Norm Solomon, the Director of Refugee Resettlement for Catholic Charities of SouthWestern Ohio, laughs when he describes himself as a "recovering attorney who is trying to do some good."

But he turns serious when he describes the plight of people who find themselves in some of the most dangerous circumstances around the world. Over the past 32 years, CCSWO has resettled 14,000 people in Greater Cincinnati, 187 in 2012 alone.

What does CCSWO do?

We provide about 50 distinct services for clients through their first three to six months with us for intensive case management and assistance "” literacy training, first aid, financial, job sourcing, entrepreneurship, emergency management, home health and safety, parenting in American society, family reunification, etc. Additionally, we engage in consistent contact, serving as a "taxi" until they master mass transit; attending to questions, concerns, and frustrations with the new system. We find that the initial 90 days is very, very time intensive and consistently challenging.

How did the agency's mission evolve?

For the first two-thirds of its existence, (it) used a family-mentoring model "” families volunteered to take in a refugee or refugee family, to connect them to a home, job, services and more. Over time that model fell victim to mentor attrition, busier lives, and increased numbers of refugees and more complex issues in the context of a complex society. In the 1980s, the federal government stepped in "¢ but in many cities and with many refugee programs, the original connectivity between citizens and new Americans lives on in significant volunteer efforts.

How important is the role of former refugees?

Very important. For refugees, their connectivity with people of their own nationality or life experiences provide their "beachhead" "” to enable them to overcome the difficulties of adapting to a society and community so different from what they have known. For instance, many of our Bhutanese clients have lived in refugee camps for more than 10 years. They often know no other way of life. Their countrymen who have preceded them in the brave jump to resettlement can show them the way.

Are refugees perceived as "¢illegal immigrants?'

Although refugees are by definition immigrants "” individuals from another country living legally in the U.S. "” their circumstances are far different. They are brought here by the government after being vetted. Upon arrival, they are fully documented, and have the rights of an American citizen, save for the right to vote "” which they can earn should they proceed to legal resident status at one year (Green Card), to naturalization after five years.

The families of all Americans, save for Native Americans, were refugees or immigrants. In some cities, refugees have come under scrutiny in terms of the jobs they gain. In Cincinnati, that has not been the case. This is an incredibly warm and enveloping city that has accommodated and welcomed our new residents.

Core American values are shared values of refugee families: faith, strong family structures and hard work.

I look to the words of Roger Cardinal Mahony, the Archbishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, who said, "We should embrace our immigrant roots and recognize that newcomers to our land are not part of the problem, they are part of the solution."

I think Cincinnatians get that; our refugee clients and we at Catholic Charities appreciate our city and its people for that.