Elected Officials and Refugee families share a meal while discussing immigration issues at forum held in Little Arabia

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The Arab American Civic Council co-hosted the ‘Refugees Welcome Reception and Community Forum’ in partnership with Activate Labs this past Saturday, December 16th, to uplift the voices of refugee families and discuss current issues pertaining to immigration policies. With the participation of elected officials, refugee families, and community members, we engaged in a productive discourse on the Travel Ban, Islamophobia, hate speech, restorative justice and mental health programs in schools, housing costs, job growth, and more.

Our guest speakers included Senate President Kevin de Leon, Senator Josh Newman, Anaheim Mayor Pro Tem James Vanderbilt, Anaheim Councilman Dr. Jose F. Moreno, Anaheim Union High School District Trustee Al Jabbar, and Garden Grove Unified School Board Trustee Walter Muneton.

The program began with our refugee friends sharing their stories and experiences with resettlement and integration in the U.S., and proceeded with statements by elected officials in response to such experiences. Senators Newman and de Leon opened the floor by discussing the islamophobia and the Travel Ban. “In California, we celebrate who we are… We celebrate our diversity. We don’t ban it. We don’t deport it, and we don’t wall-it-off,” emphasized Sen. de Leon.

Mayor Pro Tem James Vanderbilt and Councilman Dr. Jose Moreno from the city of Anaheim followed by addressing local issues, and highlighting the importance of economic growth. Councilman Moreno reassured the constituents, stating that the City Council works with “nonprofits whose mission is to effectively integrate new immigrants into the fabric of their city.” He continued by explaining that the best thing for economic growth and development is the investment in immigrant entrepreneurship.

Furthermore, our community’s advancement is not complete without adequate education. School District Trustees, Al Jabbar and Walter Muneton discussed the importance of education to new immigrants, and introduced a few school programs in Anaheim and Garden Grove providing social services, and focusing on mental health and disciplinary issues. The Anaheim and Garden Grove School Districts are constantly developing their school programs and working closely with educators, principals, and administrators to ensure students receive adequate care. “It is crucial for parents not to be shy or scared. Go to the schools, ask questions, speak to the administrators, and demand justice,” said Trustee Muneton.

In the current political climate, advocacy for new immigrants and refugees is an absolute necessity. This event was organized to not only help positively change the narrative around immigrants, but also pave the way for policy change in the upcoming year.

Many thanks to our Refugees Welcome project funder the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) and additional funding from The Proteus Fund’s Security and Rights Collaborative. Thanks to Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva for donating gift cards to our refugee families.

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