Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Proposed TN legislation would codify the federal regulation to “consult with local communities”

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 22, 2011

A bill in the Tennessee legislature would mandate, via state law, that refugee resettlement agencies consult with local communities. The Shelbyville Times-Gazette has an article explaining the proposed legislation:

…Refugee bill

SB1670 is another bill [State Sen. Jim] Tracy filed with Bedford County in mind. The proposed legislation would codify federal regulations to ensure that local communities would be able to absorb refugees.

The bill would make sure that a town’s “absorptive capacity” would be evaluated at regular intervals in consultation between the local governments and the resettlement agencies before commitments are made for refugee resettlement….

…Tracy said that there has been “a lot of discussion across the state about this, particularly in Bedford County … but other counties also.” The proposed bill would require resettlement agencies to let local governments know when a large number of refugees are coming “because it puts a burden on the local community.”

The bill would require the charitable organizations that sponsor the refugees to let the state know when refugees are coming, how many, “what they’re (the agencies) getting paid and where the money is going.”

In 2008, the state withdrew from administering refugee services, but appointed Catholic Charities as the fiduciary agency for the state’s refugee programs.

The Tennessee Office for Refugees, a department of Catholic Charities, would be required to meet four times a year with local governments representatives to plan and coordinate the appropriate placement of refugees in advance of their arrival…

…The state refugee office would also be required to accept applications from a local government for a moratorium on new resettlement if the host community “lacks sufficient absorptive capacity,” the bill reads.

If a determination is made that further resettlement in the host community “would result in an adverse impact to existing residents,” then the Tennessee Office for Refugees would suspend additional resettlement until it is jointly determined by local officials and the state refugee coordinator that there is an “absorptive capacity.”

The bill is cosponsored by Sens. Ken Yager and Rusty Crowe, with the House version of the bill introduced by Rep. Bill Dunn of the 16th District… Read more here

Currently, state refugee coordinators are required, via ORR regulations, to convene quarterly meetings each year whereby representatives of local resettlement agencies, local community service agencies, and other agencies that serve refugees meet with representatives of State and local governments to plan and coordinate the proper placement of refugees in advance of the refugees’ arrival.

In addition, according to the U.S. State Department’s Cooperative Agreement contract with refugee resettlement agencies ”the number of refugees assigned to an approved applicant will be determined by the [State Department], in accordance with the needs of the Admissions Program, taking into account… placement recommendations of state and local officials…” (see V. Refugee Caseload Assignment).

Apparently, federal regulations mean little when not enforced, thus requiring local codification. Let’s see where this goes.

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