Rep. Hank Johnson, Clarkston mayor listen to immigrant, refugee concerns

Representative Hank Johnson talks to a group of individuals at the Clarkston Community Center Feb. 12.

In the Clarkston Community Center roughly 250 people expressed concern about President Donald Trump’s policies regarding refugees and immigration.

In an event hosted by Congressman Hank Johnson and Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry on Feb. 12, refugees shared stories of how Trump’s travel restrictions targeting predominately Muslim countries affect their lives.

“First of all, people don’t want to be profiled based on the way they look or the garb they may be wearing,” Johnson said. “There’s real apprehension on the level of hostility about Muslims and refugees.”

Federal judges blocked Trump’s initial travel ban, which was signed Jan. 27 and banned entry for 90 days by citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. The order also indefinitely halts refugees from Syria.

Currently, Trump is in the process of crafting new travel restrictions.

Of the nearly 250 people in attendance, Johnson said he believed roughly 45 percent were either Muslim, immigrants or living under refugee status.

“Those people love this country,” Johnson said. “It was a meeting about their fears and concerns and love for this country and desire to live in peace.”

During the meeting, Johnson said several refugee aid organizations came to assist those with concerns.

“Refugees are not a burden to Clarkston and they are certainly not a burden to America. In Clarkston, they have a 91 percent self-sufficiency rate within 180 days,” said Terry during the event. “The current administration in the White House is deliberately cutting in half the number of refugees that will arrive in the United States in the next year.”

Other panelists at the event included Cedric L. Alexander, DeKalb County’s deputy chief operating officer for public safety, Atlanta Office Director of World Relief Joshua Sieweke, Executive Director of CAIR Georgia Edward Ahmed Mitchell, Executive Director of the International Rescue Committee J.D. McCray, former refugee and Muslim woman Fahkria Hussain and New American Pathways CEO Paedia Mixon.

Former refugee and staff member at Lutheran Services of Georgia Aimee Zangandou was also a panelist. The services help refugees relocate in Georgia and provide rice to refugees through an annual event.

Zangandou said there’s still work to be done to help refugees.

“It’s real personal. The work itself is rewarding. You have people gain a sense of a home and a real sense of freedom. For some it’s the first step to rebuilding their life,” Zangandou said. “We have to do more work and advocate for our refugees.”

Zangandou, who has been in the United States for two decades, said she believes refugees are already highly vetted when coming to America.

“The president has put refugee issues in the forefront. There’s been a harsh backlash on refugees in this country,” Zangandou said. “I think people need to understand that refugees are some of the most vetted group of immigrants.”

Johnson, who represents areas of DeKalb County, said he’s impressed with the way Clarkston welcomes its refugees and immigrants.

“Clarkston has been ground zero for refugee resettlement in Georgia and it was a natural place to host this event. It’s a growing phenomenon that has taken place in the 4th District and public officials are coming together to support each other,” Johnson said.  

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