WASHINGTON (March 3, 1998) -- "In Service to Refugees: Enhancing the Welcome and Care" is the theme for the Western Region Convening sponsored by the United States Catholic Conference/Migration and Refugee Services (USCC/MRS).
The meeting, first in a series planned this year by MRS, will be held at the Four Points Sunnyvale Hotel in Sunnyvale, California, March 12-14.
Bishop R. Pierre DuMaine of San Jose will welcome the opening plenary session and Bishop John S. Cummins of Oakland, Chairman of the Bishops' Committee on Migration, will also speak..
Refugee resettlement staff from approximately 20 dioceses in California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico will attend the meeting.
MRS/USCC conducted a similar series of meetings in other parts of the country two years ago at the behest of the Bishops' Committee on Refugees to help diocesan refugee resettlement programs adapt to changes in the U.S. refugee situation.
Mark Franken, MRS Executive Director, said the theme of the diocesan convening "describes the basic tenets of USCC/MRS resettlement services: caring case management, development of community resources--fiscal, volunteer and programmatic, and maintenance of a viable, national network of refugee resettlement services."
"More than ever before in MRS's history of providing resettlement services to refugees, the notion of enhancing their welcome and care is challenged by a changed environment for refugees," Mr. Franken stated.
Topics to be discussed at the western regional convening include "Strategies for Building Resettlement Capacity" and "Emerging Trends and Issues in Refugee Employment."
There will also be numerous seminars and workshops designed for resettlement directors as well as case managers, workers and aides, job developers, volunteer coordinators and co-sponsors.
A session on Family Unification Procedures will be conducted by Geraldine Owens, MRS Refugee Processing Case Management Supervisor. It will treat refugee eligibility criteria, processing priorities and guidelines, applications for visas, and the filing of affidavits of relationship in preparation for family reunification case management.
Another workshop will be devoted to designing a computer data transfer system to facilitate the flow of information between the resettlement offices and USCC.
In recent testimony before Congress, Mr. Franken noted that the end to the Cold War has not meant the end to the need for a strong U.S. leadership role in helping the world's refugees.
He described refugee resettlement in the United States as "a unique private-public partnership, found almost nowhere else in the world." MRS is the largest non-governmental refugee resettlement agency in the United States and conducts its services without regard to race, creed or color. Working in concert with MRS, U.S. dioceses have resettled approximately one million refugees in this country since 1975.
Others regional convenings planned this year by USCC/MRS include Atlanta, April 23-25; Pittsburgh, May 14-16; and Minneapolis, June 25-27.