World Refugee Day, June 20, 2019

The Adirondack Friends of Refugees and Immigrants held a presentation on World Refugee Day at the Paine Memorial Library in Willsboro, NY. Bobbi Perez, one of the group’s spokespersons, welcomed the group with these brief remarks:

The sentence, 'When you talk, you teach, when you listen, you learn" was sent in anonymously by a teacher to the syndicated “Annie's Mailbox"‘ advice column. I hope that all of us can continue to speak up and out about the plight of refugees and immigrants in the US and also worldwide.

This evening we gather as witnesses to our common humanity. The plight of refugees involves us all. This tumultuous weather tonight is a fitting metaphor to what millions of refugees are experiencing - torrents of anxieties, a washing away of all possessions and dignity and a cold reception when desperately needing understanding and support. Our group, ADK Friends of Refugees and Immigrants came together in 2016 in response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis. We have been working with Plattsburgh Cares, The Vt. Refugee Resettlement Ctr., Action Réfugiés in Montreal, and the New York State Office for New Americans.

Our goal is to educate our communities in today's realities of being a refugee and what facts people need to work effectively for compassionate solutions.

We began by showing the short PBS documentary about New York State’s ‘unofficial’ Roxham Road international crossing that has seen a surge in asylum seekers fleeing the US into Canada. A local citizen, Janet McFetridge, has devoted herself to helping give direct aid to refugees crossing there. You may view the documentary here:

Following that, Carole Slatkin, another member of AFRI, spoke briefly:

Adirondack Friends of Refugees and Immigrants is hosting tonight’s event, and I am joined with Bobbi Perez, Laura Steenburg, and Bob Harsh, other members of AFRI. Kimberly LaReau, of the NYS Office of New Americans, will also be speaking tonight. This chilly rainy night resonates with commemorating World Refugee Day.

This weather that we have tonight may serve in some small way serve to remind us of what it’s like to deal with conditions like these when fleeing for your life — alone, or perhaps with small terrified children clinging to you for safety.  Imagine being one of the 71 million forced migrants worldwide, fleeing for your life  and livelihood — fleeing murder, rape, abuse and climate change that prevents the growing of crops on which you depend for food.  America, once a bastion of safely and protection for Refugees, has now turned drastically against such Asylum Seekers, wrenching children from their parents and causing massive misery and despair. 

Here in northern New York State, we don’t have as massive a number of refugees as are flocking to the southern border of the US, but there is, nonetheless, a steady stream of migrants on foot. Some people who have lived in this country for decades, working at jobs and raising their families, fear our current political climate, and believe that they must once more uproot themselves and their children and flee to Canada.  The UNHCR is trying to deal with this situation, and Kimberly La Reau will tell us about their efforts. We thank you for joining us and for your efforts in helping refugees and migrants, and in helping change the climate in the US and other countries to help these desperate people to find new homes and safety.

Kimberly La Reau, , the Plattsburgh Immigrant Community Navigator from the New York State Office for New Americans in Albany, New York then spoke, discussing how she and other organizations seek to assist refugees and asylum seekers in this area and beyond. She may be reached at 518.561.6310, or by email

The UNHCR - the UN Refugee Agency - says:

  • Crossing the border at an unofficial entry point to claim asylum is NOT illegal

  • Refugee claimants crossing the Canadian border at an unofficial entry point are fleeing violence and persecution

  • These are not queue-jumpers - they are not taking the space and place of others

  • Those who cross at unofficial points of entry receive no priority status

  • There are no shortcuts for refugee claimants - all refugees applicants in Canada will have their fear of persecution in their home country verified.

  • All refugee claimants entering Canada go through a rigorous screening process.

  • Canada is NOT facing a refugee crisis - 85% of the world’s displaced peoples are in developing countries, Canada receives less than 0.3% of the world’s refugee population.

  • Canada’s asylum system is not broken

  • Refugees should not be blamed for housing/shelter shortages — temporary emergency shelters for refugees are currently running at less than half their capacity.

  • Refugees are not dangerous people, they are in fact, people who are fleeing danger.

  • Refugees contribute to Canada’s growth, regardless of their mode of arrival.

Some governmental and international resources for refugees and immigrants:

while the federal administration continues its shameful policies that tear families apart, NEw york will fight for the american dream because we are one people, one family, and one new york.

—— Governor andrew m. cuomo


Scenes from a rally at the Underground Railroad Museum in 2017.

Our Rally for Fleeing Immigrants & Refugees on April 22, 2017 in Keeseville, New York, was very successful, and had front page coverage in the Sunday, April 23, 2017 Plattsburgh Press-Republican!  Click HERE and HERE to read the article. 


“Frame Your Story” Project Connects Students in New York with Refugee Children in Germany

The “Frame Your Story” project, which teaches students the basics of photography so that they can picture their worlds in photos and writings, is up and running with a group of Syrian refugee children in Berlin, Germany, and a parallel group of sixth- and eighth-graders at Willsboro Central School in New York. Children on both sides of the pond will now exchange their work on electronic media platforms to learn more about each other and broaden their worldviews and friendships across cultures.

Teachers Meaghan Webb and Tara Valachovic along with Willsboro Central Superintendent Steve Broadwell are coordinating the New York project, which is themed here and abroad around the topic of dreams. Champlain Valley Friends of Refugees Chair Bob Harsh taught the basics of photography at the school.


October 15, 2017, courthouse rally supporting the DACA Program

October 15, 2017, courthouse rally supporting the DACA Program