Three Tulsans help others establish “home” in the U.S.
Elissa Stiles, Lindiwe Chaza Jangira and Rockie Naser
Stiles, a University of Tulsa College of Law student, says she has learned to be “borderless” in the way she sees people. As an undergraduate student at TU, Stiles studied abroad in Africa and South America. She found she loved working with people from different backgrounds, which sparked her interest in immigration law.
In addition to co-founding the Immigration Law Society at TU, Stiles spent a week in May volunteering at a detention center in Texas. There, she met with asylum seekers to prepare them for interviews with asylum officers.
“There’s not a specific reason that I was born in the United States and they weren’t,” Stiles says of the asylum seekers. “That’s just the luck of the draw. How silly of me to think I deserve to be in this country but the people who weren’t born here don’t deserve that. People who want to come to this country ... I want to help them get here.”
Lindiwe Chaza Jangira
Originally from Zimbabwe, Chaza Jangira has worked all over the world, advocating for the rights of women, children, people with disabilities and others affected by conflict and HIV/AIDS.
Chaza Jangira immigrated to the U.S. in 2016. Earlier this year, she became the refugee services program manager at YWCA Tulsa’s Immigrant and Refugee Center, which helps refugees integrate into American society in Tulsa. Refugees served by the center are primarily from Burma, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, though federal policies have drastically reduced intake numbers.
Chaza Jangira says refugees are reliable, hard-working employees and are frequently requested by some of Tulsa’s major employers. “They are just like you and me, but they were forced to flee from their own countries at the threat of religious and ethnic persecution,” she says. “All the values we uphold, they uphold also.”
Originally from Palestine, Naser was 8 years old when her family came to the U.S. from Jordan. She says they experienced a lot of misconceptions about themselves and other refugees. Young classmates joked that her family owned camels, but little did they know, Naser saw a camel for the first time at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.
Naser is now the women’s ministry director at First Baptist Broken Arrow and trains churches on how to reach and help refugees. She has served as an Arabic translator and has worked with refugees from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria and African countries.
“A pastor once said, ‘You can serve refugees with empty hands, but you can’t serve with an empty heart,’” Naser says. “I know refugees need physical things, but most of the time their greatest needs are love, care, concern, compassion, and you don’t have to have a deep wallet for that.”