White House team recognizes Michigan’s support of refugees

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Officials on the White House Afghan refugee re-settlement team stopped in Lansing to see meet with city leaders to see how Michigan is handling new arrivals. Among the leaders like Mayor Andy Schor and Lansing School District Superintendent Benjamin Shuldiner, were non-profit leaders that have had a part in the re-settlement process.

“I’m really excited to get new refugees and also I’m really excited to see the community come together to help these new arrivals,” said Yusfu Sultani with the Afghan Association of Michigan.

Sultani, a refugee himself, is one of many faces behind the process. A challenging process for the city and state.

“The challenge has been that we’ve needed all hands on deck. But I’m really proud of the response from the federal government, state, and local partners, non-profit partners. They just rallied to support this effort,” said Poppy Hernandez, director of the Office of Global Michigan.

Her office oversees refugee resettlement in the state and has worked with non-profits like the Refugee Development Center. Director Erika Brown-Binion with the center has been on the frontlines the process. Among transportation and language courses, she sees housing as an on-going challenge.

“Housing is always an issue and I think we were really worried about it in the beginning. But the resettlement agencies have been doing a good job at getting people into permanent housing where people can get into a neighborhood and be close to a school,” She said.

That cooperation between governments and non-profits has brought the attention of the White House. The Former Governor of Delaware, Jack Markell is the coordinator for “Operation Allies Welcomed.” He says community support and partnership between the sectors has been one of the drivers for his visit.

“A level of commitment on the part of policy makers, the federal, state, local, The fact they can put ego aside to work together, makes all the difference,” Markell said.

Director Hernandez said the state is committed to taking 1,600 refugees with currently 275 of them in the state. Lansing has taken more than any other part of the state.

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