VAL­LEY

Merced Sun-Star (Saturday) - - Community - Tim Shee­han: 559-441-6319; Twit­ter: @TimShee­hanNews

their coun­try of ori­gin.

“It’s a hard road for a lot of folks. There’s no ac­cess to so­cial ser­vices, no food stamps, no cash aid, and they can­not work legally,” Dar­rah said. “So even if they make it to the U.S., the process is chal­leng­ing.” FIRM and other com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions pro­vide sub­sis­tence help for asy­lum seek­ers and ser­vices to sup­port refugee fam­i­lies who re­set­tle to the Fresno area.

WHO’S AL­READY HERE?

The pop­u­la­tion in the five-county Val­ley re­gion is about 1.27 mil­lion peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Cen­sus Bureau’s 2016 es­ti­mates. Of that, es­ti­mates in­di­cate that more than 436,000 – about one out of ev­ery three peo­ple – were born out­side the U.S.

A large ma­jor­ity of the Val­ley’s im­mi­grants, more than 310,000, are from Mex­ico. But there are res­i­dents here from more than 120 coun­tries and ev­ery con­ti­nent ex­cept Antarc­tica – in­clud­ing about 1,700 from Hon­duras.

Fol­low­ing Mex­ico in the num­ber of for­eign-born res­i­dents in the Val­ley is In­dia at al­most 19,000, then Laos with more than 16,000 and the Philip­pines at nearly 15,000.

Given the num­ber of im­mi­grant res­i­dents who make the Val­ley their home and the na­ture of FIRM’s mis­sion to help peo­ple in need, Dar­rah ex­pressed con­cern with the in­creas­ingly po­lar­ized and politi­cized de­bate over im­mi­gra­tion in gen­eral and the Hon­duran car­a­van in par­tic­u­lar.

“This ad­min­is­tra­tion has been over­whelm­ingly clear that they’re not sup­port­ive of this process, this car­a­van,” he said. “Some of these com­ments about peo­ple who are es­cap­ing hor­ren­dous con­di­tions to seek refuge here, it’s heart­break­ing. … You just say, ‘Wow, that’s not re­flec­tive of what we be­lieve.’ But it’s what we are re­flect­ing around the world.

“For us it’s not about a po­lit­i­cal con­ver­sa­tion or a philo­soph­i­cal con­ver­sa­tion,” he added. “We’re a Chris­tian or­ga­ni­za­tion. God has called us to love for­eign­ers and love those who are seek­ing refuge and aid. That’s what we do ev­ery day.”

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