“. . . Wyoming is the single state in the U.S. without a Refugee Resettlement Program (RRP) filed with the federal government.”
So begins Gabe Selting’s 2018 honors senior thesis from the University of Wyoming, “Refugee Resettlement in Wyoming: A How-to Guide.”
Selting says social justice addresses “equal access to opportunity.”
Yet his own interests are broader.
They extend to equal access to opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers.
And this fall his already passionate life takes a step forward as he begins law school in Washington, DC.
His interest in social justice and service began when he was 16 years old.
He was living in London with time on his hands while his parents, both professors at the University of Wyoming, were on sabattical.
During this time he thought, and he struggled.
“The ultimate question was, ‘What is my personal interpretation of happiness, and how can I get there?’”
The answer came as a question.
“What is my ability to impact others in a meaningful way? How can I have a positive impact?”
Resettlement Plan Began with Education
As an International Studies undergraduate, Selting expanded his lens on the world.
He studied and volunteered in multiple countries.
And those experiences gave him perspective on Wyoming’s role in global issues.
As well as Wyoming’s role in the refugee conversation.
“All around Wyoming there’s affordable housing, low-skill jobs, and open spaces so you’re not forced to live next to others’ religions, if you don’t want to,” he said.
“By not having a Refugee Resettlement Plan, what message are we sending to Washington and to the United Nation’s High Commission on Refugees?
“It takes 50 links to make this work,” he said. “and one doesn’t exist – Wyoming.”
The website of the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is clear.
Refugees are given, “the opportunity to achieve their full potential . . .”
The U.S. Government along with individual states and organizations offer a hand up with “critical resources to assist them in becoming integrated members of American society.”
“It takes 50 links to make this work, and one doesn’t exist — Wyoming.”
Refugees are Free to Move Into Wyoming
Because there are no cross-state entry restrictions, once refugees have been permitted to enter the country, Selting says they can go where they like.
“Former refugees are making their way to Wyoming, whether people like it or not.”
Yet without a RRP Selting says, “those who arrive here don’t have access to key services.”
Selting thinks that state’s resistance stems from fears for safety and economic security.
“It’s so much more dangerous to not have a refugee infrastructure program then to have one,” he said.
“There’s a huge body of literature showing that extremism often comes in the form of social and economic alienation.
“We need to have systems for people to integrate into; to combat social isolation.
“Wyoming has the capacity to help and accept refugees,” he said.
And thanks to this recent grad’s persistence, Wyoming’s “How To” is ready to go.
• Read Gabe’s thesis, Refugee Resettlement in Wyoming: A How-To Guide.
• Learn about the Immigration Alliance of Casper.
• Check out the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement.
• Read Gillette Against Hate.
• Read “Where refugees go in America,” from the Washington Post.
• • •
Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is EllenSynakowski.com
“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.” — C. West