome. Voice for Refuge is educating the public about the benefits of refugee resettlement, advocating for pro-refugee policies in the U.S. Congress and state legislatures, and increasing civic engagement among refugees through non-partisan voter education. Voice for Refuge will also promote the representation of refugees in government by supporting former refugees and pro-refugee candidates running for office at the national, state, and local level.
For more information or to get involved visit voiceforrefuge.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.