Resettlement agency plans to welcome 75 refugees to the Chippewa Valley

Published: Oct. 23, 2023 at 7:12 AM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -A new resettlement agency is working to make Eau Claire home to about 75 refugees from across the globe.

While the move has drawn some criticism, the agency says this will bring diversity to the Chippewa Valley and provide people in need with housing, medical care, and employment.

In the spring of this year, leaders in the City of Eau Claire were inspired to bring more diversity to the city by connecting with a resettlement agency. The city discovered World Relief, a Christian nonprofit with locations across Wisconsin with a mission to find homes for refugees. Now World Relief is working with community partners to get ready to welcome refugees to the Chippewa Valley this winter.

A place to call home. That’s what the Chippewa Valley will be for around 75 refugees who will be welcomed to the area by a resettlement agency opening in Eau Claire. A World Relief office can be found in the West Riverside building on 221 Madison Street.

World Relief is a nonprofit organization that launched in the Fox Valley stretch of Wisconsin in 2012. The office director of World Relief Fox Valley, Tami Mclaughlin, said since then the nonprofit has resettled over 1,700 refugees. She said it is important for the community to understand the process the refugees will go through before making their way to the Chippewa Valley.

“Refugees are the most vetted people to enter the United States,” Mclaughlin said. “They go through a very, very formal process overseas before they are allowed into the United States and all that is done by our government.”

Once they arrive in the Chippewa Valley, World Relief will help them find housing, medical care, and secure employment. The nonprofit has also connected with partners like CVTC and Helping New Neighbors to provide the refugees with the resources they require. Holly Hassemer, the Dean of Academic Development and Services, said CVTC will help the new residents get enrolled in adult English classes that they offer at no cost to the community.

“Folks that are resettling here whether it’s through the agency or otherwise can connect with us here at CVTC,” Hassemer said. “Our admissions department or our adult education department will help them kinda determine what their needs are, what their goals are, what their education background has already been, and what are the next steps for them to learn English, or a trade, or a career.”

Meanwhile Welcoming New Neighbors- Northwest Wisconsin Resettlement, an organization launched in Eau Claire to aid refugees during Afghan refugee resettlement in 2022, is helping to create conversations about welcoming new refugees to the community. They partnered with World Relief to host an informative event on Monday, Oct. 23.

“The title of the meeting is ‘Who is My Neighbor,’ Mclaughlin said. “This meeting is to provide an overview to the community of refugee resettlement, what to expect, and how you can get involved.”

Acting Coordinator of Welcoming New Neighbors, Ginny Close, said the time to welcome refugees is now and it will be a new adventure for the community.

“It’s all about connections and conversations and building relationships with each other,” Close said. “Individually and with any new immigrant arrivals too.”

Although World Relief is already preparing to welcome refugees to the area some Chippewa Valley residents believe the process of bringing this agency to Eau Claire was done unconstitutionally. The Republican Party of Eau Claire County held an informational meeting last week to discuss the issue. A representative from the Republican Party of Eau Claire County said there were more than 150 people in attendance including State Senator Jesse James.

One attendee, Ron Branstner shared his concerns with Weau. He shared the following.

“Resettling Refugees is a federally tax-funded program, where local, county, and state elected officials are required to be present when deciding to make your community a resettlement site,” Branstner said. “Federal law, 8 U.S. Code 1522. Yet, elected officials have been overlooked by these voluntary agencies and/or non-profits. This is taxation without representation. A direct assault on Americans and their constitutional rights on how states should govern themselves.”

Mclaughlin said they are still determining exactly where the refugees will be coming from, but they expect to welcome them in January. Another meeting on the resettlement will be hosted tonight at 6 p.m. at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library. On World Relief’s website, it said registration for that meeting has reached full capacity.