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Another View -- Tilak Niroula: New Hampshire should be a place that welcomes refugees

By TILAK NIROULA
June 19. 2018 10:54PM




Refugees from more than 30 nations make the Granite State their home. As of 2016, the total of 93,691 people in New Hampshire, or 7.3 percent of the state’s population, were native-born Americans with at least one immigrant parent.

Unsurprisingly, the U.S. News & World Report has ranked New Hampshire No. 1 in the nation for economic opportunity. Between 2008 and 2015, an estimated 247,000 people moved into New Hampshire from other states. Politico ranks New Hampshire number one among all the states based on 14 attributes. Admittedly, I would say that both Politico’s and the U.S. News and World Report attributes are worth measuring.

Today, June 20, is World Refugee Day. As I reflect on my journey to New Hampshire, I am so grateful to the United States and my new community for giving me another chance in life. As with many citizens, I would have preferred to remain in my homeland. However, beginning in the early 1990s, members of an ethnic minority population living in southern Bhutan began to flee rising levels of violence and persecution at the hands of the Bhutanese government. Denied citizenship rights because of religious and cultural differences, many were forced to flee their homeland and seek protection in refugee camps in Nepal established by UNHRC, the United Nations Refugee Agency. The government of Nepal entered into repeated bilateral talks with the Bhutanese government to negotiate the safe return of the Bhutanese refugees, all of which failed. In 2006, all parties decided that third-country resettlement was the only option for the Bhutanese refugees. I gave my declaration of interest to UNHRC and eventually came to the United States in May 2013.

I was 22 years old when I landed in New York with my beautiful wife. I had no job or income source lined up, and heavy responsibilities on my shoulders. I was nervous and scared. I may not have known exactly what lay ahead for me, but I felt excited, fortunate, and confident that I would make it work for myself, for my family in this great nation.

Soon after my arrival to New Hampshire, I started to work with new American neighbors in various capacities. Initially, I introduced “Hamro Aawaz”, a show on Concord TV that helps immigrants navigate their new home. Then, I started writing articles and op-eds on how refugees are thriving in New Hampshire, and attended many national advocacy events on behalf of fellow refugees.

I was honored with Concord TV’s Premiere Production Award in 2013-2014 and named to the 2017 class of the New Hampshire Union Leader’s “40 under Forty.”

As someone who understands the struggles of refugees firsthand, I am disheartened to see that my beloved new home is denying that same opportunity to others now facing similarly dangerous situations. I always viewed America as a beacon of hope. There are 65.6 million people forcibly displaced worldwide, including 22.5 million refugees and 10 million stateless people. Each day, 28,300 people are forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution. Refugees interviewed overseas undergo extensive background checks by United States law enforcement and intelligence agencies before resettlement.

There is now an additional layer of vetting for refugees from 11 high-risk countries, meaning that many in the pipeline already approved had to be rescreened. The executive orders banning immigrants and refugees from predominantly Muslim nations do not reflect that. In fact, they completely contradict the values America stands for, such as compassion, welcoming, and resilience. The United States is a country where anyone should be able to pursue the American Dream and live in safety.

The fear, hate, and xenophobia perpetuated by the Trump administration’s executive order do not reflect the state or nation I know. The New Hampshire I know is compassionate in its acceptance of those seeking shelter from some of the worst conflicts in history.

I continue to believe in the importance of welcoming others, for others have welcomed me. I seek to welcome other refugees who are new arrivals. I raise my voice to support the rights of refugees through my work as an immigrant trailblazer.

As someone who knows firsthand the horrors that refugees flee and the sense of hope finding a home brings, I urge our local leaders, legislators, and national policy makers to stand with refugees, today and every day. Only then will we truly reflect the welcome our country stands for.

Together, we can inspire welcome across the country and around the world.

Tilak Niroula is a communications manager at Building Community in New Hampshire.


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