Rohlman helping refugees and immigrants make a home in Kansas

- Tori Hale
***The writer is enrolled in Comm 240 News Reporting.***

Levita Rohlman does not simply enjoy her job. She has made it her passion for the last 39 years, serving as an immigration consultant and helping refugees from all over the world find a home in Kansas.

At 6:30 p.m., Monday, April 14, Rohlman will share that passion in the Memorial Union’s Stouffer Lounge. Her lecture is being sponsored by the Global Leadership Project, the American Democracy Project and the Office of Diversity Affairs in the Center for Student Involvement. She will answer questions after her presentation.

Rohlman, a Kingman County native, has her bachelor’s degree in social work and works out of Garden City at the Catholic Agency for Migration and Refugee Services, or MRS for short.

The office practices an open door policy, meaning that anyone who walks through the door is going to be advised or aided in some way, Rohlman said. When the agency began business in 1975, Rohlman says the staff started by helping a group of Vietnamese refugees who came to them in need. At the time there was not much funding available, so the organization also began doing immigration consultations in order to stimulate some income.

The first step when a refugee or immigrant comes to MRS is an assessment. Rohlman said she will see what that person’s motivation is for coming in and determine whether the individual is eligible for any further assistance and benefits. For those who are eligible, an estimate of the cost and length of the process is given to the client, and then scheduled appointments are set up to aid that family or individual.

“Most people can’t comprehend the whole picture at once, but we try to lay it out for them and simplify it all by going step-by-step,” Rohlman said. On average, Rohlman said she will see about 10-12 people per day, but stresses there is no “average” or “normal” client base. People from all backgrounds, countries, and ages come through her door, she said.

Rohlman also makes it clear that the Catholic church plays a big role in the work that MRS does.

“Catholic social teaching says we are all human beings made in God’s image and from His creation. This is what makes us good–not that we came into this country legally,” said.

She also stresses that most immigrants and refugees she deals with enter the United States out of necessity. These people generally leave their homes and familiar surroundings because of “harassment, poor social situations, or terrible economics,” Rohlman said, not because they simply wanted a change of scenery.

Rohlman says the things she enjoys most about her job are the relationships developed with those people she is able to aid. “With refugee resettlement, you’re providing a new life for someone, kind of like bringing a child into the world,” Rohlman said.

When refugees or immigrants come into the community, Rohlman said that community becomes their home and that everyone helping them becomes their family.
Some relationships are short lived, while others prove to last over time. A majority of the original Vietnamese immigrants of 1975 still reside in Garden City, so it is as much their home as anyone’s, she said. And in regards to the immigrants she works with, Rohlman says she experiences great joy in seeing them reach their goal of gaining their legal status.

“They are so overwhelmingly happy, and we are so happy for them.”

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