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Refugee TrainingThe U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program is...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Refugee Training

The U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program is an exception to the poor effectiveness record of federally funded job training programs as described in Mark Wilson's Aug. 21 Opinion * Commentary article, "Not Up to the Job."

Since 1980, over 1.5 million refugees have fled persecution in their homelands and sought refuge in the United States. As a result, more than 20,000 refugees have moved to Maryland; but only about 116 refugee families are participating in Maryland's refugee public assistance program. None of these families has been in the United States for more than eight months.

According to the Refugee Act of 1980, a refugee is a person outside of his or her own country who cannot return due to a well-founded fear of persecution.

Most, however, eventually repatriate, some stay in the country of first asylum, and fewer still (1 percent) find their way through a legal process to the United States or such other countries as France, Germany, England, Canada or Australia.

Refugees manage to find employment shortly after they arrive in their new home, despite barriers to employment such as limited English proficiency, cross cultural understanding or transferable job skills.

One strong incentive to early employment is to limit public assistance (cash) to the first eight months a refugee is in the United States.

Another incentive is the package of acculturation services, including health screening, help in finding housing and applying for a Social Security card, English language and vocational training and a comprehensive employment service with job search assistance and a thorough orientation to the world of work, all of which refugees receive when they arrive.

Refugees are survivors, and willing to do what it takes to succeed in this country.

Nevertheless, their success is due partly to the availability of linguistically and culturally appropriate, federally-funded employment services that are eliminated in the Republican welfare reform block grant proposal.

Frank J. Bien

Baltimore

The writer is director of the Office for New Americans in the Maryland Department of Human Resources.

Our Man in Haiti?

Marcia Myers' Aug. 26 article on Emmanuel Constant's deportation hearing had a surprising omission: that Constant was on the payroll of the CIA and that the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency had encouraged him to form FRAPH.

Also of note is the article's statement that FRAPH was "dissolved last year" after the U.S. occupation of Haiti.

Journalist Allan Nairn has reported that, as late as April 1995, FRAPH had still not been disarmed in Haiti, and that U.S. Special Forces there had actually been working directly with FRAPH in the countryside.

This information offers a sobering balance to statements mentioned in the article by Secretary of State Warren Christopher that Mr. Constant's presense in this country would create the impression of U.S. support for him.

Jonathan Duckart

Baltimore

Must Catch Crabs

I am writing in response to Renee Tuma's naive reaction (Aug. 21) to the Aug. 13 article concerning the declining crab population in Chesapeake Bay. I do feel that more limits need to be placed on the amounts of crabs that recreational crabbers should be allowed to catch, but to say that "it would not hurt any of us if we just left them alone" is too much of a generalization.

The commercial crabbing industry on the Chesapeake Bay is vital to the economy of the state, not to mention essential to thousands of individual people and families. Watermen and anyone involved in the seafood industry depend on these particular bay creatures, not "other fish in the bay," for four to five months each year. The money taken in by selling crabs or processing them is what keeps many families and businesses surviving.

I was born and have lived on the Eastern Shore for 23 years. The crabs that Ms. Tuma would like for us to leave alone keep restaurants in business, allow watermen to maintain their operation during other seasons in order to harvest "other fish" and even help pay college tuitions and put food on many tables.

I am simply pointing out that the solution that Ms. Tuma offers is not really a solution at all, but needs to be thought out a little more in order to be practical.

Georgina Young

Centreville

Racial History

Most thinking people applaud the struggle for racial equality. But flawed facts and misplaced perspective do not enhance a cause.

Salim Muwakkil (Opinion * Commentary article, "Patriotism and Prejudice," Aug. 15) decries army segregation in 1943. It does not agree with his perspective in 1995.

Yet segregation was then the national way of life, confirmed by the Supreme Court's Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896.

In 1943, America's future hung in the balance. To condemn the army for not initiating a totally new, and certainly divisive, social experiment in the midst of this battle defies logic.

Also, the author states that in 1943 the army decided "to sweep the streets clean" of young black men and young white men in order to defuse racial tension. How foolish can an argument get? We were fighting a total war. We needed men.

How horribly inconvenient for Tim Black, "swept up" in the draft of 1943. May one ask what he was doing walking the streets as a civilian at the age of 25? Thousands of his contemporaries lay dying on the beaches of Tarawa and Salerno.

Yes, blacks were treated unfairly during World War II. But there was no evil plan, no Machiavellian design.

Finally, a word about W. E. B. Du Bois. He justly earned emulation. But facts are facts. In 1960, at the height of the Cold War, he accepted the Lenin Peace Prize, a denial of the United States and an acceptance of the Soviet Union.

Furthermore, W. E. B. Du Bois not only defamed the United States, but also renounced his American citizenship, and permanently left our country. Du Bois had cause for complaint. Fate also dealt cruelly with Benedict Arnold.

John G. Barry

Baltimore

Tragic Kashmir

Richard Reeves' Aug. 25 column about Kashmir is frighteningly accurate. It is probably true that important political figures around the world do not care about it, but not that no one cares.

Anyone who has spent time there must ache, as I do, for that "lovely and bloody valley in northern India."

With my family I revisited Kashmir two years ago and was shocked and saddened by the changes in it: Indian soldiers at every street corner in the capital with guns pointed at passersby; Indian army checkpoints on the roads, where traffic was stopped erratically and subject to unpredictable detainment; suspicion and fear about any innocent movement for sightseeing, shopping or travel.

Hotels were almost all closed. Under the heavy hand of the Indian military occupation, supporting structures -- telephone service, electricity, banks, airlines, bus routes -- were rendered undependable or inoperable.

And the country's irreplaceable legacy of Moghul architecture, pavilions and gardens which had survived for 350 years was not being maintained, and some items had in the last few years been destroyed.

The deeper scars of deaths and atrocities were not visible to us.

Why does all this matter? First, it is the Kashmiris' livelihood. They are a hard-working people, growing crops on the terraced hillsides and harvesting fish from the lakes, but specializing in craft work: intricate wood-carving, papier mache objects, rugs and carpets, and elaborate embroidery. Hospitality for tourists has been a major industry. All this economy is foundering.

Besides the suffering of its own people, this struggle which renders Kashmir inaccessible and threatens to destroy it is a loss to the rest of the world. Neither India nor Pakistan can enjoy this incomparable jewel, nor can anyone else.

Its birds, wild-flowers, tranquil lakes, roaring rivers and trails to snow-capped mountains have nourished my soul in memory since my first six summers spent there, their images refreshed by later visits. And its people have deep roots in this place and long family loyalties.

The son of a man who was our cook 70 years earlier remembered me, and a pony-man who had shepherded our family through a flood walked some 10 or 15 miles to greet us with joy when we returned 34 years later.

Beyond Kashmir's very real danger as a flashpoint of perhaps nuclear war, these people and this valley deserve the attention of the world and its help toward their attainment of autonomy.

Cynthia Earl Kerman

Baltimore

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