Dear Class of 1957,
I have always been passionate in making people feel welcome in communities I care about. As a student of international relations, I am also fascinated by the consequences of wars, politics, and rivalries between world powers. Interning with the Asylee Case Management team at the International Rescue Committee’ resettlement office in Baltimore provides me the unique ability to combine both of these interests, to work with people fleeing war and persecution from around the world, and to welcome them into their new American communities.
Most people fleeing persecution are refugees: people who are granted a US immigration visa while living in camps abroad, are flown to the USA, and resettled by a private agency with funding from the State Department (like the International Rescue Committee). However, many people fleeing persecution are not processed through these typical refugee resettlement pipelines. My department within the IRC works with these irregular cases. Many of our clients are asylees, who come to the United States fleeing persecution, then were granted asylum after applying through the US court system. Others are refugees who moved to Baltimore a few weeks after arriving in another state. Others still are victims of human trafficking, immigrants from Afghanistan or Iraq who helped the USA during wars, and Cuban parolees.
Our department meets directly with over two hundred asylees and refugees, helping them receive professional medical care, food stamps, employment and financial assistance. There are only two case managers working in the asylee department, so I have been given immense responsibility over these cases. I meet directly with clients, listen to their stories, and figure out ways that they can better adapt to their new American lives. Often I meet with government agencies, such as the Department of Social Services, to help enroll asylees in Obamacare and food stamp programs. I also distribute State-Department funded checks to clients each month, to help them pay for their rent, gas, and other necessities.
At Dartmouth, I study refugee and migration issues at a policy level, examining how wars, ethnic conflict, and political persecution can influence countries around the world. Viewing conflicts through this broad, academic frame of study, it’s easy to lose touch with the individual people at risk. Working at the IRC has changed that for me. I no longer think of the conflicts solely in terms of statistics or the government policies that caused them. Rather, I think of the individual people at stake, the doctors, farmers and businessmen I have met who fled conflicts and found their way to Baltimore. I think of the mothers from Cameroon who wait eight years to reconnect with their husbands, and the young Eritrean men recently released from mandatory military service, detained and tortured due to their ethnicity. I think of the patriotic Afghani teachers who spent years interpreting for the US army, only to be robbed at gunpoint upon moving to their new Baltimore community. Excited people, fearful people, people passionate and frustrated and eager to accomplish incredible dreams: these are no longer just the faces of complex global conflicts, but also the leaders of up and coming neighborhoods across America.
Thank you very much for funding my internship with the organization. I am humbled to have the opportunity to work with an inspiring team of diverse individuals, an opportunity I could not have taken without your support. You all are making an immense impact on my course of study and my outlook on refugee issues, and for that I will always be grateful.
Best, Milan Chuttani ‘18
(picture caption: Patric (far right) and his extended family in the International Rescue Committee’s resettlement shop. Patric was resettled in Baltimore over a year ago from his home in Eastern Congo. He is currently sponsoring almost dozen other refugees at his Baltimore home.)