Arlington has taken in fewer refugees than other Northern Virginia communities, according to data from the U.S. State Department-run Refugee Processing Center.
Between 2002-2017, approximately 409 refugees were resettled in Arlington — about .17 percent of Arlington’s population, going by the latest census figures.
In that same time period, a higher percentage of refugees were resettled in Alexandria or Annandale. Alexandria received 1,032 refugees and Annandale received 248. That’s approximately .74 percent and .6 percent of their overall populations, respectively.
In nearby Woodbridge, 271 refugees were resettled between 2002-2017. That’s approximately 6.12 percent of the overall Woodbridge population.
Falls Church, per the data, took in 1,618 refugees from 2002-2017. Per recent estimates, that’s about 13.17 percent of its population.
The Arlington County government has “no official role… in resettlement decisions” and has “expressed interest in serving as a receiving community for refugees,” according to the county’s website.
Alex Mattera, a Virginia Dept. of Social Services (DSS) planning researcher, confirmed to ARLnow that Arlington doesn’t resettle as many refugees as other Northern Virginia localities. This, he added, is likely due to a number of factors, including that only refugees with current local ties are settled in the region.
DSS’ statistics vary slightly from those of the U.S. State Department, in part because of different methods of categorizing the visa status of arrivals. Iraqis and Afghanis who are resettled in America through a S.I.V., the special immigrant visa program for those who assisted the U.S. Armed Forces in their countries during operations.
The 105 Iraqi refugees accounted for a large portion of those resettled in Arlington between 2002-2017, per the Refugee Processing Center data.
Mattera noted that the report from the Refugee Processing Center doesn’t cite SIV entrants in the same category as other refugees, and that Virginia has higher-than-average SIV-related arrivals numbers than most states.
An informal poll conducted by ARLnow in 2015 showed that opinions were mixed among readers whether or not to resettle Syrian refugees specifically in Arlington. According to the State Department data, no Syrian refugees were settled in Arlington between 2002-2017, despite the county stating its willingness to help resettle refugees displaced by the Syrian civil war.
Anna Merod contributed to this report
The Raise Your Voice! Refugee Advocacy Workshop and Volunteer Fair will take place from 2-4 p.m. at St. George’s Episcopal Church (910 N. Oakland Street).
It is organized by a group called NOVA Friends of Refugees.
The event will contain three components: speeches by refugee and religious leaders; panel discussions on how attendees can influence friends, family and elected officials on refugee issues; followed by a session of advocacy through postcard-writing and a refugee volunteering fair.
Speakers will include state Sen. Barbara Favola; representatives from the offices of U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Rep. Don Beyer (D-8); Anne Richard, former assistant U.S. Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration; Imam Johari, director of outreach at the Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church; Nadeem Khokhar, associate pastor at Floris United Methodist Church in Herndon; Ann Beltran of nonprofit advocacy group RESULTS; and Imam Yahya Hendi, Muslim chaplain at Georgetown University.
Earlier this year, Beyer and dozens of his congressional colleagues re-introduced the Freedom of Religion Act, in response to President Trump’s executive order barring refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.
Previously, Arlington County has said it is ready and willing to help resettle Syrian refugees.
Those interested in attending can RSVP online.
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New Condo and Townhouse Sales Center — Sponsored — Learn about all of the newest and most well-appointed properties in Arlington and DC without the hassle of finding all the information for yourself. Stop by the Sales Center this Sunday from 2-4 p.m. to learn about amenities, features, floor plans, fees, available units, and everything else you could ever want to know about all the condo buildings in the area. Located at 1600 Wilson Blvd. [Keri Shull Team]
Dozens of Arlington Runners Competing in Boston — Seventy-six Arlington runners will be shipping up to Boston next month for the Boston Marathon, one of the sport’s most prestigious races. The field includes local running superstar Michael Wardian, who is also competing in this weekend’s Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. Marathon. [InsideNova]
CERT Training Still Open — A few spaces are still available in Arlington’s Community Emergency Response Team spring training class. The eight-session, 26-hour course begins next week. [Arlington CERT]
Library Exhibit on Baltic WW2 Refugees — Arlington Public Library is hosting an exhibit through April 17 on Baltic refugees from World War II. “‘No Home To Go To’ is the story of people living in refugee camps and finding a home in a new land, as told through their memories, documents, photographs, and memorabilia,” according to the library website. [Arlington Public Library]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
County Board Mulls Exotic Pet Ban — As expected, the Arlington County Board on Saturday voted to advertise a ban on “wild and exotic” pets in the county. Animals covered by the proposed ban “range from monkeys, wolves, raccoons and lynx to alligators, tarantulas, hedgehogs and even sugar gliders.” A hearing on the matter will be held March 18, ahead of final approval by the Board. [Arlington County]
Arlington Cultural Diversity Ranking — Arlington ranks No. 33 among “mid-sized cities” in a new list of cities with the most cultural diversity, behind places like Columbia, Maryland; Glendale, Arizona; and Cambridge, Massachusetts. [WalletHub]
Western Rosslyn Plan Moving Forward — The Arlington County Board has taken a series of actions to push its previously approved Western Rosslyn Area Plan forward. The plan includes a new home for H-B Woodlawn at the Wilson School, a new fire station, a reconfigured park and the redevelopment of several garden apartment buildings into a larger affordable housing complex. The various projects are expected to be completed by 2021. [Arlington County]
Arlington-Based Org Gets Big Grant — The Crystal City-based U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants is getting a $4.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grant, announced by U.S. senators Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), is earmarked for “organizations working to provide unaccompanied minors who fled violence in Central America with services including temporary shelters and foster care programs.” [Sen. Tim Kaine]
