He's going to win (though it's important to consider the possibility of what America will look like if he doesn't).
|What value does a Sudanese refugee (Muslim) have to America, when they just came from living in mud-huts?|
The girl with the crimson head scarf sat on her driveway, legs stretched out flat on the pavement in front of her, washing her clothes in a little bucket of water held between her knees, the way she did back home in Sudan.
Her family had a washer and dryer in their west-side Detroit basement, but they had no idea how to use them. So Safia, the older daughter at 19, washed her clothes outside, and then strung the wet garments on the rusty fence between her new American home and the abandoned house next door.
“I just like being in the sun,” she claimed shyly, through an interpreter.
Only a month before, the Yacoub family — mom and four boys and two girls — was languishing in a tent city in the eastern deserts of Chad after fleeing the ethnic cleansing of their tiny village in neighboring Sudan.
The Yacoub family lived a good life in Sudan until war forced them out. After years of life in refugee camps, the family made it to the United States on April 1, 2016, with hopes for a better future.
Before that, before the war in Darfur came to their doorstep, their home was a mud hut with a grass roof and a dirt floor. They had no plumbing or electricity. Their water came from a river, carried home by their donkey. Their food came from a garden or from their cattle. Their toilet was a stand of nearby trees.
Suddenly they were whisked into the 21st Century, deposited in a battered but sturdy three-bedroom home in some place they’d never heard of called Detroit. Their new house had baffling contraptions like faucets and locking doorknobs and a stove they didn’t know how to use.
They spoke no English. They had no friends or family in America. And the personal belongings they brought with them fit into two shopping bags. The mother is disabled, most of her kids are too young to work and have very little schooling. And they arrived with no foreseeable way to support themselves, other than some temporary assistance that had a quickly approaching expiration date.
Welcome to your new life, they were told. Now become self-sufficient.
For them, it was like going to another planet.
“I still don’t understand the life here,” said Mariam, the 37-year-old mother of six, through a translator. Her large, round eyes were anxious. “I still have a hard time understanding the language. I don’t understand anything.”
Everything around them at West Warren Avenue and Greenfield Road was bewildering — the paved streets, the busy traffic speeding by, the neon-lighted signs on all the restaurants and bakeries lining the main roads, the constant motion and activity, all the loud noises.
While the recurring debate over accepting immigrants and refugees into the U.S. has been triggered by the conflict in Syria and inflamed by the heated rhetoric of the 2016 presidential election, refugees from a number of other war-ravaged countries have been quietly and steadily becoming the newest guests of the U.S., year after year.
The U.S. resettled about 70,000 refugees last year. This year will bring 85,000 of them, including seven Muslims from a small tribe in an African desert now settling in a city sorely in need of new residents to offset the loss of a million people over the past half century.
But coming to America doesn’t mean a suddenly easy life for refugees like them. They’re expected to adapt quickly to their new home and become productive citizens, a challenge even for those fleeing places like Syria or Iraq, countries with big cities and modern technology.
For a family like the Yacoubs, however, who lived simple lives in primitive conditions before being chosen to escape, that transition is even harder. To them, America is a dazzling, overwhelming, futuristic place. Even the version of America that’s embodied in a run-down old neighborhood in Detroit.
Still, it’s not Darfur. Despite the enormous challenges they knew they’d face adapting to an entirely new existence, they were simply happy to be alive somewhere. And when you’ve spent life in either a tent or a mud hut, inner-city Detroit looks much better than it does to those born here.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which administers the camps, screened the Yacoubs and passed them to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, which approved their asylum request and handed them to the U.S. State Department's Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration. That bureau chose where to relocate them and referred them to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which gave their case to the social services agency Samaritas — formerly Lutheran Social Services — in Michigan.
With a budget of nearly $124 million — most of it federal money, some of it donations — Samaritas served almost 20,000 people in Michigan last year, including elderly and disabled people and about 3,400 refugees from various countries who were settled in Grand Rapids, Battle Creek and metro Detroit.
