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Another View: Don't mistake our hard-working refugee clients for illegal aliens

April 02. 2013 5:27PM

I recently received an anonymous postcard stating: "We are tired of illegals. I'll encourage people to not support your order or cause."

Let the truth be known about Holy Cross Family Learning Center on Dubuque Street on Manchester's West Side.

The Family Learning Center opened its doors three years ago to serve the immigrant population of Manchester. We have 120 registered adult men and women who are enrolled in the various classes. They come with their culture and unique gifts and talents, from Asia, Africa, Europe and South America. They all come to learn English so that they can become contributing and responsible New Hampshire citizens. They are not illegals.

Refugees represent a special class of immigrants. Unlike economic migrants, refugees are forced to move against their will in order to save their lives or preserve their freedom. William Gillett of the International Institute says that "in spite of formidable language, culture and other obstacles, our latest results are that 63 percent of refugees in our workforce training program gained employment within 180 days of their arrival."

He continues by stating that "all of the refugees arrived as permanent legal residents of the United States, on the path to full citizenship."

In 2010, 85 percent of recently arrived Americans that came through the refugee resettlement program became taxpayers within one year. Our New Hampshire immigrants, at the price of great sacrifices to themselves and their children, choose to give time to their education. They participate, with great pride, in the various classes and programs offered at the center, namely: English, reading and writing skills, sewing skills, computer classes involving job searches and resume writing, as well as citizenship and civics classes, to name but a few.

Thanks to the support of former Gov. John Lynch, Mayor Ted Gatsas, local businesses and 24 dedicated volunteer retired teachers, Holy Cross Family Learning Center is thriving and contributing to the growth of our city and state. We are proud to be part of the New Hampshire community. Together, great things can continue happening.

I would like you, our anonymous post card writer, to visit our center to see firsthand, the wonderful men and women who enrich our city and state. I think you would be amazingly surprised to experience the joy of learning. As a note, 90 percent of refugees have graduated from high school over the last three years, of those, 93 percent attend college. Learning what is good and beautiful around us never stops. It helps us to see what is real and adds to our happiness.

Sister Jacqueline R. Verville is executive director of Holy Cross Family Learning Center in Manchester.

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