Letter: Not all people of color in our city and schools are refugees

I fear that Don Smith has inflated the numbers that Catholic Social Services  provided him and continues to use the word refugee inappropriately.

CSS has resettled 1,883 refugees since 2002. Refugees are distinct from other immigrant groups in that they come here by presidential invitation and under established federal appropriations. Refugees come from every region of the world and include torture survivors and victims of violence. Refugees become lawful permanent residents (green card holders) and eventually U.S. citizens. Calling them refugees is like calling a grandfather originally from England an immigrant.

There is no doubt that our community and our schools are richly diverse but all people of color are not refugees — they are a mixture of U.S.-born citizens, foreign-born U.S. citizens, immigrants that hold green cards, families of employees that have a work visa, etc., free to move about the country as all of us are and most likely drawn to the excellent quality of life that we enjoy in Alaska.

— Karen Ferguson,, state refugee coordinator / program director, Refugee Assistance & Immigration Services (RAIS), Catholic Social Services