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Americares President and CEO Michael J. Nyenhuis leads a health-focused relief and development organization that saves lives and improves health for people affected by poverty or disaster.
Americares founder began his global humanitarian work by rescuing children stranded in Vietnam at the end of the war and bringing them to the United States — as refugees. Four decades later, with the greatest number of people forcibly displaced worldwide since World War II, refugee support remains an essential part of our work.
Our founder later launched a charitable clinic in our home state of Connecticut to provide quality health services to people without insurance, including many hard-working immigrants walking a path to opportunity in a new country. Americares now runs four such clinics and supports a network of others across the U.S.
Today, I am deeply concerned about the intense divisions in our country over issues of immigration and refugee resettlement. Economic angst and fear of terror have raised questions about whether our country should continue to welcome people from all places and backgrounds.
I worry that we no longer see beyond the labels of “immigrant” and “refugee.” Behind those words are real people — mothers, fathers, children — many of whom are fleeing conflict, disaster or poverty. They seek to escape often unimaginable circumstances that we cannot fully comprehend. To many people, an open door in the U.S. provides hope and real opportunity for a full life.
Strong borders and appropriate control of immigration are essential. But a blanket ban on immigrants and refugees from specific countries, many of whom have endured the atrocities of war and the oppression of poverty, is unnecessary.
At a forum Americares held a few months ago, I met a young Syrian refugee who had recently resettled in our area with her children, aided by a local church. She had patiently waited through the formal application and vetting process to come to a new land where she would have a chance to start over. Her story was powerful and inspiring. The opportunity she and her children were given to reach their full potential made me proud to be an American. There are many others like her who wish to come and who will enrich our communities and nation.
Americares has long supported the health needs of immigrants and refugees, wherever they are struggling. We won’t stop. The U.S. has a history of welcoming immigrants and refugees. It is my hope, my compassionate wish, that won’t stop either.
To read Americares statement on the executive order on immigration and refugees, please click here.
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