We are an advocacy group for refugee resettlement in Bloomington, Indiana — the home of Indiana University — and throughout Southern Indiana.
A task force of Beth Shalom formed in January 2016 to assist refugees worldwide via the Hebrew International Aid Society (HIAS). In March 2016, the task force held a public forum to educate the community about the plight of refugees. The community response showed an overwhelming interest and concern for the refugees.
The task force then decided to become more of a community presence. In reaching out to the community, it learned of many other similar efforts – faith community committees, a strong commitment to refugee resettlement by the Mayor and the Bloomington City Council, and an especially active and successful effort by Bloomington Against Islamophobia. As a result, we all decided to work collaboratively to become a stronger, more coherent, voice within the community.
We organized as the Bloomington Refugee Support Network in April 2016, and proceeded to develop a Steering Committee and 10 Resource Development Committees.
Later in April 2016, we learned that Exodus Refugee Immigration, Inc., had applied to the State Dept. to establish a resettlement office in Bloomington. This application was in the context of a national a plan to increase the number of refugees coming into the U.S. The resettlement plan for Bloomington was to bring in approximately 60 individuals, comprising approximately 20 families; these refugees would be Syrian and Congolese. (In September 2016, the State Department approved Exodus’ application.)
Since learning of the possibility of Bloomington resettlement, the BRSN membership eventually grew to 350 individuals, representing 60 organizations (faith groups, NGO’s, IU, Ivy Tech, MCCSC, MCPL, and government offices). Its purpose was to prepare for Bloomington refugee resettlement, under the guidance of Exodus. The goals of the BRSN were:
- To educate the public about the plight of refugees;
- To help create strong public awareness and support for resettlement
- for future co-sponsorship
- for future fundraising
- To develop resources for the refugees (for eventual database)
These goals have been met – through the hard work of its community members throughout Bloomington. The final goal: once Exodus opened its resettlement office here, in January 2017, the BRSN would re-organize, and serve strictly as the volunteer arm of Exodus, under Exodus’ leadership.
HOWEVER, later in 2016, the U.S. Legislature passed an interim budget, good through April of 2017, that did not include funding for the increase in refugee resettlement. As a result, the increases, and the related establishment of new refugee cities, including Bloomington, have been put on hold.
The budgeting allotment for increased resettlement and new resettlement cities, including Bloomington, has been delayed. The State Department, however, has been clear all along that Bloomington is an ideal resettlement city ; any current and future budgeting decisions about resettlement are based on national, rather than state or local, considerations. As we await new budget decisions, the BRSN will continue to prepare for refugee support and promote refugee resettlement.