Home Away From Home
People can become refugees due to a variety of reasons: persecution for political or religious beliefs, ethnicity, nationality, or as a result of war. Refugees face numerous hardships after leaving their countries and trying to find a new place to live as the process to do so can be lengthy and challenging process. However, various h man rights and refugee groups, such as Amnesty International and RefugeeOne, are doing whatever they can to help refugees. Likewise, Maine West’s human rights club, Voice for the Nameless, has been using their meetings to prepare a project that, if put into action, can have a large impact on refugees’ lives here in Des Plaines.
Voice presented a nonbinding resolution to the Des Plaines City Council on September 19 with the goal of making Des Plaines a more open and welcoming environment for refugees. The resolution comes from Amnesty International’s “The America I Believe In” campaign, which encourages people to take action and tell others that the America you believe in leads with human rights.
“Passing the resolution would declare Des Plaines’ support for the resettlement of refugees here and would call upon other Illinois communities to join Des Plaines in supporting a stronger national effort to resettle refugees,” senior Rugile Kasperiunaite said, one of the students most involved in the project. “There won’t be any drastic changes since it takes years for families to get resettled. However, just by doing this much, it would put Des Plaines in a positive light and would stand as a testament to how much Maine West students care and are involved in the community.”
The resolution’s main objective is to make Des Plaines a welcoming environment. This would involve having necessary supplies distributed by organizations such as RefugeeOne, Amnesty International, and World Relief, once they get past customs.
Voice has talked to the Des Plaines City Council about the resolution before, but the city council responded with only a small acknowledgement rather than an acceptance of the project. Their response was something of a “Thanks, but no thanks,” said senior John Pacini, another student deeply involved in the project.
Pacini believed that the reason Voice received the denial was “because it is a very touchy subject, and if anything goes wrong, Des Plaines could possibly be viewed as a ‘weak link’ compared to other cities in the surrounding areas. Because it’s such a long process, it’s very complicated, and I don’t think city council wants to deal with it. This time around, though, Voice will try to persuade city council into motioning the resolution.”
The project helps raise awareness on the topic of refugees “because it’s such a significant issue both globally and in the current political atmosphere in our country,” social science teacher and advisor for Voice Randall Harper said. “We’re trying to help students be able to separate truth from fiction, and fear and ignorance from truth, as well.”
Moreover, according to Harper, students who are better equipped with knowledge on the topic of refugees will be more likely to take action. They could consider volunteering for a human rights or refugee group or be part of the Voice’s resolution to welcome refugees to Des Plaines if the resolution is motioned.
Harper hopes to include not only the students of Maine West, but also the Des Plaines community when it comes to passing the resolution.
“If everyone in the community can gain knowledgeable compassion for an issue, especially those who aren’t aware or informed well enough, we will be able to create a large positive impact on the issue,” Harper said.
“I think it’ll set an important precedent for other cities,” Pacini said. “If we can set up a good environment in Des Plaines or at least show that Des Plaines is open to refugees, then maybe other cities around us will follow.”