The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) is the official agency that resettles refugees in the Albany, New York area. USCRI representatives meet the refugee families or individuals at the airport, already having set up a place for them to live. In the first few months they will also help to make sure the children are enrolled in school and that all other needs, like Medicaid or social services, are met. Since 2005, an estimated 3,000 refugees have been resettled through USCRI’s Albany Field Office.
“Approximately 500 refugees currently arrive in the New York Capital region per year”, says Dahlia Herring, Co-Chair of Capital Region Refugee Roundtable (CRRR). Herring said most of the agency’s work with the refugees is completed within the first three months. Afterwards, it’s helpful for the community to step in and help with assimilation. “We need volunteers and good systems to continue to support refugees until they’re thoroughly self-sufficient,” she said. “Refugees tend to be very resilient and become self-sufficient rather quickly, but this country is a pretty complicated country in terms of the way things work here, especially if you’re coming from another nation that is very different.”
Herring, a first-generation American whose Jewish parents fled Germany to escape the Nazi regime, said part of her deep caring and dedication to helping refugees can be traced to the experience of her immigrant parents. “When I retired in 2006 I decided that I would devote my time as a volunteer to all people who in any way are marginalized.”
Despite growing qualms about providing a safe haven in America for refugees from war-torn countries, agencies and volunteers in Albany have been welcoming immigrants and working to ensure they have the services they need to start their new lives.