Biloxi program settled thousands

BILOXI – The Office of Migration Refugee Resettlment for the Catholic Charities for the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi has resettled more than 7,000 people along the coast since it opened in 1977. The first refugees came from Vietnam and settled nicely into the fishing communities of the coast.
Maggie Leleaux, program director, helps each family find housing and jobs and then starts working on residency or citizenship. She mostly accepts families and adults, but has worked with some young people until they could reunite with their families.
She said many of her families were forced to go to Texas or Florida when Hurricane Katrina destroyed their homes and businesses, but are returning every day and want to be a part of the rebuilding efforts in their communities.
In a few weeks she will meet with the East Biloxi Asian Community Collaborative, a group with grants from the Department of the Interior and EPA who have plans to revitalize their town with help from all the residents and community members. She said these former refugees are thankful for the new start they got on the coast and want to give back. They have raised their children here and know the value of community.
Her office has settled families from Eastern Europe, Africa, Russia and Cuba, among other nations.
Leleaux said she has gotten calls from people concerned about refugee resettlement, but she points to the many success stories in her community.
“The United States is a country of immigrants. We should treat people who are seeking help, who are fleeing war and violence, whose children are being attacked and threatened – we should treat them with open hearts. We should accept these people and have compassion for them,” said Leleaux.
The Biloxi program also has a grant to work with victims of human trafficking. Leleaux had several cases of labor trafficking last year. These are people who are lured to the U.S. on the promise of a work visa and are forced into slave labor when they arrive. Leleaux works with law enforcement and immigration to protect this population of people.