“Coming to Connecticut” forum explored complexities of resettling refugees

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Refugees from war-torn regions around the world are coming to Connecticut in growing numbers, bringing with them new languages, customs, and cultures. On June 28, a policy forum, “Coming to Connecticut: A Conversation on Economic and Legal Issues of Resettling Refugees,” was held at the MacMillan Center. It explored some of the issues of welcoming refugees to Connecticut and the rest of the country. (view video)

At the forum, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy and some of the nation’s foremost experts on the practice, policy, and economics of resettling refugees discussed the state’s policies on refugees and took a comprehensive look at the process of coming to Connecticut; evaluated the current vetting process for refugees; considered the implications of the travel ban and the consequences of the upcoming Supreme Court decision; and examined new research on the economics of immigration, and data on the costs and benefits of welcoming refugees into our economy. 

The event was sponsored by the Program on Refugees, Forced Displacement, and Humanitarian Responses at the MacMillan Center at Yale and Beacon & Main, a grassroots, issue advocacy group that strives to advance the well-being of diverse communities and ensure a healthy environment for businesses.

The speakers included:

Dannel P. Malloy, now in his second term as governor of Connecticut, received the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation for his defense of the U.S. resettlement of Syrian refugees amid security concerns following the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris and personally welcoming a family of Syrian refugees to New Haven after they had been turned away by another state.

Becca Heller is the director and co-founder of the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). She is a visiting clinical lecturer in law at Yale Law School, and a leading expert in refugee law and policy. IRAP is involved in legal action against President Trump’s Muslim ban executive orders.

Justin Cox is a staff attorney for the National Immigration Law Center (NILC). He has litigated cases involving unlawful immigration raids and unconstitutional and anti-immigrant state laws, and is currently involved in legal action against President Trump’s Muslim-ban executive orders. Prior to joining NILC, Cox was a staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project.

Chris George is the executive director of the nonprofit IRIS-Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services, the New Haven-based refugee resettlement agency that welcomed 530 refugees to towns throughout Connecticut last year. He has 30 years of experience working with refugees primarily in the Middle East.

Mushfiq Mobarak is a development economist and a professor in Yale’s School of Management and Department of Economics. He studies the causes and consequences of migration, and will speak about the effects of immigrants on the economy.

Bushra Mahdi came to the United States as a refugee from Iraq in 2014, along with her husband, Shakir, and their four children. In Baghdad, Mahdi operated her own business as a clothing designer before she and her family were forced to flee to Jordan. After arriving in Connecticut, she focused on learning English as she worked with New Haven tailors and designers until she opened her own business again: Bushra Designs.

Dita Bhargava (forum moderator) is the vice chair of the Connecticut Democratic Party and a founding board member of Beacon & Main. Bhargava spent over 20 years as a portfolio manager and trader in the financial industry. As the daughter of a single-immigrant mother, Bhargava has actively engaged in civic duty. Through her leadership in nonprofit organizations, she has helped to create cultural awareness, aid underserved communities, and promote gender parity.