County Extends HQ Lease — Arlington County has extended its lease at 2100 Clarendon Blvd for another 15 years, a move the county says will save $1.6 million annually in rent. “This is a great deal for Arlington taxpayers,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a press release. “The County will stay in this prime Courthouse location, home to County Government since 1989, at a savings of millions of dollars over the term of the extension.” [Arlington County]
Homeownership Still a Dream for Many Millennials — The Millennial generation is a major force in Arlington’s population and economy, but homeownership remains out of reach for many, including the older portion of the generation that’s getting married and having kids. Contributing to the problem: there is a significant shortage of homes for sale, particularly affordable starter homes, and the new houses that are being built are often higher-end luxury properties. [Washington Post, CNBC]
Photo courtesy Donna Gouse
Arlington Golfer Competing for Amateur Title — Psychotherapist Matthew Sughrue, an Arlington resident, has advanced to the championship match of the U.S. Senior Amateur golf tournament. Sughrue, 57, will face 62-year-old Dave Ryan, of Illinois, in a final round today. [ESPN, USGA]
Local Photographer Has Overcome Many Obstacles — Susan Bainbridge, a freelance news photographer and journalist, has a remarkable story of overcoming obstacles. Bainbridge, who also co-founded Arlington County Crime Solvers, has battled disabilities and a series of debilitating accidents from birth into adulthood. Since 2011 Bainbridge has served as an usher during Sunday evening mass at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More, even working through a torn knee ligament and a hip injury from a fall last year. [Catholic Herald]
Letter to the Editor: We Should Welcome Refugees — The closer-in suburbs of Northern Virginia, including Arlington, should be welcoming more refugees, say the writers of a letter to the editor of the Sun Gazette. In Virginia, refugees have largely been placed downstate and in outer suburbs. “They are not threats,” the letter says, addressing the fears some have of refugees. “They are the new Americans.” [InsideNova]
The reaction to the news that Arlington County is ready and willing to help resettle Syrian refugees was largely positive on social media.
Despite a mixed bag of comments, our post on Facebook garnered more than 600 likes, making this one of our most-liked stories of all time.
What do you think of the idea of bringing Syrian refugees to Arlington?
Update at 2:15 p.m. — Arlington County released the following statement about Syrian refugees today:
Our collective conscience has been shaken by both the refugee crisis resulting from the ongoing conflict in Syria and the terrorist attacks across the world that threaten the security of the United States and our allies. The ongoing debate regarding our country’s response to these issues at the federal, state and local level is an opportunity to demonstrate the true character of our nation. While local governments have no role in the refugee admissions process or relocation decisions, we feel compelled to lend our voice to this important discussion.
The County is no newcomer to refugee resettlement activity. Over the past four decades we have welcomed those fleeing the Vietnam war, civil wars in Central America, the Ethiopian/Eritrean conflicts and the Bosnian war. We have confidence that the federal process of application, screening, placement and resettlement coupled with partnership with our regional resettlement agency, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, can once again lead to the successful integration of refugees into our community.
We firmly believe that responding to today’s urgent humanitarian crisis by serving as a new home for those seeking refuge is in keeping with both our nation’s tradition and with the Arlington County Board Resolution Supporting Arlington’s Newcomers, passed on September 18, 2007.
We support the need for strong security and screening reinforced by recent events, yet we are confident that America can continue to serve as a land of hope and opportunity that welcomes those seeking a better life for themselves and their loved ones while also ensuring our own security. In fact, the ideals and values upon which our nation was founded require it.
Photo via Wikipedia
Following the terror attacks in Paris, there has been a backlash against plans to bring refugees from Syria’s bloody civil war to the U.S. More than half of the nation’s governors — mostly Republicans — have expressed opposition to hosting Syrian refugees in their states.
In Virginia, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) says he will not ban refugees from the Commonwealth. Arlington, meanwhile, says it’s ready to help refugees who are sent to the county.
“While there is no official role for the Arlington County government in resettlement decisions or in receiving refugees, we have expressed our interest in serving as a receiving community for refugees,” said Brian Stout, Arlington County’s federal liaison.
Once in Arlington, the county’s Dept. of Human Service would offer a number of free services to refugees through its Community Outreach Program, including:
- Citizenship classes and workshops
- English language classes
- Computer classes
- Job readiness training
- Food and nutrition classes
- Health screenings and presentations
Those services are available in Arabic and other languages, according to information on refugee resettlement in Arlington provided to ARLnow.com. The document also states that county staff is able to “signal our interest in assisting” with refugee resettlement by communicating “the benefits of Arlington as a placement site to the State Department and the placement agencies.”
In order to come to Arlington, a refugee would either need to have family in the area, or it would need to be determined by federal authorities that Arlington was best suited to the refugee’s needs. The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement would refer the refugee to the Virginia Dept. of Social Services, which would in turn refer him or her to the local, contracted refugee service provider — which for Arlington is Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington.
So far, the county is unaware of any Syrian refugees that have been resettled in Arlington, Stout said. ARLnow.com was unable to reach Catholic Charities for comment.
Per security concerns about ISIS-affiliated terrorists posing as refugees, Gov. McAuliffe’s office said in a statement that each refugee “undergoes intensive security screening” from federal authorities. Even so, McAuliffe has also specifically asked his homeland security secretary to “ensure that every proper precaution is taken to keep Virginians safe.”
Republicans in the House of Delegates say they will introduce legislation early next year to ban Syrian refugees from Virginia.
Arlington County, along with other Northern Virginia jurisdictions, is currently conducting a blanket and coat drive for Syrian refugees.