Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Refugees vote for resettlement locations with their feet

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 18, 2011

While the State Department and their private resettlement agency partners continue to resettle refugees to large urban environments – many in dangerous neighborhoods with expensive, roachy apartments and poor schools – refugees continue to out-migrate. Lynn, Massachusetts and Chicago’s north and northwest suburbs are two areas seeing fairly heavy secondary migration (Lynn is also a primary refugee resettlement site). NPR’s WBUR has the details about Lynn.

LYNN, Mass. — With ts cheaper rentals and abundance of public housing, the city of Lynn has become a magnet for families displaced by an ailing economy. This includes a growing number of immigrants — many of whom are refugees seeking a better life…

…the population has grown by almost a third. The city has become a popular destination because of its access to public assistance programs and to public housing.

Lynn is also one of the few cities in Massachusetts where the United Nations High Commission for Refugees relocates people from all over the world. Families who have endured war and famine come from countries as far away as Sudan, Bhutan and Iraq… Read more here

Chicago Public Media WBEZ explains the situation in the Chicago area. Although Chicago’s suburbs are home to established Iraqi populations, resettlement agencies like Heartland Alliance and RefugeeONE continue to resettle Iraqis into the intercity away from their already established relatives:

The Uptown neighborhood on Chicago’s North Side is an established hub for refugee resettlement. There are many agencies there, and refugees opt to live nearby. But recently more refugees bypass Chicago altogether and head to the north and northwest suburbs instead. Those communities are discovering these new populations in their schools, and suburban educators are having to adjust to meet the unique needs of their newest arrivals…

WANGERIN: We were seeing fewer and fewer Iraqis actually come to our office and avail of our services.

Greg Wangerin is with RefugeeONE, in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. He started to notice the difference in 2007, when the number of Iraqi refugees spiked. Now, Iraqis are the largest group of refugees coming to the Chicago area.

WANGERIN: We began to examine why, and we noticed that this was the circumstance, again because they were coming to reunite with relatives up in that area.

Chicago’s suburbs are home to established Iraqi populations. They came as a result of the Iran-Iraq war in the 80s, and Operation Desert Storm in the 90s. Wangerin says there are other reasons Iraqi refugees are heading to suburbs… Read more here

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5 Responses to “Refugees vote for resettlement locations with their feet”

  1. Thank you very much for visiting this issue of secondary migration. We serve secondary migrant refugees who come from other states occassionally. ORR does not help agencies that accomodate and serve such immigrants. Some migrate within a month of admission. I appreciate your committment to be the voice of the voiceless. Listen ORR, you have to solve this issue. It is within the realm of your responsibility. I will continue to work hard on secondary migration. What is the responsiblity of contractors and ORR in this issue?
    What is the position of the State Department (Office of PRM)? Gedlu

  2. nancylee1 said

    All of the Iraqi refugees I have worked within the Chicago area had been resettled on the far north lake shore. One couple with a 2 yr old boy was in an apartment that smelled horrible and was infested with bedbugs that caused the child to need medical treatment for allergic response to bites. They were threatened with being cut off from all funding if they did not remain in the apartment for 6 months. After 6 months they moved to an apartment in a north suburb that they found on their own.

    Another couple with a 7 yr old girl and a 9 yr old boy were put in a tiny one bedroom apartment, so small that they were on top of each other all the time. They also moved to an area in the suburbs in the northwest area.

    Chicago rents are high and unemployment is also high…the refugees I know had to work very low paying jobs with long commutes on public transportation. There are also many neighborhoods that have a gang presence that is truly frightening.

    With as long as refugee resettlement has been going on and for as long as it will continue due to these endless wars, you would think that the government and the agencies could get together to make a better plan for incoming people to start off in a good way. But the bottom line is that our government is not made up of people who care about these issues, and the well being of refugees and US citizens is not a priority. We must realize this when complaining about poor treatment. The United States is no longer a nation of the people, by the people, for the people…it is a nation for the top 1% only, and the rest do not matter.

  3. nancylee1 said

    I should add that Jan Shakowsky and Danny Davis are two legislators that I know of that do truly care and spend much energy trying to fight for the rights of everyone to be treated fairly.

    • I had a bad experience dealing with Jan Schakowsky’s office. She is more pro “refugee resettlement agency in her district” than pro-refugee. When the Heartland Alliance resettlement agency was abusing and neglecting the ‘Lost Boys of Sudan’ refugees in 2002 a high-up member of her staff made it clear that Schakowsky was there to defend Heartland Alliance, not the refugees.

      • nancylee1 said

        I am suprised….but that is good to know. So that’s one less who cares…out of not many at all.

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