Finding Refuge in Oklahoma

by Priscella Rodriguez

In 2021 Oklahoma opened its doors to a massive resettlement program that is bringing refugees from halfway around the world to the red dirt of Oklahoma. And the monumental effort is shining light on several issues surrounding how people from other countries can find shelter in the United States.

The nation’s immigration system is very restrictive and has lengthy wait times.

In any given year only three percent of refugees find their way from a refugee situation into a safe third country for resettlement.The other 97% remain refugees in a camp somewhere and not in a more permanent place. 

In the United States, the federal government brings in refugees for resettlement. These people often come from dangerous situations in other countries.

According to Catholic Charities, which aids in refugee resettlement in Oklahoma, refugees might be in a refugee camp for two to thirteen years before they can find their way to a third country for resettlement.

“It’s the hardest way to get into the United States of any even swimming is easier,” Patrick Raglow, the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, said.

People who support immigration reform say the current system is broken and it is broken for a reason.

“Both the Democrats and the Republicans find it useful politically to have it as an issue than it is to solve it as an issue,” Raglow said.

“[Politicians] get to stir up the people that support them, either for the immigrant community or against the immigrant community or for the law in order or against the lawful order.”

Catholic Charities is the sole refugee resettlement agency in Oklahoma and they are working to settle around 1,800 Afghans as a result of the U.S. withdrawal of troops earlier this year. According to NPR, that number of refugees is the third highest of any state. It is second only to California (5,255) and Texas (4,481). Tulsa alone is set to take in 850 people, which is more than many states. 

Catholic Charities says the resettlement process can be stressful, considering families are uprooting their entire lives and fleeing from dangerous situations. Raglow hopes Oklahomans will provide a welcome new home to the hundreds of new neighbors looking for a fresh start in the Sooner state.

“If we wish to extend welcome to those fleeing lawlessness and violence we should do it in a way that does not extend the reach of lawlessness and violence when doing so.”

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