In response to the commissioning of the comprehensive interagency review of refugee resettlement led by the National Security Council, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) submitted a list of recommendations here.
Writing for HIAS, Mark Hetfield, their Senior Vice-President for Policy and Programs, aside from the initial prerequisite butt kissing, paints a picture of federal government agencies operating in little coordination. He likens the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) — consisting of three federal agencies (and their subcomponents), the voluntary agencies, the states, UNHCR, and the International Organization for Migration – to a “snake” sliced into thirteen pieces (I can’t make this stuff up) .
With regard to the overseas part of the refugee program he advocates for change, writing that its “rife with redundancies and inefficiencies. The same information is collected multiple times by multiple parties (UNHCR, OPE/PRM, USCIS) in multiple forms and interviews, and then is not even shared with the receiving VOLAG or ORR in ways that could ensure better reception and integration.”
He also advocates NGOs (non-governmental organizations), such as the overseas wings of many of the U.S. domestic refugee resettlement agencies, be involved in the redesign of the refugee referral process (referral of refugees oversees for resettlement in the US), with an eye toward allowing greater involvement for the NGO resettlement agencies. He writes, “NGO partners should be engaged, resourced, and held accountable for referrals by [the State Department] as well as by UNHCR.”
This must be a first that a resettlement agency has ever requested that they be held accountable for anything (at least its the first time I’ve heard it). What bothers me is the recommendation that refugee resettlement agencies be “resourced” for referring refugees for resettlement. If they wish to insinuate themselves into the referral process, and its debatable whether that is wise or not, why don’t they fund themselves to do that? I mean, these private groups are not accountable to the U.S. public, so why should we be paying them for their operations?
HIAS also recommends that the Priority Three (P3): Family Reunification for Designated Nationalities refugee immigration category be “expanded so that it no longer discriminates on the basis of nationality …”.
This sudden interest in discrimination based on nationality is interesting in view of HIAS’ long support and heavy lobbying for the Morrison-Lautenberg Amendment, which grants extraordinary immigration privileges to certain groups of refugees based solely on their nationality (former Soviet-Republics) and religion (mostly Jewish, with a few evangelical Christians, Ukrainian Catholic/ Ukrainian Orthodox churches, as well as religious minorities in Iran, etc).
In addition, HIAS wants more “supplemental funding” – of course. According to HIAS, this “supplemental funding and placement should take into account (1) refugees with special needs relating to their mental or physical health; (2) refugees who are illiterate or semi-literate and therefore need more preparation for entry into the workforce; and (3) refugees who were professionals when they fled but who need recertification in order to practice their profession or their field in the United States.” According to HIAS, most refugees with professional credentials “end up driving cabs or working in Starbucks because they receive no assistance whatsoever obtaining the credentials necessary to work in their field of expertise.” No assistance from either the public or the private partners in the resettlement establishment?
But why should each and every one of these problems need solving by the government? Again, what is the point of the highly touted “private sector contribution” from the resettlement agencies if they offer so little help with these needs? Why aren’t they able to raise any private funding for these services? Do they really need more government funding simply to direct refugees with professional credentials and experience to jobs that are right for them?
HIAS also wants the U.S. Government to temporarily allow resettlement agencies to (1) resettle refugees outside of the “zone of resettlement agencies”, to places where they can find employment, (2) the lifting of refugee “free case” (refugees with no known established ties to someone in the US) site restrictions, and (3) the “relaxing” of some housing standards.
In other words the US government should allow resettlement agencies to resettle refugees directly to meatpacking plant sites (think JBS Swift & Co.’s meatpacking plant in Cactus, TX , or Mountaire Farms’ processing plant in Moorefield, W.Va) where the agencies have no offices or support for the refugees, and where local government social services agencies have no expertise in refugee issues. Many of these meatpacking sites also do not offer ESL classes, or have any services for refugees with post-traumatic stress disorder (PSD) and other mental health issues due to torture and other previous abuse. Refugees will also be attending medical appointments where medical clinics may not offer interpretation.
As far as “relaxing” some housing standards, the standards are already bare minimum, e.g. no rodent or insect infestations, no dangerously dilapidated apartments, the need for smoke alarms. How low does HIAS wish to go? (if you were to see some of the dives into which the resettlement agencies place refugees you would wonder where further relaxation of housing standards would lead to.) Do they propose housing refugees in apartments with severe code violations, packing 2-3 families in each apartment, housing refugees in barns?
Finally, HIAS proposes creation of a “refugee resettlement academy” — that would create webinars, certification processes, and the sharing of best practices among the local and national players. Again, they want government do this instead of HIAS and its refugee resettlement cohorts — the volags. Yet, why would this be government’s function and not that of the private sphere?
The volags have certainly been successful in putting together the Refugee Council USA (RCUSA), which regularly and vigorously lobbies for increased government-funding for their agencies, as well as for refugee welfare. Have they ever considered re-mandating RCUSA from begging for ever greater amounts of public money for their organizations to a group that would actually help refugees? They could rename it the RCUSA Refugee Resettlement Academy.