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After Pittsburgh Shooting, Columbus Refugee Organizations Redouble Efforts

Us Together Director Nadia Kasvin
Nick Evans
Us Together Director Nadia Kasvin

Last weekend's mass shooting in Pittsbugh loomed large over a conference about refugee resettlement held in Columbus on Tuesday.

The man who gunned down 11 congregants at a Pittsburgh synagogue embraced a conspiracy alleging the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) brings so-called "invaders" through the country’s immigration process to kill Americans.

That false claim hits close to home for Nadia Kasvin, director of the Ohio refugee resettlement organization US Together and a former recipient of HIAS aid.

“I’m not an invader,” Kasvin said. “People that we help every single day are not invaders. We are hardworking, we contribute to community. We don’t just help us, we have truly positive effect on communities that we come to.

“On Saturday, I was extremely sad,” Kasvin continued. “And on Sunday, when they announced the names of people, I grieved for the lost lives. And on Monday, I was truly angry.”

By Tuesday, Kasvin said, her focus had turned to action, as she looked to redouble efforts to help new residents integrate themselves into their communities. At the conference, a panel of speakers spoke about the trauma of their experience in their native countries, and the strategies and resources they relied on to overcome challenges.

But despite the displacement of more than 60 million people around the world, Kasvin notes federal authorities have capped refugee resettlements at historic lows.

Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown dropped by the conference, and he weighed in on the recent spate of violence.

"I don't put all of this at the feet of the president of the United States,” Brown said. “You know the language, and the bombing, and the alt-right, and the murders. I do hope, though, the president will use the powers of the office to unify people."

Brown offered as an example President George W. Bush's visit to a mosque shortly after September 11.

“It sent a message to all Americans that we’re in this together. I wish President Trump would engage in the same kind of calls for unity,” Brown said.

Instead, the president has floated the idea of restricting birthright citizenship through an executive order. Brown was blunt about the proposal.

“I wish the president would read the Constitution,” he said.