Catholic Charities helps refugee families start over

Refugee services: ‘We help them through their journey'

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.

NEISD has a newcomer program for refugee students

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.”

About the Author

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

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