Burmese Refugee Relocation Issues

July 22, 2010 Updated Jul 22, 2010 at 11:23 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - Additional educational and social resources.

That's what Indiana U.S. Senator Richard Lugar and Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry say Burmese refugees need to assimilate into life in Northeast Indiana.

"They have language problem(s) so its a main barrier to get access to hospitals and clinics," said Burmese Advocacy Center Health Coordinator Ohnmar Thwin.

"Another one is the work experience and the education," said Burmese Advocacy Center Employment Coordinator Ye Win Latt.

"They don't know how to set up appointment(s)," said Burmese Advocacy Center Health Educator Yu Yu Khaing.

Learning English, accessing health care and finding a job.

Those are the three biggest issues facing Burmese refugees who legally relocate to Fort Wayne.

According to federal law, refugees receive funding for 90 days to learn English, find work, and assimilate into American culture.

"When they first arrive here, they have to study English beginning from A-B-C, it takes about one or two years for them to be able to fill out the job application(s)," Burmese Advocacy Center Self-Sufficiency Coordinator Chan Aung.

That's where the Burmese Advocacy Center comes into play. Since federal funding stops after three months, the center hopes to pick up the slack and help new refugees for up to five years.

"The refugee or immigrant who live(s) in the United States, three months or nine months is education is not enough to live in the United States and understand the language and the culture or the environment," said Burmese Advocacy Center Executive Director Minn Myint Nan Tin.

Indiana Senator Richard Lugar issued a report Wednesday on refugee relocation issues.

Lugar used Fort Wayne as his primary example to say the federal government must provide more resources so immigrants aren't set up for failure.

Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry echoes those feelings, hiring a consulting firm earlier this year to identity those resources.

"We need the federal government to look at their policies on refugee resettlement and make sure that they send adequate resources, working with the community to help the individuals successfully resettle and to really realize the American dream," said Distler.

A lot of Burmese refugees that become conversational in English will find work in the sewing industry at Vera Bradley.

Others that do not speak much English will work in the meatpacking industry at Tyson, Perdue or Cargill.

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