SAN ANTONIO – A refugee family who fled the ongoing violence and repression in the Democratic Republic of Congo over a decade ago applied for protected refugee status in 2007 through the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
After 12 years in a refugee camp in Uganda, Amos Mupenda, his wife and two sons were finally approved in 2016 to come to America. They arrived in San Antonio last June.
“They’ve already gone through so much, but there is a long process for resettlement,” said Paula Torisk, Catholic Charities deputy director for refugee services.
She said refugee families undergo years of screening and background checks.
Under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Torisk said Catholic Charities helps them start over in their new country.
She said Catholic Charities helps them over several years with everything from providing housing to enrolling them in English as a second language classes, helping them write resumes, helping with job interviews, finding work and more.
“We help them through their journey,” Torisk said.
Catholic Charities also works with school districts such as Northeast Independent School District, where Mupenda’s 12-year-old son will begin classes Monday.
Torisk said it’s important that Americans understand that “no one chooses to be a refugee.”
Now under protected refugee status, Torisk said Mupenda and his family can apply for permanent residency one year after they arrived in the U.S., and four years later, they can apply to become U.S. citizens.
“That is the goal,” she said. “To become citizens of the United States and to be an active part of this community.”