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IINE congratulates Sokhary Chau, first Cambodian-American mayor in U.S.

Sokhary Chau, a Cambodian refugee who survived the Khmer Rouge’s genocide, has become the Mayor of Lowell, making him the first Cambodian-American mayor in the United States. Currently serving as a city councilor in Lowell, he was unanimously picked by his council peers to assume the top post on January 3, 2022. He also became the city’s first Asian American mayor.

“As a proud Cambodian American, I am standing on the shoulders of many immigrants who came before me to build this city,” Chau said at his inauguration.

For more than 100 years, IINE has welcomed newcomers to Lowell through refugee resettlement, adult education, immigration services and beyond.

“We are so inspired to see a refugee assume the city’s top post,” says Jeff Thielman, IINE’s CEO, “It speaks to how the investment in refugees and immigrants leads to a more vibrant, diverse, and forward-thinking community. We look forward to working with the new Mayor and welcoming newcomers to Lowell.”


Refugee Agencies Praise MA Legislature for Approving $12 Million in Aid for Over a Thousand Afghan Arrivals

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BOSTON, MA: Mass. Refugee Resettlement Agencies, the nonprofits tasked by the federal
government with welcoming and resettling hundreds of Afghan immigrants, praised the MA legislature
for including $12 Million to support Afghan arrivals in the final spending bill sent to Governor Baker’s
desk on Friday.

“We are incredibly grateful for our legislative champions, Speaker Ron Mariano, Senate President
Karen Spilka, and Ways and Means Chairs Aaron Michlewitz and Michael Rodrigues for continuing our
Commonwealth’s long history of welcoming refugees into Massachusetts” said Jeff Thielman,
President and CEO of the International Institute of New England. “The $12 Million allocated in the
supplemental state budget will provide critical support to those arriving from Afghanistan, often with
nothing more than the clothes on their back.”

U.S. and international coalition forces evacuated 124,000 people from Afghanistan in August, with
more than 95,000 of these individuals expected to resettle in the U.S. Hundreds of Afghan citizens
have already arrived in Massachusetts, and resettlement providers expect that more than 1,700
Afghans will settle in the Commonwealth by mid-February. Resettlement agencies contract with the
U.S. State Department to ensure that refugees experience a safe and effective transition to the United
States. Local agencies in the Commonwealth receive and distribute financial support from the federal
government to new arrivals and also rely on private donations. Federal and private support, however,
is not enough to fully meet the needs of Afghans and other displaced populations.

House Floor Division Leader Jim O’Day represents the city of Worcester and has been a long-time
supporter of Ascentria and their work. “I am thrilled to see the broad support in the House and the
Senate for the allocation of $12 Million in funding. This state support is critical to supplement federal
dollars and ensure that those arriving have wraparound services including housing, legal aid, childcare
and job training. The funding will have a tremendous impact on the resettling efforts for the Afghans
refugees in the city of Worcester. ”

While some federal funding has been allocated to support Afghan evacuees to Massachusetts and
other states, the Commonwealth’s high cost of housing and cost of living has posed a significant
challenge to the emergency resettlement of these individuals.

“I am proud of the inclusion of $12 million in aid for Afghan refugees in the House and Senate
spending bill” House Floor Division Leader Ruth Balser (D-Newton) who helped spearhead the state
funding request in the House, stated. “This aid will be crucial to successfully resettle Afghan
immigrants and ensure their safe passage to Massachusetts following their swift and urgent
evacuation from Afghanistan. I am proud that Massachusetts is stepping up to welcome these
refugees and making sure they integrate successfully into our community.”

The House and the Senate both included the $12 Million in their initial draft of the spending bill,
meaning no amendment was needed in either branch. Sen. John Velis (D-Westfield), a lead in
securing state funding in the Senate and a US Army Veteran himself, stated, “From my own time in
Afghanistan, I know how much our military forces have depended on Afghan citizens for our missions
over the last twenty years. Now those same individuals and their families are going to be relying on our
Commonwealth to support them. This funding is crucial to ensure that Afghan arrivals have access to
the services and resources they need and are able to integrate successfully into our communities. I
urge the Governor to swiftly sign the spending bill so this money can be leveraged as quickly as

The state funding will be administered through the Office of Refugee and Immigrants (ORI) and will be
allocated both to individuals and resettlement agencies directly, as per the language in the final
spending bill.

Aimee Mitchell, Chief Community Services Officer at Ascentria Care Alliance underscored that in order
to ensure Afghan arrivals have adequate wraparound services, including childcare, transportation,
language access, and medical care, state funding is needed. “The federal and private funding we have
raised alone cannot adequately cover the support that these individuals will need in order to establish
themselves and be successful in Massachusetts. It is directly in line with the agencies’ mission and the
history of Massachusetts to help these individuals start a new, safe life here in Massachusetts.”


Ascentria Care Alliance offers a continuum of community-based programs for refugees and immigrants
in Massachusetts that aim to help new Americans achieve independence and stability. Visit to learn more about the refugee resettlement and unaccompanied minors

The International Institute of New England creates opportunities for refugees and immigrants to
succeed through resettlement, education, career advancement, and pathways to citizenship.
Learn more at