Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
April 28, 2023
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Good afternoon, everyone. I’m really pleased to be here with all of you at the African Center – African Community Center of Denver, an organization that has helped thousands upon thousands of refugees start a new chapter of their lives here in the Denver area. Everywhere I travel, both internationally as well as domestically, I make it my mission to meet with refugees and the agencies and the individuals who support them. I like to hear their stories – their stories of how they have fled persecution and conflict, many hunger and disasters, their stories of pain and struggle; but I also want to hear their stories of perseverance and their stories of hope. And that’s what I heard today speaking to the refugees I just met with.
I like to take these stories back to the United Nations, because I like to make the speeches that I’m giving in the United Nations real. I like to make them real to the people who are listening to me. And this helps me be more effective in my job.
So today I had a chance to hear from refugees from Afghanistan, from Burma, from Guatemala, and as well as Uganda, and I met with co-sponsors that help them after they arrived here – the head of this organization here who’s been doing extraordinary work supporting these refugees. The co-sponsors really represent the best that the United States has to offer. America’s – it shows an America that welcomes, that cares, that takes care of people who are in need, and people who are yearning to be free. I met an Afghan family upstairs with three little kids, and one of the things they mentioned is that their kids can live a happy life here in the United States that they couldn’t live in the Afghanistan that they fled. So, it really gave me a strong sense of hope.
There are so many Americans that want to get involved, that want to volunteer, that want to give back and that have done that. Earlier this year the Biden Administration announced the Welcome Corps, the boldest innovation in U.S. resettlement – refugee resettlement in four decades. And I’ve been in this business for at least that long. This new State Department program allows private citizens to support refugees as they go to their new lives here in the United States, and I encourage people to visit www.welcome.org – .welcomecorps.org and learn more about this innovative program.
Of course, the Welcome Corps builds on the work of the African Community Center here in Denver and all the organizations that have been leading the charge for decades. They are really the foundation and the inspiration for this new initiative, and I know they will continue to be valuable – invaluable partners for refugees as well as for the United States government. And I’m so grateful to the team at ACC for welcoming me here today and giving me the opportunity to engage with the people that they are assisting.
So now I’ll pass the floor over to Ron, the ACC Managing Director, and then I’ll take a few questions from you.
MR. RON BUZARD: Thank you, Madam Ambassador. Thank you to your team. Thank you to members of the press for being here today. We welcome you warmly. We’re happy to be a part of this welcoming community. ACC is privileged to be a partner within the Colorado resettlement network.
I want to mention that the work that we do – and I’m so glad you mentioned the co-sponsors and volunteers, because the work that we do to support it is multifaceted, enhanced by volunteers from the community, people who give of their time and resources generously in order to walk alongside refugees in their new home. We couldn’t do what we do, have the impact that we have, without them. And so, I just want to take this opportunity to say thank you to each and every one of you.
I also want to take this opportunity to say thank you to the U.S. Department of State, with whom we contract for these services. For the past three years, the Department of State has focused resources and attention on the development of capacity of our RAs like ACC. We totally appreciate that, and we believe that this extra attention and additional resources are needed more now than ever before as the number of refugees around the globe are at (inaudible).
And lastly, I just want to say thank you to you personally, Madam Ambassador, for your heart – your heart for refugees – for your life of service to refugees, and for your ongoing efforts now through the U.S. Mission to the UN to hold governments accountable to end the wars and persecution that create even more refugees. So, thank you; we deeply appreciate your presence and your work.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Time for questions. Yeah, time for a couple. Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. I’m Shaun.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Hi, Shaun.
QUESTION: I work with the CBS station in Denver. Thank you for this opportunity. I wanted to talk to you briefly – in Denver the mayor has – says he’s helped nearly 6,400 migrants from the southern border just in recent months, but it’s cost a lot – nearly $13 million. And so, he has said recently in the last couple of weeks that starting May 8 that the city is only going to provide emergency shelter anymore to the migrants who have met with U.S. immigration officials and been through that Homeland Security process. I guess, what is being done to help cities like Denver, who are welcoming – it’s a very welcoming city and wants to help migrants, but it’s expensive.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, let me just start out by thanking the City of Denver and thanking the people of this city for being a welcoming place for refugees. As you know, just yesterday the President announced a new program that will focus on working to provide legal channels for refugees and migrants to come to the United States. That program will take off very, very soon. It will provide in countries of asylum processing centers that will be supported by UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration and give the opportunity so that people who are coming to places like Denver will come in a legal capacity and that they’re able in that capacity to work and establish themselves.
We know that refugees contribute to our communities. The majority of refugees – all refugees, I would argue, having worked on this for so many years – they are willing and able to work. They’re not asking for a handout. They come asking for a hand so that they can lift themselves and their families up.
So, this legal program that we are putting into place I think will help cities like Denver be able to accommodate more legally allowed refugees into the city and speed up the process in which they can start working and start contributing.
QUESTION: How many more do you expect?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: How many more do you expect?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I don’t think we have a number on that. None of us can guess that. But we’re hoping that through this legal channel, it will stop the illegal migrations that we’re seeing right now.
MODERATOR: And I think we have time for one more. We have to scoot to the airport. So –
QUESTION: Okay. I guess I’ll just stay focused on – in terms of financing, is there anything that you know? I mean, I think that that was the big concern, is to make sure that they’re coming here, and they’ve already been processed. But I think it’s the emergency shelter part of it that he was concerned about with the funding. So do you know –
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yeah, I don’t have a specific answer on that, but I know that efforts are in process right now that will provide assistance to cities. I was here today, this week, for the Cities Summit, and this is about recognizing the role that cities play in addressing international issues. And what you have just raised is an international issue that we’re all working to ensure that we give the capacity to our city mayors and to communities to support refugees in a way that allows these refugees to contribute to their communities as legal citizens or legal residents. So, thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you so much.
MR. BUZARD: Thank you so much.