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‘We have to worry about rhetoric of people who want to divide the people base on race or ethnicity’

Mayor of Clarkston Ted Terry has informed and quintessential air in the way he leads the city. Clarkston is a city in DeKalb County, Georgia, United States. The population was 7,554 as of the 2010 census and as any other US cities it is a home to multiple race ranging from of course white to Hispanic to those of African origin to native Americans. There is a mix of non-Hispanic to Asians.In the 1990s, authorities identified Clarkston as a good fit for displaced persons of many different backgrounds. He spoke to Sudhir Agrwal for Nepal24hours.com & The Himalayan Voice. Excerpt:

How do you think has rehabilitation of refugee families affected Clarkston?

In early 80s, there were refugees from Vietnam. In the 35 years since, we have received refugees from across the world following civil unrest where they came from.
People from multiple ethnicity have come to Clarkston. Time has identified Clarkston as most ethnically diversified per square mile city in the US. We never have had any trouble based on identity despite having people from multiple religion.

What is the major challenge that the people in Clarkston face and how does the city office helps them?

The major challenge is faced by people themselves on the assimilation front owing their own ways of life and what life is in America. One of them is commuting since there is no public commuting system in a wide network. Then comes language.

Does the city have any program to help them?

The good news is that there are programs available for free for refugees to learn english and get job training. There are opportunities available to learn skill trade, assistance to go to college. The federal aid lasts 6-8 months. So they have only 6 months to be on their feet. But happily, 80-90% of the immigrants acquire skill in the interim.

Can you shed light on the arrangement that involves welcoming aliens in the city? Is Welcoming New Americans Campaign” all about it?

Clarkston is now the official welcoming city following signingof “Welcoming Declaration” signed 3 years ago. Clarkston create policies to welcome all refugees irrespective of where they come from, what religion they follow, economic status or any factor. We are also working with “Welcoming America” which is a nationwide initiative. We have different programs where we have declaration from various elected leaders about welcoming in Clarkston. We provide an opportunity for people to see multiple culture at one place living happily.

How is the cultural integration achieved?

We make sure they are aware that the police is there to help them. The elected officials are always available to serve them. There is a reluctance to ask for help from people from certain countries where police in not cooperative or they don’t trust elected officials. We emphasize the fact that we have a democracy that delivers. Lot of people get their citizenship and register to vote and opt for running for office. We may have the first Bhutanese American city council member next year.

What would say to cities not welcoming to immigrants?

When refugees used to come in 80s, they had sponsoring organizations like temples, mosques, churches but now only 10% of the immigrants are sponsored by these organizations. It is now dependent on the people to show generosity and support the refugees. It is on us to prove that America is the land of compassionate people. That is the way that mayors and city council members can support the immigrants. It is not a very laborious job. It is like b”ig brother big sister program”. If we can get sponsorship rate from 10% to 50% we will see much higher outcome in self sufficiency among new Americans. Actions speak louder than words. Just saying that we are welcoming doesn’t solve the issue. We require sponsorship from people and community leaders.I have been sponsoring a Syrian family and it is a great joy to support them. I would recommend that people should come forward and sponsor individuals and families.

What do you think about the current presidential campaign?

Most of the people who are multi- ethnic are looking at rhetoric coming out from Republican convention. Donald Trump is very derogatory of people who are different than him. We have to worried about rhetoric of people who want to divide the people based on race or ethnicity. These are the people who are problems and creating problems by dividing us based on ethnicity. It is important that we vote on November 8. I request all of you to come forward and vote. If you want to have a voice in your community, taxes, changes in your community, you require to become citizen, register to vote and vote in the presidential election.

What is one most important factor that you would like to work on to improve the life of people?

One thing that I am very concerned about is the green house gas emission and the impact on climate change. There are millions of people from India, Bangladesh, Himalayas who are getting impacted because of this. We have lots of refugees who come as refugees because of this. If we have President as Donald Trump who plans to close the resettlement program, we will have hundreds of thousands of people who will be left in dire circumstances in refugee camps. America will fall from the position of the leader on the world stage that is working on alleviate climate change. One of the issue I am pushing forTH in the convention is resolution of the issue of climate change and move renewal clean energy as fast as we can. If China can plan to build a solar and wind energy that can power entire US, there is no reason we can not do in 10 years.

Do you have any message for people in Clarkston?

People in Clarkston should know that I am there to help them. My information including my phone number and email address is available. I have an open door policy to listen to any resident or business owner who wants to come and talk to me. We would like to know where the problem is and how we can solve the same.

Published Date: Sunday, July 31st, 2016 | 11:22 PM

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