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Catholic Charities assists refugees and immigrants that are legally in the United States. Our Refugee Resettlement program supports refugees who flee their country of origin, often running from violence, war and persecution, to save their lives. They are granted refugee status by the United Nations due to a well-founded case of persecution and cleared for entrance to America by our Department of Homeland Security.

Our Immigration Legal Services team helps reunite those in the U.S. legally with minor children and spouses who remain in their country of origin. Many of those we assist are refugees — those granted refugee status by the United Nations and invited here by the U.S. Federal Government — to reunite with their spouses and minor children. We also help U.S. citizens and those with legal residency secure residency for their spouses and/or children.

Thursday, 16 May 2024

Family Escapes Persecution for a Life of Freedom in the US

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For Siti Mariam and her family, simple things like going outside are a celebrated privilege. Siti Mariam and her husband Jamal are Burmese, and would face persecution in Burma because they are Muslim. They spent decades living in Malaysia, where they were unable to obtain legal documents or be recognized as legal residents, so going outside or doing almost anything was out of the question.

They were constantly on the lookout for police because of their lack of legal status in the country. Without documents, Siti Mariam and Jamal couldn’t work, and their kids couldn’t get an education.

Refugee Resettlement Provides Assistance

After years of living in fear, she and her family were able to immigrate to the U.S. They adjusted to their new home with the help of Catholic Charities’ Refugee Resettlement Program. Refugee Resettlement provides refugees arriving in the U.S. with case management and resources such as English language classes, job and resume assistance and help accessing public transportation.

Catholic Charities staff located housing for Siti Mariam and her family prior to their arrival and picked them up at the airport. Staff also helped the family figure out how to use the bus, enroll the children in school and go shopping for groceries. Siti Mariam is grateful for the staff at Catholic Charities, who feel like family to her.

“The agency helped us like we are [newborns]. We don't know how to walk. We don't know how to eat. The agency helped us so much,” she said.

Neighbors Welcome the Newcomer

The family has also found love and support in their neighborhood. And with so many kids in the area, it’s easy for Siti Mariam’s children to make friends.

A Family No Longer Lives in Fear

Siti Mariam's kids are now getting the education they deserve and love going to school. They are top students, earning awards and positive feedback from their teachers.

Jamal was able to get a job when the family moved to the U.S. He is working on his English and getting better every day. For the first time, Siti Mariam can drive a car and is free to go wherever she wants.

Although moving to America has brought them happiness, it doesn’t change the fact that they miss their family members back home. There have been many tears shed over video calls. Siti Mariam hopes to eventually bring her mom, dad and the rest of her family over to America.

Siti Mariam and Jamal have high hopes for their family’s future. They look forward to seeing their kids go to high school and college and grow up to be successful in whatever career they choose. They also hope to save up to buy a house.

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Bethany Durham

Bethany Durham has a bachelor’s degree in Communication and a passion for storytelling. Her writing for Catholic Charities has included blogs, newspaper and magazine articles. She enjoys telling client stories in a way that captures the humanity and emotions of those she writes about. When she’s not working, Bethany loves to spend time with her two cats, hike and sing karaoke.