Eric Schwartz the State Department’s Assistant Secretary of the PRM thanks contractors
Posted by Christopher Coen on April 21, 2010
Eric Schwartz the State Department’s Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration issued a letter about the 30th Anniversary of the U.S. Refugee Program as well as his recent visits to Denver and Phoenix (here).
Mr. Schwartz said that during his trips to Denver and Phoenix that he saw “the full range of stakeholders” in both cities, including state, county and local government officials; local voluntary agency resettlement staff; local police, public health, education, employment and transportation officials; and resettled refugees.
And how was he able to access local refugee clients? Through local refugee resettlement contractors who were able to determine which refugees he could meet, no doubt. I bet that refugees who were none too pleased with their resettlement certainly were not invited to take part. Under what logical scheme are private contractors allowed to decide who government funding and oversight agencies are able to meet with? It also sounds like Mr. Schwartz did not meet with any members of the local community, i.e citizens. Why not? Isn’t the refugee program supposed to be serving the American public’s humanitarian interests? The refugee program is a public program, and the last time I checked the government is supposed to be “of, by and for” the people. Yet he just meets with government employees, government contractors, and few hand-selected refugees.
Then he delved into the most important aspect of his claimed efforts to help refugees — the honey pot.
“We were so very gratified by the strong and unequivocal messages of support we received from local community members, who were enthusiastic about the State Department’s recent decision to double the level of initial assistance provided to newly arriving refugees.”
By “local community members” he meant “local government contractors”. Well gee, of course they love getting more government funding. Who wouldn’t? But more importantly, who do they answer to for it? The refugees? No, they are powerless. To local citizens? No, this is a secretive program that restricts citizen involvement. To the State Department? Not really. Their oversight is weak and ineffective. They think being “nice” to their great “partners” (resettlement contractors) is the best way to operate — strangely, since it’s proven so disastrous over the past two decades. Contract requirements and regulations violated? Not to worry. The contractors have such a hard time of things you see. They must have good reasons for these continuing violations. Be nice to them. But then who will be nice to the refugees with such weak program oversight?
“Throughout the visit I was struck by the extraordinary efforts of our partners in the field. They are working assiduously to meet the needs of the refugee populations they serve, and their personal commitment to the service of others was as inspiring as it was impressive.”
Well again, all of that is really nice, but what about the extreme problems in the refugee program with refugee resettlement contractors who just will not, or cannot, provide even the most minimal services and material items to refugees? Wouldn’t it also be nice to address that issue once in a while? What about the contractors who are supposed to be bringing significant private funding to the program yet rely almost exclusively on government funding, and every week trumpet to the newspapers the lie that refugees are in dire straits because the government doesn’t give enough money?