Local resettlement agencies are preparing for the arrival of the first of 10,000 Syrian refugees to the U.S., set to begin arriving on October 1st.
Last week, under pressure to scale up the U.S. response to the current refugee crisis, President Obama directed his administration to accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year. And non-profit placement agencies that resettle refugees are now busy making preparations to receive them.
Martin Zogg, the Executive Director of The International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Los Angeles, explains that the process begins the moment the person or family arrives on U.S. soil. The first step is called "reception and placement."
"We literally receive refugees," Zogg says. "When they come to Los Angeles, we pick them up at the airport, we take them to their new homes, we provide furniture, we provide them with culturally appropriate foods."
That can sound like a small touch, Zogg says, but it's really essential to ensuring that people aren't completely disoriented when they arrive. Especially when you consider what the typical refugee has been through.
"They've endured years of persecution and war, to the extent where they have decided to flee and cross an international border. They've gotten refugee status and may have spent years thereafter in a refugee camp, and finally they're approved to resettle. They get on a plane and fly for fifteen hours and arrive in Los Angeles, to a place they've never been before."
Once they're here in the U.S., case workers connect them with social services, help get their kids enrolled in school, and get all family members set up with health screenings. Then there's help with job searches, English classes, and applying for U.S. citizenship as well.
But it can be a difficult transition, and the initial support that organizations like the IRC can provide only lasts for 90 days.
It's not clear exactly how many Syrian refugees will be resettled in Los Angeles, Zogg says, but because of the large numbers of Syrians and Syrian Americans in Southern California, they're expecting a significant number of people.
The IRC is expecting its first Syrian case to arrive in Los Angeles in the next couple of weeks.
To hear the full interview with Martin Zogg, click the link above.