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Refugee and Immigrant Services

Position Statement

Advancing Access to Resources and Opportunities for Refugees and Immigrants in Eastern Iowa

The Issue

Linn County is rich in resources and services, yet not all organizations in our community are equipped to fully meet the needs of refugees and immigrants, ultimately resulting in unequal access to resources and opportunities.

Examples of ways in which refugees and immigrants can be better supported include access to and accommodations for:

  • Language
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Childcare
  • Transportation

Access to these basic needs is crucial to the success of every individual. Eastern Iowa can become a more vibrant, prosperous place for all of us to live when we address the barriers that our neighbors face and create an environment in which refugees and immigrants succeed and thrive.

Our Position

Catherine McAuley Center believes that refugees and immigrants deserve to not only survive but thrive. Refugees and immigrants deserve access to the same opportunities as their U.S.-born neighbors, without barriers rooted in oppression. As individuals navigate life in the United States, the ultimate goal is for them to have a voice and full freedom to follow the path they choose.

Why do we believe this?

As an agency that has the privilege of working with refugees and immigrants every day, CMC bears witness to the challenges they face due to their immigration status, their English language level, their education level, as well as other factors related to their experience as a refugee or immigrant.

CMC’s values express our commitment to the dignity of every person, the celebration of diversity in our community, and the mutual dedication to lasting change. Advocating for refugees and immigrants to have equal opportunity in our community is a reflection of the commitment to our values.

Impact of Refugees in Our Community

Refugees and immigrants contribute to our community in countless ways, bringing a diversity of perspectives and culture and supporting the growth of our local economy. The value of thriving refugee and immigrant communities can be measured in many ways.

Economically, refugees and immigrants make up 5% of the county’s employed labor force, contributing $80 million dollars in federal, state, and local taxes. Socially, refugees contribute a diversity of experiences, skills, and perspectives; all of which are threatened by a lack of access to the resources and opportunities that are essential to quality of life.

When access to these basic needs is limited, our neighbors experience a domino effect in other areas of life: Transportation creates access to healthcare which can impact an individual’s ability to secure and maintain employment. Similarly, literacy increases a parent’s ability to communicate with their children’s schools, thereby increasing student performance and academic achievement.

Refugee Infographic

Refugees and immigrants have grown our community. According to research conducted by New American Economy, while the overall population in Linn County grew by 3.7% between 2012-2017, the refugee and immigrant population in the county grew by 61.8%.

Our Recommendations

To make Cedar Rapids and Linn County a place of welcome for all individuals, we need to create access that allows refugees and immigrants to attain their goals.

We recommend that community organizations, social service agencies, government entities, and places of employment:

  • Work together to provide social services and present important information in the languages that our community speaks.
  • Actively examine policies, procedures, and practices through a refugee/immigrant lens by including refugee and immigrant voices at the table.
  • Participate in groups geared toward addressing refugee and immigrant issues, such as the Immigrant Concerns Group, or the Refugee Alliance of Linn County.
  • Access expertise such as Catherine McAuley Center’s RIS Staff to improve systems and structures in the community that may create access for refugees and immigrants.