This weekend, Americans across the country are celebrating “Welcome Weekend” and continuing our national tradition of welcoming those fleeing persecution and seeking refuge from around the world. Indeed, it’s an opportunity we have historically seized. Underlined by a fundamental spirit of generosity, Americans have long understood that each of us were often yesterday’s refugees – that the search for safety, opportunity, and freedom from fear is a common aspiration that has bound us from generation to generation. Our country is made stronger, and more vibrant because of the richness that immigrants and refugees bring, with each wave of newcomers deepening what it means to be American.
From the Vietnamese who sought safety after the fall of Saigon to the Soviet Jews who came to America near the fall of the Soviet Union– America has continued to be a place of refuge. And critical each time has been the strong partnership between the American people and their government – the willingness of Americans to welcome newcomers into their communities as the government dedicates the resources necessary to assist refugees in the integration process.
On Sunday, President Obama will travel to Turkey and later to Asia to meet with world leaders for the G-20 summit, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Meeting, and the East Asia Summit to promote strong, sustainable and balanced growth and to address urgent global challenges. These summits come at a unique time, when the world faces the worst refugee crisis since the end of World War II. Sixty million people globally have been displaced from their homes, including 12 million Syrians. While countries around the world work to take in as many refugees as possible, the U.S. Government is doing what we can to live up to America’s best tradition as a land of second chances and a beacon of hope. The President will visit a refugee center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at the end of his trip to demonstrate our focus and commitment to this issue around the world. The need is enormous, but we are determined to answer the call.
That’s where the American people – and “Welcome Weekend” – are making a difference. An inspiring interfaith coalition has organized “Welcome Weekend” to support congregations and communities to come together and help refugees who have come to the United States get back on their feet, become integrated in new communities, and begin on the road to a normal life once again. Everyday Americans are invaluable partners in welcoming refugees into our communities by hosting a family for dinner, introducing refugees to their new neighbors, or helping them find employment or housing opportunities. You can join in efforts with your local community and engage in innovative work to promote refugee integration. You can even share your efforts and spread the word using #RefugeesWelcome.
Check out www.aidrefugees.gov to learn more about how you can help today.
This is a time when Americans of all faiths and beliefs are answering the call to be part of the response. Let’s remember – refugee families aren’t so different from our own and their aspirations for their children are the same. Their communities have been torn apart, their neighbors murdered, and their lives turned upside down. They’ve come here looking for a new life, and there’s no other country better equipped to offer them that opportunity than ours.
Amy Pope is Deputy Assistant to the President for Homeland Security.