Author: Haoming Liang

Program of Study: Master of Public Policy (MPP), Harris School of Public Policy (HAR)


Description: We are in the midst of the biggest refugee crisis the world has ever seen. At the end of 2020, more than 80 million people around the globe were displaced by war and oppression. Since Chicago is one of the main destinations for refugees in the United States, I would like to explore this so as to have a deep understanding on refugee issue in Chicago.

Listen here:


Transcript (provided by author):

“Welcome to the ELI’s Finding Chicago Global Perspectives Podcast Series for AEPP 2021. I’m your host, Haoming, and I’m currently enrolled in the University of Chicago’s [Harris School of Public policy]. Today we will be exploring the topic of [Refugees in Chicago].”

A refugee is defined as a person who has fled his or her home country and cannot return based upon a “well-founded fear of persecution” due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a social group. To be honest, as an international student from China, refugee issue is not familiar to my living context. Although sometimes I learn the news about refugees from media, such as refugees in the Syrian war, refugee delegation in Olympics, etc, I haven’t met a refugee in my reality life. So, how I first encountered this topic? In fact, I noticed this refugee topic from AEPP class’s mini presentation. At that presentation, we were asked to introduce an institute or organization in Chicago, and I chose a non-profit organization which aims to help refugee girls in Chicago. Through the preparation process, I knew more about refugees and that makes me want to explore more about this topic in Chicago.

Actually we are in the midst of the biggest refugee crisis the world has ever seen. According to the data from UN refugee Agency, at the end of 2020, more than 80 million people around the globe were displaced by war and oppression. According to statisa research apartment’s data, there were more than 650 thousands refugees arrived the US from 2009 to 2019. The family in the podcast photo is one of the refugee families who came to Chicago. From their eyes, I felt their hesitation and worry about the future. Since Chicago is one of the main destinations for refugees in the United States, I would like to explore this topic so as to have a deep understanding of Chicago’s communities and people in Chicago.

Every year, the federal government makes a decision on the total numbers on admitted refugees and The number of refugees admitted by Chicago is a product of coordination between some municipal and state agencies. A refugee application is referred to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and then prepared by a Resettlement Support Center for presentation to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The application is followed by an applicant interview with the Department of Homeland Security, Citizenship and Immigration Services (UCSIS). The whole process may take 12-18 month and a refugee’s sponsorship is typically provided by a non-governmental organization. Since refugees face huge challenges, such as poverty, language barrier, disrupted education, and trauma in a new country, they need external support and help.

Indeed, there are several outstanding organizations in Chicago and they play an important role in helping refugees.For example, Refugee ONE is the largest resettlement agency in Illinois, it serves more than 2,500 refugees and immigrants every year. Chicago Refugee Coalition aims to provide the highest quality services to refugees. Since August 2018, they have been able to distribute over 38,000 meals to the refugee community in Rogers Park. GirlForward is an organization focus on refugee girls, they help refugee girls in education and personal development.

These organizations make a great contribution in refugees resettlement, and refugees also make a positive influence to Chicago. According to Suzanne’s article, The food Chicagoan eat, the art Chicagoan enjoy, and Chicago’s communities have been enriched by refugees. Refugees start businesses, give back to the community by volunteering and donating to great causes, and pay taxes. And many become doctors and healthcare workers—who are currently at the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile some locals may also concern about problems which may caused by refugees. Cultural conflicts and job opportunities competition between the local and refugees, some people might think it is harder to find a job if the city admit too many refugees. Also sometimes it may be a financial problem. According to a Youth Services Program Manager at World Relief Chicago, Refugee families arrive in the U.S. without credit and employment history, so many landlords believe it is too risky to accept them as tenants. Looking around the world, refugees cause social problems such as public security in Europe. The resettlement of refugees also put great financial pressure on the government, so that many European governments have begun to refuse to accept refugees. Will Chicago face same problems? How will refugees influence Chicago in the future? Is that more positive or more negative?

We do not know the exact answers to these questions, but we know that helping refugees is an urgent task under way. According to Chicago CBS, The Crisis In Afghanistan Will Lead Some Refugees To Chicago, and refugee organizations across Chicago are focused on making sure they have everything in place.

As Suzanne wrote, welcoming those in need and resettling the most vulnerable is an American value—and one Chicago embodies well. Thank you for your listening. We hope that refugees in Chicago can be well resettled and they can embrace a new life and contribute to Chicago. I believe Our world will be a better place.

That’s all, thank you.



(WBEZ/Shawn Allee)


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