The Yacoub family arrived at Detroit Metropolitan Airport on March 30. They had few documents, no medical records. There were no doctors in Tukultukul. When illness struck in the village, the family said, the elders took care of it themselves with folk treatments. “I got sick from being in the sun once, and they threw me in the river,” Nassour said, laughing.
They didn’t even know their own birth dates, and almost all were assigned Jan. 1 in the year each thinks he or she was born.
The family was taken to a house on the city’s west side, to a largely Arab neighborhood where thousands of other refugees of war have settled, on the border with heavily Muslim east Dearborn.
“We really try to place people where we think they’re going to be the most successful, where they have external support that they can rely on, and that they’re going to have a better time integrating into the community,” said Vickie Thompson-Sandy, president of Samaritas. “So knowing that they speak Arabic was probably part of some level of decision making.”
Samaritas provides both practical and financial assistance to refugees for 180 days, after which they are expected to have learned to support themselves. Eighty-eight percent of the refugees who get settled in Michigan by Samaritas, Thompson-Sandy said, succeed in doing so within that time.
“The goal is really to help them integrate into communities,” said Thompson-Sandy. “Our job is to get them gainfully employed and self-sufficient.”
The Yacoubs received a one-time, federally funded grant of $925 per family member to tide them over and were assigned a caseworker to help them navigate the labyrinth of assistance options. She got them Social Security cards, signed them up for Medicaid, rented them a house, enrolled them in the food stamp program, found them a nearby mosque to attend, and made calls to local schools to see about enrolling the children at some point. The family had no idea how to do any of this.
“The problem is they don’t have any English language skills, and even their Arabic language is so hard to understand sometimes,” said Arjwan Khudhur, the Arabic-speaking caseworker assigned to them.
“I taught them how to go to the supermarket, how to buy food, how to use the food stamps. I assisted the mother to open a bank account, how to use her debit card, a lot of things I did for them. But step by step they’re going to learn more and more.”
The most important task was applying for Social Security Disability Insurance for Mariam. She clearly can’t work. She walks haltingly and hunched with a cane, lurching forward one contorted step at a time. Khudhur filled out the application for Mariam’s assistance, and waited.
In exchange, Mariam was required to take English classes and enter a 21-day, state-sponsored, work-participation program to assess how far she is from being employable.
Khudhur has spent a decade with Samaritas helping refugees and has a dozen or so families rotating through her caseload at a given time. Among them was a recently arrived Iraqi man who’s both deaf and mute and tries to understand her by reading her lips.
The Yacoub family is even harder to help, she said.
The agency included a short description of the family in an e-mail call for volunteers, because one caseworker couldn’t possibly handle all of their challenges alone.
“It’s a single mom — a disabled woman, a pregnant daughter," Khudhur said, adding that Mariam's other daughter had already been to the emergency room twice. “They don’t have transportation, they don’t have a sponsor. I have to be with them in every single step, or it’s not going to work.”
A lot of people will question why the country is accepting refugees who arrive with no way to contribute. Thompson-Sandy knows this. But she’s convinced the Yacoubs will eventually become productive citizens, and that taking them in is the right thing to do.
“This country was built by people seeking new opportunities and freedom and refuge from danger and persecution,” she said. “We have a long history of welcoming refugees. Even if they don’t know how to use the washing machine at first and aren’t fluent in English, they take jobs that others won’t. It makes sense for our country to accept refugees. It’s good for our marketplace. They add value.”
No, they don't add value.
Neither did the black people who migrated to Detroit during the 1920s/1930s and helped turn The Arsenal of Democracy into the prime example of Africa in America.
Say it with me, folks: America is irredeemable.
America is not a marketplace; it is a nation.
Well, it was a nation.
Donald J. Trump wants to Make America Great Again, because presently we import people to our nation as refugees who recently lived in a mud-hut.