Immigration Newsletter

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Refugee homes targeted | Concord Monitor

Refugee homes targeted | Concord Monitor

Open letter to the Editor

I was troubled by the hateful vandalism directed at some former African refugee families this weekend. Troubled but not shocked; these aren't the first problems dealing with racial and ethnic diversity to crop up here in New Hampshire and sadly, they aren't likely to be the last. It is a problem that rears its ugly head from time to time. In times like these, of economic hardship and political polarization, some people will vent their anger and frustration on others (showing their prejudices in the process).

I happen to know Pastor Manassee Ngendahayo, as we are both Board members of Rest for the Nations Ministries (based here in Concord). RFTNM collects charitable donations to help children attend primary and secondary school in Rwanda. Rwanda is a country that has faced civil war and genocide in the not so distant past -- where threatening and divisive talk turned to unspeakable violence.

Many long-term residents of New Hampshire probably feel, as I do, that the graffiti written on the walls of these three family's homes are the work of some ill-informed and quite possibly inebriated individuals and not at all representative of the overarching live and let live spirit of the Capital region. I can't say that I know the other two families involved -- but drawing on my many years practicing immigration law in New Hampshire -- I can imagine the types of hardships they might have endured before reaching the United States. You will excuse them, I hope, if they take these dehumanizing and threatening words a bit more to heart than you or I might.

Already, I have seen stories of neighbors offering assistance to these families with cleaning up the graffiti and of others sending along words of welcome and encouragement. It is often the case that an ugly incident like this can become an opportunity to reach out and improve the connections we all have to our greater community.

It may be true that Robert Frost's poem said "Good fences make good neighbors"; but in that poem those neighbors worked together every Spring to repair the damage that time, nature and others had done to "their" stone wall. Even if they didn't view the task in the same way on either side of the wall -- they were tolerant of each other and worked together to better their surroundings. It is that pragmatism, cooperation and tolerance that characterizes the New Hampshire spirit -- not the fence itself. I trust that the community of Concord and its surrounds will remember that and make it clear to these more recently arrived New Hampshire families.

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