From Refugee to Neighbor:
What it takes to call our city home.
Nashville has resources that have been in place for decades to greet new neighbors. Grassroots support and programs have most recently been developed specifically to welcome hundreds of Afghan refugees to our city.
This panel is filled with experience and heart for making the transition from the initial welcome to a connected life in the community. Panelists represent those offering resettlement resources and refugees whose personal journeys include leaving home in search of making a new one halfway across the world.
Nashville’s community resources are intended to support self-sufficiency and connection, while also honoring culture and the emotional experiences of resettlement.
Tessa Lemos Del Pino, Executive Director, Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors
Sabina Mohyuddin, Executive Director, American Muslim Advisory Council
Norma Sadat, New Nashville Resident, Staffer at Tri Star Southern Hills
Masood Sidiqyar, Afghan-born Nashvillian, Senior Director of Information Security, Vanderbilt University
Zulfat Suara, Nashville Metro Council Member at Large, Executive Director of Grants and Contracts at Meharry Medical College, The Women’s Fund Board Member
The Women’s Fund Forum Co-Chairs:
Johari Matthews and Zulfat Suara
The Women’s Fund Board Chair:
The FORUM 2022 Resource Library
Migrants, Asylum seekers, Refugees, Immigrants
“What’s the Difference?”
A refugee is a person who had to flee their home because of persecution, war, violence, or natural disaster. Refugees are often forced to flee with little warning and are unable to return until conditions are safe.
The law defines a refugee as a person who is unable OR unwilling to return to her country because of past persecution OR a well-founded fear of future persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, OR political opinion.
An official entity such as a government or the United Nations Refugee Agency determines whether a person meets the definition of a refugee.
If they are outside of the United States, they will apply for recognition as a refugee. The process may take many years. If approved, they will enter the United States as a lawful permanent resident (a/k/a green card holder) and later be able to apply for US citizenship.
If they are in the United States or at the border of the United States, they will apply for asylum. The process may take many years. If approved, she will be able to apply for lawful permanent residence in one year and later for US citizenship.
Both refugees and asylees enjoy protection under international laws and conventions and receive lifesaving support from aid agencies, including the International Rescue Committee.
Must apply for protection in the country of destination-meaning they must arrive at or cross a board in order to apply. Then, they must be able to prove to authorities there that they meet the criteria to be covered by refugee protections. Not every asylum seeker will be recognized as a refugee.
Those arriving at U.S. boarders seeking asylum from murder, kidnapping, violence against women and forced recruitment by gangs, are often depicted as “illegal immigrants,” but in reality, crossing an international border for asylum is not illegal and an asylum seeker’s case must be heard, according to U.S. and international law.
An immigrant is a person who leaves their home and moves to a foreign country with the intention of settling there. There are three main paths for legal immigration to the United States: through a close family member, through an employer or on a humanitarian basis. US law limits the number of people who can immigrate to the United States each year. All immigrants go through a lengthy vetting process to immigrate to a new country. Many become lawful permanent residents and eventually citizens.
A migrant is a person who is moving from place to place (within his or her country or across borders), usually for economic reasons such as seasonal work.
The government may grant parole to someone who needs to enter the United States temporarily, usually for a humanitarian reason such as to obtain medical care. During the parole period, the person is protected from deportation and, in some cases, may be able to apply for a work permit. Parole does not lead to permanent status, such as lawful permanent residence or citizenship. Applicants for parole are subject to vetting and background check requirements.
Sanctuary Cities/”Safe Cities”
Areas committed to ensure due process is followed regardless of someone’s immigration status. Being an undocumented immigrant is not a crime, it is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Tennessee Office for Refugees
A department of Catholic Charities designated and funded by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to administer the state refugee resettlement program.
Chatholic Charities is Admin office and recipient of Federal Refugee Services funding
Subcontract with direct services:
- Siloam Health
- Tennessee Language Center
- Medical Clinics in Chattanooga, Memphis, Knoxville
- Metro Nashville Public School data student population data: Open Data Portal – Metro Nashville Public Schools (mnps.org)
- Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition https://www.tnimmigrant.org/
- Women for Women International–Supporting Survivors of War and Conflict https://www.womenforwomen.org/
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is a global organization dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people. According to UNHCR data, by 2020, more than 82 Million people worldwide were forcefully displaced, as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, and human rights violations (Click this LINK, to view data graphs detailing refugee-receiving countries)
- Siloam Heath, “Hannah’s Story” https://youtu.be/vFhNfWT6Y0A“An Ordinary Day” (https://siloamhealth.org/stories-more/) A good overview of what it’s like for a refugee to newly arrive in Nashville
- NPT’s Next Door Neighbors series https://video.wnpt.org/show/next-door-neighbors/
- Catholic Charities and Tennessee Office for Refugees “Journey of a Refugee to the USA” https://cfmt-wp.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/15201053/Journey20of20a20Refugee.pdf
- Catholic Charities and Tennessee Office for Refugees “A Refugee Arrives in Tennessee” https://cfmt-wp.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/15201114/Journey20of20a20Refugee20in20Tennessee.pdf
About The Women’s Fund Forum
The Women’s Fund always considered opportunities to engage and educate the community about issues affecting women and girls. It was an opportunity for the Board to share the insights they were learning through relationships they were forming, and the information they were introduced to through the network of foundations and funds with a shared mission of supporting women and girls that were being established across the country.
Nearly 20 years ago, the first educational effort was to bring attention to the issue of senior women who survived their husbands and were now left with understanding their financial circumstances, often for the first time. For this effort, The Women’s Fund partnered with the Council on Aging.
Fast forward past a sampling of other educational events and a changing community over a decade and The Women’s Fund Forum, as it is known today, was born in 2012. The featured topic would have never been imagined 25 years ago: Human Trafficking in Tennessee.
After bringing attention to human trafficking in our state, The Women’s Fund selected the issue of hunger and food insecurity in our Middle Tennessee community and shined light on how women and their children are disproportionately impacted through the Forum titled Hunger Happens Here.
As the opioid epidemic began to impact our state and our country, the 2017 and 2018 Forum focus was When Addiction Comes Home and Stories from the Opioid Crisis with former Women’s Fund board members as panelist. One as an expert in the field and another sharing her personal story of losing a son to addiction.
The #MeToo movement and countless national stories on sexual assault bring the conversations home when Middle Tennessee women ask, what is the reality of sexual assault in our community? The Women’s Fund gathered experts in 2019 and 2020 to discuss the local environment and resources to support those impacted by sexual assault.The Women's Fund Forum 2020 Resource Library