Utica Residents Try to Improve Relations with Refugees

UTICA, N.Y. -- Many are trying to reach out to refugees in the Utica area more effectively.

So Wednesday morning, several came out to a training session at the Dorothy Smith Center for Advocacy. It focused on refugees, concepts of culture, and strategies for working within diverse communities.

"We've been doing this for two years, but it seems more now than ever I do have more audience and more people signing up for these trainings," said Resource Center for Independent Living Program Coordinator Sasha Rodriguez.

Rodriguez said the amount of participants have tripled recently.

"When I first started doing these trainings, I would get five to 10 people, and as you can see, we have a large crowd today,” said Rodriguez. “And I do these presentations in Herkimer, Utica, and Amsterdam."

"Especially with the political climate the way it is, it's good to be as knowledgable as you can. Especially in this area," said Utica resident Chris Baldwin.

Political tensions don't seem to be easing. In his address to Congress on Tuesday night, President Donald Trump said, "I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American victims. The office is called VOICE --- Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement."

Those being served are American victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. The president may have good intentions, but some said the new office could do more harm than good.

"Even though it's targeting criminals, it overall is still creating an atmosphere of fear," said Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees Strategic Initiatives and Training Manager Shana Pughe Dean. "I don't think it requires an additional program to enforce the laws that we currently have."

In the meantime, residents are focusing on becoming more educated about different cultures and addressing misconceptions.

"We talk about it in a political way and use big words, but we don't actually get down person to person and learn the humanity behind it. So I think it's really important," Baldwin said.

To learn about future programs, you can contact Rodriguez by calling her at (315) 272-2907 or by emailing her at srodriguez@rcil.com.

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