International Center in Bowling Green
Posted by Christopher Coen on November 6, 2012
Using a FOIA request I just found another government inspection report for the International Center in Bowling Green. Refugees have reported problems with this agency and a Matching Grant program inspection report uncovered more problems.
According to this December 2011 ORR inspection report a refugee couple from Myanmar who had arrived in Bowling Green two months earlier said that they had not received any job referral services or referral to other training. Their orientation – or lack of orientation – left them with no information on how to open a bank account, how to use medical insurance and other orientation issues. Another family from Myanmar reported receiving limited employment assistance from the International Center as well. The family also reported that they were unable to read letters sent from the school – indicating a lack of help with translation.
Tyson Food Company has hired refugees for jobs that start at an hourly rate of $9.45/hr. Refugees spend 14 hours a day in shift time, long-distance transportation and waiting for transportation after their shifts. Tyson reports that there is rarely follow-up from the International Center.
A stakeholders meeting revealed a “major communication gap” between the International Center and the local Owensboro health department and school district. The health department said that this resulted in arriving refugees only receiving a standard physical examination and not the full refugee health screening. Both the health department and the school district reported that the International Center had not given adequate warning of refugees arriving in the community. Both of these institutions, as well as stakeholders in Bowling Green, expressed surprise that the resettlement program is an eight month program with up to five years of services, apparently having been told that the program was a 90 day process (they apparently get the same standard line that the resettlement agencies give to the media).
Stakeholders in Bowling Green pointed out that the refugees were not fully utilizing mainstream programs such as Head Start and senior programs which offer transportation and meals for seniors. The local Chamber of Congress had to tell the International Center’s board to reach out to the community.
At a meeting with refugees in Bowling Green the refugees reported poor quality interpretation services at the International Center. They mentioned that transportation in Bowling Green is almost impossible by bus. They reported that the International Center strongly encouraged them to take jobs at Tyson and Perdue. Perdue is not a good place to work – the pay is low and there is no recourse to the treatment the refugees received there. The company gave terminations without cause and without due process.
The ORR monitoring team visit also revealed that the Kentucky Office for Refugees, under state refugee coordinator Becky Jordan, was not conducting adequate consultation in Owensboro or Bowling Green. ORR had to recommend that the Kentucky Office for Refugees provide the International Center with technical assistance for coordination with service providers that work with refugees.
Another recommendation was to help refugees find work locally to avoid the four-hour commutes and be able to spend more time with family, as well as be able to care for sick children if both parents are commuting to jobs at Tyson or Perdue. It’s not clear that the International Center has done anything to respond to this recommendation since the City of Bowling Green is now having to make its own effort to help refugees with finding local jobs (see today’s article at Bowling Green Daily News).
By the way, in the curious arrangement of contractors and government oversight agencies in the US refugee resettlement program, Becky Jordan is not only the Executive Director of Catholic Charities Refugee Services in Louisville, a refugee resettlement private contractor, and Kentucky’s state refugee coordinator, she is also part of ORR’s site visit teams that inspect other refugee resettlement contractors. For example, Ms. Jordan was part of ORR site visit team that inspected Louisiana’s refugee resettlement program in February 2011. Therefore, sometimes Ms. Jordan is inspecting her colleagues at resettlement contractors in other states and some day maybe one of them will be inspecting her agency.