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Refugees welcome


Pasted on the front door of Park Ave. Pets on Monroe Avenue is a small sticker with a simple line drawing of a family of four with luggage. Underneath them it says, "Refugees Welcome."

Lisa Jacques, the longtime owner of the store, says that a friend e-mailed her an article about the storefront sticker campaign, which began in response to the recent bout of anti-refugee sentiment expressed by many politicians and media personalities.

Jacques contacted to get some of the stickers and then sent out an e-mail to about 400 of her friends and associates to let them know about the campaign. Proceeds from the stickers are donated to the UN Refugee Agency.

"Everyone here is from somewhere else unless you're an American Indian," Jacques says. "And most of us arrived during hard times."

The campaign was started by Veda Partalo and Mike Davis. Partalo, who works in advertising, arrived in the US about 20 years ago as a refugee from Bosnia. Davis is one of the owners of the Minneapolis-based design firm, Burlesque of North America.

In an interview with the Gradient's Haley Ryan, Partalo described how difficult it was during her first few years living in Minnesota. Some people were generous and kind, she said, while others were unimaginably harsh.

"It was in that moment that I realized something very essential: My family's ability to integrate into American society had everything to do with how we were received upon our arrival," she said. The more welcomed her family felt, she said, the easier it was for them to assimilate and contribute.

The BBC recently reported that more than 1 million refugees primarily from Syria, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Iraq fled their homeland by sea and entered Europe in 2015 alone.