Syrian Refugees Find Homes in Maryland and Virginia

None in Nation’s Capital

Syrian Refugees, seen here resting on the floor of Keleti railway station in Hungary, have recently settled in Maryland and Virginia.

WASHINGTON — Even as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump promises to ban or severely restraing immigration from Muslim countries, Virginia and Maryland hve begun blending Syrian refugees into their communities.   

According to the Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration at the Refugee Processing Center (RPC), Virginia and Maryland have accepted Syrian refugees.   Maryland has taken 363 refugees and Virginia has resettled 182 persons in the past 12 months, according to RPC. 

Cities such as Baltimore, Falls Church, Va., and Silver Spring, Md. were a few that received Syrian refugees.  Washington took in only six refugees.   None were Syrians.

Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd said he believes that Syrian refugees are placed in Virginia and Maryland more often than in D.C. because those states are larger than the District. However, Todd also said that there’s plenty of room for refugee resettlement in his ward.

“It is likely a variety of complex factors,” he said. “The most striking reason to me is simply that Virginia and Maryland are much larger than the District and can thus accommodate more refugees. [But] Ward Four is a dynamic, diverse, and welcoming community. There is room for all people here.”

Other American voters don’t necessarily share Councilmember Todd’s welcoming sentiment, as various polls show just how uneasy Americans seem to be with Syrian refugee resettlement.

According to a Gallup poll conducted in last year, 60 percent of Americans oppose accepting Syrian refugees, while 37 per cent were in favor. 

Megan Cagle, a spokesperson at the Immigration and Refugee Program of Church World Service, said one of the reasons Syrian refugees are not being settled in D.C. is because of the location of resettlement offices, which makes it more convenient for the refugees and their families to keep in constant contact.

“Given the location of these resettlement offices, refugees are often settled in neighboring communities to ensure convenient access to the offices and the services they provide,” Cagle said

The Immigration and Refugee Program of Church World Service in D.C., the International Rescue Committee in Silver Spring, Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area in Falls Church and the World Relief chapter in Baltimore are some of the centers, which assist, in resettling refugees. 

One Shepherd Park resident in Ward 4 Jessica Sims, believes that until America solves its own issues, Syrian refugees shouldn’t be a priority. 

“Listen, until we focus on black lives mattering, don’t let them in this country," Sims said.  "That’s really it.  I got people that look like me that are steady getting gunned down, raped, beaten, and y’all want me to accept these new folks? No thank you.”

Cagle disagreed with that way of thinking.

“Since our nation’s founding, our country has served as a beacon of hope for countless individuals seeking to build a new life in peace and safety,” she said. “As a nation founded in part by the hard work and determination of refugees and immigrants, we have a responsibility to ensure that our generation carries on our history of welcoming, regardless of someone’s country of origin, religion, or beliefs. To do any less would be to dishonor our shared immigrant heritage and our country’s core welcoming principles.”

Todd shares this sentiment, claiming that his religion has informed him on how to treat others.

“America is a country built on immigration from people from all over the world. That is a tradition that we should continue,” he said. “Syrians, like people of all nationalities, are welcome in America. They are good people that can help strengthen the United States — I am a religious man. My Christian faith is incredibly important to me and informs the way I view the world and treat others.”