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Bucks County Sees Increase of Immigrants from Uzbekistan

The county has a system in place, with many organizations that people can donate to or volunteer with, that helps immigrants transition safely and smoothly into their new homes.
Image created by Yakira Teitel, Just Seeds Artist Cooperative.

In the 2023-2024 school year, 22 Uzbekistans registered as new students in the Centennial School District (CSD), from the first day of school until the present.

“Centennial School District has continued to see a change in the demographic, social-emotional, and social-economic needs of the student population as a whole and welcomes additional resources from the state and federal level to help provide additional support for our students who need them while also providing relief to our local taxpayers,” said Nate Ross, Communications and Marketing Specialist for CSD

Ross said their staff works with several groups within their community to support their efforts to improve communication, engagement, and cultural awareness to meet the needs of families in the CSD. 

Katey Marseglia, Coordinator with Bucks Human Services Hub, said the increase in families from Uzbekistan is due to Russia’s aggression and the war in Ukraine. 

The Hub helps connect these families to services and resources, assists in navigating resources, such as medical care and food pantries/food programs, and provides advocacy and support. 

What local challenges prevent these immigrants from transitioning to life here smoothly? 

“Challenges include the language barrier,” said Marseglia. “The absence of a federal refugee program for this population is the biggest hurdle. This may make them ineligible for things like medical assistance, so they tend to rely on the county’s only free clinic, the Ann Silverman Clinic.” 

Residents can donate to organizations that help refugees such as Ann Silverman Clinic; Bucks County Opportunity Council; Catholic Social Services; United Way, and Immigrant Rights Action Group. 

“People who speak Russian or Uzbek are needed to volunteer as translators/advocates,” said Marseglia. “The county and residents can advocate for Congressional aid and funding for a resettlement and refugee program for these former Soviet countries where we are seeing an increase in immigrants.” 

Heidi Roux, Executive Director of Immigrant Rights Action, said they’ve been seeing an increase of families from Uzbekistan arriving, needing varying degrees of assistance with what their non-profit offers. They’ve served about 12 families in the last three months.

“School districts are also seeing an increase in their population from Uzbekistan,” said Roux. “It’s school districts across Bucks County, but I’d say the highest concentration is in Neshaminy and Centennial.”

Roux also mentioned the language barrier challenge. She relies heavily on volunteers that speak either Uzbek or Russian to communicate with her clients. 

Bucks County has systems in place to aid immigrants. The Bucks County New Americans Advisory Council does some work around it. Roux said it’s critical to ensure “that we have accessibility to language services like a language line the hospitals or the school districts use to communicate with families and make sure they’re receiving information and communication in their native language.”

Roux said the county has accessibility and the tools to address the issues that someone might present in their native language so that they’re able to communicate with these families and hopefully direct them to where they can best be served.

A lot of families settle in the northeast region of Philadelphia but on the Bucks County side, said Roux. “I think the areas that cover Neshaminy School District and Centennial School District are probably the heavier populated areas,” she said. “That’s where we saw a lot of Ukrainian families and Russian families come in and settle as well.”

Roux added that a lot of these families are entering as asylum seekers, which is different from someone that enters in as a refugee.

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Erin Flynn Jay

Erin Flynn Jay

Erin Flynn Jay is a freelance reporter based in Philadelphia. Recent national writing includes First for Women, Woman's World Magazine, Bar & Restaurant News, and World Tea News.

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