(ELIZABETH) - The New Jersey Office for Refugees and the New Jersey Department of Human Services on Thursday commemorated World Refugee Day by highlighting the strengths and contributions refugees bring to New Jersey.
Representatives from refugee serving agencies and refugee communities throughout New Jersey attended the event, and three refugees who are leaders in their community gave speeches about starting new lives in New Jersey and their contributions to their new communities.
The International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) New Jersey Office for Refugees (NJOR), which hosted the event at the Union County Community College, works with local non-governmental agencies to support new Americans in New Jersey and has served 3,000 clients over the past three years, including refugees, asylees, Cuban and Haitian entrants, and victims of human trafficking from more than 45 nationalities. The NJOR works with the New Jersey Department of Human Services in partnership to ensure that refugees receive services to assist them in New Jersey communities.
“The IRC is committed to working in partnership with Human Services to strengthen programs and services to ensure that refugees are welcomed, are achieving their full potential, and contributing back to their respective communities,” New Jersey State Refugee Coordinator James Lenton said. “Our communities and the world at large would be different if refugees were turned away as they once were. When refugees are welcomed, they work to contribute to improving our world,”
“In New Jersey, we offer a welcoming message to refugees who have been forced to flee their homes in the name of safety for themselves and their families,” Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson said. “Welcoming and integrating refugees in our state makes New Jersey a more vibrant and prosperous place where communities can thrive together. Refugees are new New Jerseyans - they are our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends – and the Murphy Administration will continue to stand with our new friends despite the damaging rhetoric and action coming from Washington.”
New Jersey has a long history of welcoming refugees and others fleeing persecution, resettling roughly 8,000 refugees through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program since 2002.
Governor Phil Murphy last year signed a law designating June 20th as World Refugee Day in New Jersey.
“We thank the representatives from the state of New Jersey for joining us on this event on World Refugee Day, and call upon all to join us in thanking refugees for their contributions,” Lenton said. “Let’s ensure that they are welcomed, learn from them when we can, and do our utmost to help them reclaim their future. Let’s support a world that welcomes and realizes the full potential of each individual by standing with refugees.”
The IRC in New Jersey has served the refugee, asylee and immigrant populations in New Jersey since 1980, offering programming in resettlement, economic empowerment, and education to support their integration into their adopted home.
To reach the New Jersey Department of Human Services, please e-mail Tom Hester at [email protected]
To reach the International Rescue Committee, please e-mail Charlie Ozuturk at [email protected]
Carole Johnson, Commissioner, New Jersey Department of Human Services
Carole Johnson was nominated to be Commissioner of the Department of Human Services by Governor Phil Murphy. She previously served in the Obama White House as senior health policy advisor and member of the Domestic Policy Council health team. There, she worked to increase health insurance coverage for millions of Americans, improve services and choices for individuals with disabilities, expand supports for older Americans, increase coverage of mental health and substance use disorder treatment, and improve health and economic security for all Americans. The Commissioner also has served on Capitol Hill working for the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging and for members of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee and U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee. In addition, she managed health care workforce policy issues for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration. Johnson previously was policy director for the Alliance of Community Health Plans, an association of nonprofit health plans; program officer with the Pew Charitable Trusts Health and Human Services Program; health policy researcher at the George Washington University; and, senior government relations manager with the American Heart Association.
Mohammad Durrani arrived in the United States in 2017. He, his wife and their four children came from Kandahar, Afghanistan where Mohammed worked with U.S. Special Forces as a combat operations interpreter and liaison between the U.S. Army and Afghan forces. His assistance with U.S. operations compromised his and his family’s safety in Afghanistan and made them eligible for Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) to the U.S. Since resettling in New Jersey, Mohammed has worked in the emergency department at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital, been an Assistant Manager of a department store and driven for Uber and Lyft. Mr. Durrani and his family are adjusting to life in New Jersey and look forward to what the future here has to offer.
Daniela Bushiri resettled in the United States with her mother and four siblings in 2016. Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ms. Bushiri and her family fled war there and spent 16 years in South Africa before resettling in the U.S. Ms. Bushiri studies chemical engineering at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and plans to become an engineer and to make a positive difference in the world. In addition to her studies, Ms. Bushiri has a YouTube channel and performs original poetry and spoken word to share her story and increase awareness of the experiences of refugees.
Yordanka Diaz Saez
Yordanka Diaz Seaz arrived in the Unites States in 2016 from Cuba, where she was a family practice physician with a sub-specialty in general surgery. Additionally, she is trained and has the titles of Master in Urgent Care Medicine, Master of Pharmacoepidemiology and Master of Rational Therapeutics. Dr. Saez practiced medicine in Bolivia and Venezuela before moving to the U.S. under the Cuban-Haitian Entrants program. Since her arrival in the U.S., she has been living in New Jersey and working to get her U.S. medical license, serving as a Community Health Promotor for Church World Service (CWS) of Jersey City’s Refugee Health Promotion Program and studying to improve her English language skills. Dr. Saez is eager to begin practicing medicine in the U.S. to provide quality health care to those in need, as she was doing in Cuba.
Services are provided by seven agencies throughout the state:
- Catholic Charities of Camden
- Catholic Charities of Newark
- Church World Service, Jersey City
- Inter-Faith Rise, Highland Park
- International Rescue Committee, Elizabeth
- Jewish Family Services, Middletown
- Jewish Vocational Services, East Orange
Refugee Medical Screenings are provided by two federally qualified health centers:
- Newark Community Health Centers
- North Hudson Community Action Corporation