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Catholic advocates for immigrants assess how to win allies, combat fear


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ATLANTA (CNS) -- Frances McBrayer used to be able to focus on ensuring that refugees had an apartment to live in, the weary travelers were picked up at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and had jobs lined up to integrate families who had spent years in desolate camps into the Atlanta community.

Her work would accompany families of refugees fleeing oppression on their first steps in America.

Now, the longtime staff member at Catholic Charities Atlanta has worked for the past few years with a dozen coalition partners to be a public voice for these newcomers. Now the job includes organizing photo opportunities at the Georgia Statehouse where former refugees pose with politicians and state leaders to talk about how they contribute to the community.

"Advocacy has become a requirement for the environment we are in," said McBrayer, who leads Catholic Charities Atlanta's refugee resettlement program and is the new chairwoman of the Coalition of Refugee Service Agencies, a 14-member Georgia organization.

"We have always really done the direct service work without talking about it too much," she said. "A large part of what we are doing now is trying to demonstrate how much work is being done, how much refugees are contributing to our state (economically, socially and culturally), and how many people are involved in and supportive of the effort."

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