I was provided the following guest post for the blog:
By Hector J. Garcia, Jr.
CEO and Executive Director, FIRN, Foreign-born Information and Referral Network, Inc.
The red, white and blue patriotism displayed during the recent Fourth of July holiday reminds us of the ideals that our country was founded upon. These ideals continue to resonate with immigrants living on our shores who persevere to pass their citizenship tests and take the oath to become proud American citizens after beginning their journeys on foreign lands just like our forefathers.
And while we celebrate these new United States citizens, it stands in stark contrast to recent actions taken by our federal government targeting immigrants locally as well as nationally. It is not hyperbolic to say that the services provided by FIRN, the Foreign-born Information and Referral Network, Inc., are a matter of life and death to the local immigrant population we serve on a daily basis. Just last week we have recently witnessed federal activities taking place in Columbia, Maryland.
When apprehensions began, rumors started to quickly spread throughout the community; this situation could have easily spiraled out of control but instead was curtailed by swift communication on the part of Howard County Executive Calvin Ball. Coordinated efforts between Howard County government & community organizations like FIRN that provide direct services to the foreign-born neighbors, are still on-going, with the goal to get accurate information disseminated to the public and stop misinformation and curtail escalating fears reverberating through the community.
During this tense time, County Executive Ball’s commitment to the safety of all Howard County residents occurred while safeguarding the civil rights of our entire community. We appreciate his establishment of on-going collaborative efforts with non-profit organizations like FIRN and others who are in daily contact with the foreign-born community.
The United States has been, and remains, the greatest country the world has ever known. Our foundation has always been to provide a welcoming place for those in need. As incidents of war, violence, and famine increase around the world, it is not surprising that many head to our shores for safe harbor and their own chance at the American dream, just as our forefathers did.
FIRN is appreciative of the county’s support of our mission to serve immigrants and refugees who have come to the United States to build a new and better life. Since 1981, FIRN has been providing programs and direct services that help foreign-born individuals access community resources and opportunities. FIRN has grown from assisting 90 people from 10 countries to serving close to 10,000 men, women and children from over 60 countries by providing immigration counseling, interpretation & translation services. The breadth of languages alone that our staff now encounters has expanded to including Bangla (Bengali), Chinese, Spanish, and Korean among others. Our information & referral services for help with food assistance and housing have continued to expand.
Our county executive, as well as our county council, has stood by FIRN and the foreign-born community for many years and understands the plight of those we help. We appreciate their continued support and look forward to working with them in the years to come as the need continues to grow.
In an effort to keep pace with the demand for services that FIRN provides, we must turn to public and private sources for funding to augment our base funding. Our country profits from a strong diverse community. And so does our county that counts up to 20% of its population as being foreign-born. It’s time to stand united and continue the welcoming tradition that celebrates diverse cultures. Now is the time for everyone to come together, from individuals to businesses to foundations to support FIRN and our foreign-born community. It’s part of the American way. And it’s what makes our country great. Won’t you do your part?