A Doctor’s View of Refugees in the Region

Thanks to Lisa Arnold on Facebook for Sharing this letter in the Newburyport newspaper.

From the Newburyport Daily News on February 10, 2017
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To the editor:
I work as a physician for the U.S. Immigration Service, examining legal immigrants to this country who are applying for their green cards, according to Immigration Service guidelines. I have seen over 30,000 immigrants of all types in my career, but since 2013, I have restricted my work to refugees.
Working in Newburyport, I see the majority of refugees coming to northern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire and Maine. Refugees must live here for one year before they can apply for green cards, which is when I see them.
In the past two years, the refugees I see are mostly from Iraq. Iraqi refugees are from two groups: 1. middle-class store owners (bakers, auto repair shops, grocery stores, etc.) who helped the U.S. Army during the war, mostly as translators, and come here directly from Iraq; 2. professionals and intellectuals (college professors, high school physics teachers, doctors, lawyers, computer programmers, accountants) who escaped the violence in Iraq during the war, and came here through Turkey or Jordan.
Both groups come here only after many years of vetting by U.S. government agencies. Among the refugees are Christians and Kurds, but mostly Muslims. They almost all have families with young children. They speak English well, are well-educated and assimilate into U.S. society easily. The parents are all working at Walmart-type jobs. The children are doing well in school; their culture values education.
President Trump says he wants immigrants who love America, not those who hate us. These Iraqi refugees fit that bill beautifully. I always ask them how they like their new home, expecting them to say that Lowell, Concord, Manchester, Nashua, Portland, or Lewiston are too cold. Instead, they say how happy they are to be in those cities.
When I ask why they are happy, they routinely say, “because we finally feel safe.”
Michael Sandberg
Newburyport

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