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Blog Post: Law Enforcement and World Refugee Day  

Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force   Blog

Each year on June 20, the world comes together to celebrate the contributions and honor the courage of refugees around the globe. Refugees have been forced to leave their home countries due to conflicts and fear of persecution. Today, nearly 110 million people around the world are considered forcibly displaced, including 2.4 million refugees in need of resettlement.  

The United States has admitted 3.2 million refugees since 1980. Refugees have made important contributions to the United States and are valued members of our local communities. 

The Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force (LEITF) emphasizes that when immigrants feel safe in their communities, we are all safer. The ability of our members to create relationships with the refugee populations in their communities is paramount to overall public safety and community policing. To celebrate World Refugee Day, the LEITF is highlighting celebrations and stories of welcome in our members’ communities. 

Utah is home to more than 65,000 refugees from around the globe and has a long history of welcoming refugees. Between 2012 and last year, most refugees in Utah came from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Iraq. In Police Chief Mike Brown’s community of Salt Lake City, the state and its partners organize an annual gathering in Big Cottonwood Regional Park to raise awareness of refugee stories, art and entrepreneurship. Attendees can try food from refugees’ home countries at the Global Market, such as “momos” from Bhutan, and watch performances that showcase cultural dances. Overall, it is a wonderful way to celebrate World Refugee Day and Utah’s rich heritage of welcome. 

Many Afghan refugees have come to the United States during the past two decades as a result of the war in Afghanistan. Since the fall of Kabul in 2021, the United States has welcomed many allies through special immigrant visa and humanitarian parole programs. In San Diego, Police Chief David Nisleit’s community, resettled Afghan families are adapting to their new lives. Aimal, a special immigrant visa recipient, and his family decided to seek refuge in the United States due to safety concerns and “in pursuit of a better life.” They have been in the United States only since May but are hopeful for the future and look forward to settling into their new community.  

Many of our Iowa LEITF members know the important legacy of refugee resettlement in the state. A new documentary titled ‘Refugees Welcome’ chronicles the story of the Tai Dam people finding a new home in Iowa during the 1970s. The Tai Dam people sent governors around the United States letters asking for refuge. Only Iowa Gov. Robert Ray responded and helped create a refugee settlement in Des Moines. The documentary highlights the story of Jasmine Vong and her family, who were among the first group of Tai Dam people to migrate to Iowa. In a twist of fate, Jasmine is now married to Jeffrey Newland, Ray’s grandson. A full-circle moment such as this one demonstrates how the impact of welcoming refugees can last for generations.  

This year as we celebrate World Refugee Day, take a moment to reflect upon the relationship between your community and its refugee population. By working together, we can create a more welcoming and inclusive world for those who have been forced to flee their home countries. 

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