To the Editor:
You are to be congratulated on your extensive article about Syrian refugees and their warm welcome by their Canadian sponsors (“Refugees Hear a Foreign Word: Welcome,” front page, July 1). It puts a human face on people we have been encouraged to fear and reject in this election cycle.
The article has personal resonance for me. Ten years ago I founded an organization that provides housing and a range of humanitarian services for asylum seekers fleeing persecution and war. Almost all are survivors of torture. We locate hosts who have spare bedrooms to provide housing and then mobilize volunteers to offer the support necessary to enable our guests to achieve total independence in American society.
Despite the egregious and opportunistic fear-mongering of Gov. Chris Christie, who has declared that the state of New Jersey will not help resettle any Syrian refugees, I am proud to say that we have resettled two Syrian families, one that shared our home with my wife and me. We found them to be delightful people whose greatest interest was to establish themselves in their new homeland and build a viable future for themselves and their children.
Though our clients could not be more different from their hosts with regard to race, ethnicity, cultural background and, most dramatically, life experience, over time winning relationships are molded and our common humanity comes to the fore.
The writer is the founder of the Northern New Jersey Coalition for Political Asylum Seekers and a professor of human rights at Columbia University