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Governor Robert D. Ray: Iowa's Leadership in Resettling Southeast Asian Refugees

posted on April 4, 2007

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The state of Iowa was a leader in resettling Southeast Asian refugees, not only because the government got behind it, but because of the way it was done. The state wanted the refugees to work and live their lives as they became acculturated, not wait till they learned English. That wasn’t how it was done other places.

 

I remember that there were groups of people from other states that would come to Iowa to see how we were handling the refugee situation. And there were groups from other countries. And I recall the one from Germany who came and examined what we were doing and we hosted them and tried to help them understand what we did and why we did it. And when they left, in my office, they were very complimentary, very nice people, very complimentary but they said, “We couldn't do it that way.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Well, we have to put them in camps first and teach them our language.”

 

And I thought, well, do what you have to do but just think about it. Wouldn't it be better for them to go to work and learn English while they are working and earning and providing for their families?

 

Reporter: And not living in another camp.

 

Not living in a camp.

 

Tags: Asia culture governors immigration Iowa jobs refugees Social Studies