USCRI’s Bowling Green International Center claims they do a great job, refugees disagree
Posted by Christopher Coen on August 3, 2010
An article in the Bowling Green Daily-News comments on local refugee resettlement and Senator Lugar’s recent refugee resettlement report. According to the article refugees make up about 10% of Bowling Green’s population. That seems difficult to believe.
The article also states that the local Health Department makes refugees pay for their own vaccinations at their first health screening. How is that possible? Does that mean that refugees who cannot afford vaccinations don’t get them?
The Warren County Health Department is where most refugees get their first medical treatment. They get vaccinations if needed, and are screened for tuberculosis.
“They have to pay out of pocket for those immunizations, which is tough for some,” said Rebecca Tyree, a registered nurse and center coordinator for the health department. here
This makes absolutely no sense, because the ORR reimburses local health departments for refugee medical screening costs. According to ORR’s website:
The Cash and Medical Assistance (CMA) Program is part of the Division of Refugee Assistance and provides reimbursement to States and alternative refugee assistance programs for 100 percent of …Refugee Medical Assistance (RMA)… CMA also reimburses States for medical screening costs through local public health clinics or physicians so that contagious diseases and medical conditions that may be a public health concern or a barrier to refugees’ economic self-sufficiency are identified and treated. here.
In the article, James Robinson, executive director of the USCRI affiliate, Bowling Green International Center (IC), describes the work his agency does as an “attempt” not to leave refugees high and dry. That would seem to instill somewhat less than total confidence in the quality of his agency’s services. But, of course last year and earlier this year we heard from a friend of the local Karenni refugees, Cindy Florez, who described the horribly filthy apartments where the IC had placed the refugees. She said the apartments looked like they have never been cleaned in years before the refugees’ arrival, and teemed with cockroaches and rodents. (See pictures of broken fire alarms, filthy walls, filthy counter tops, broken screens) She said that the furniture the International Center gave the refugees was stuff that Goodwill would have thrown out.
Cindy Florez says her Halloween weekend visit to a new refugee family she has befriended in Bowling Green, Ky., was scary.
The family of four Karenni refugees from Myanmar had no bedsheets, and shared one small bath towel, one plate, two coffee mugs and two spoons, she said. The carpets and walls were grimy. She found mouse droppings and cockroaches.
After fumigating, “it took us well over an hour cleaning up roaches,” Florez said.
James Robinson, director of the agency that resettles refugees in Bowling Green, concedes some refugees have cockroaches — but he points out that families don’t always wrap garbage and keep food off counters. Landlords assure the agency that they spray for pests monthly, he added.
And, Robinson retorts, Florez’ allegations that families are left without basic household supplies are “totally untrue.”
The Western Kentucky Refugee Mutual Assistance Association, also known as the International Center, has resettled about 600 refugees from Myanmar in the past year. Caseworkers inspect and furnish apartments, then photograph each family with the initial food and household supplies they receive, Robinson said.
Refugees sometimes move all their beds into one room, placing box springs and mattresses directly on the floor, he said. They get rid of the bed frames, so they may throw or give away other supplies as well, he theorizes.
“They are free people,” Robinson said. “They can do what they want.” (here On the map click on Kentucky)
It’s funny that Mr. Robinson came up with this type of defense about refugees throwing away bed-frames. In the photos that Cindy Florez took you can see that the mattresses are still propped up on bed-frames, here. He also talks about refugees leaving out food, except that these refugees had just recently arrived when Cindy found them. She said the apartments looked like they hadn’t been cleaned in years. I guess Mr. Robinson thinks its his job just to rationalize away his agency’s failures to fulfill its contractual responsibilities. See videos here, here and here. Cindy also said that refugee children missed vaccinations because the IC did not give rides to the medical clinic that they had promised. She also reported that the refugees’ landlord had her thrown off the apartment property by the police when she brought donations to the refugees. She said these landlords where working in close coordination with the International Center. IC caseworkers also showed up on a Sunday on a holiday weekend to watch (intimidate?) the refugees as they spoke to police who were bringing donated coats. Conditions were so bad that at least ten Karenni refugees quickly out-migrated to Minnesota, just to get away from the IC.
Kentucky’s state refugee coordinator Becky Jordan was most unhelpful when we brought these concerns to her attention earlier this year. She told us that she wasn’t going to communicate with us because we dared to ask her if she was concerned about the refugees. It turned out that she actually works for another refugee resettlement contractor in Kentucky, Catholic Charities. She has her office at Catholic Charities and receives a paycheck from them, while supposedly acting as their oversight agent (does that make any sense?). She even told us she was accountable to Catholic Charities and not to us.
That’s how the system works folks.