Series: Refugee Resettlement In Wisconsin

Fleeing conflict and persecution around the world, refugees are a small but significant part of Wisconsin's population. While it's not the biggest destination for resettlement in the United States, the state is home to thousands of people who arrived as refugees from several dozen countries. A Hmong community took root across Wisconsin in the 1970s, and a small Somali community settled in rural Barron County in the 1990s, but large numbers of refugees from countries including Burma, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have arrived in the 21st century. People seeking refugee status in the U.S. — which is distinct from other kinds of immigration — have gone through an extensive vetting process, but a rise of xenophobia and new federal policies threaten to make their position more uncertain.
 
Every single refugee among multitudes around the world has their own individual story, their own experience of fleeing danger and seeking a better life elsewhere. One family that escaped Syria and moved to Wisconsin offers an example of the personal scope of this vast crisis.
Refugees and their resettlement in the United States have taken on a higher profile in recent years, owing in large part to ongoing war in Syria and the subsequent displacement of millions of people.
Federal funding to refugee resettlement programs has been halted by President Donald Trump's executive order placing a 120-day ban on refugees entering the United States.
Few people outside the world of government agencies and refugee-resettlement non-profits note that Burma accounts for Wisconsin's largest incoming refugee group. This community rarely takes the spotlight in political discussions or media coverage of refugees in the state.
The crisis in Syria has put new focus on refugees in the United States. But when it comes to where people who flee conflict and persecution around the world have resettled in the U.S., Wisconsin lands about in the middle of the pack.
The bombs started getting closer in 2012 as Syria's civil war was just beginning.
Hmong refugees fleeing war in Vietnam and Laos began arriving in the United States in 1976 — many of them after fighting alongside Americans in the Vietnam War, or losing loved ones in that conflict Over the ensuing four decades, Wisconsin has become home to the nation's third-largest Hmong population following California and Minnesota.
Miss Elizabeth came to Milwaukee from Liberia in 2007. She knew no English. She'd never really even gone to school.