Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Archive for the ‘employment/jobs for refugees’ Category

Jewish Family Services of Los Angeles disappoints

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 11, 2016

Inspection

Inspection

US Department of State monitors visited Jewish Family Services of Los Angeles in November 2013. They assessed the resettlement agency as only “partially compliant” with requirements. Documentation of services was so incomplete that monitors could not figure compliance or timely compliance with requirements. The affiliate had no structured training program for employees and did not use any volunteers to aid refugees. The program director demonstrated limited knowledge of how coordination of services for refugees occurs. Of the four refugee families visited by monitors, two did not receive all required furnishings. No members of the families visited were employed. None of the files reviewed documented help with enrollment in English language classes. All three files for families with school-aged children failed to document help with school enrollment. The following are excerpts from the inspection report:

Monitors found Jewish Family Services of Los Angeles (JFSLA) partially compliant with Reception and Placement Program (R&P) requirements. …case files and case note logs usually did not document dates of application or dates of assistance with access to services for which refugees were eligible. Therefore, monitors could not determine timely compliance with R&P requirements…. The affiliate does not have a structured training program.

The affiliate does not use volunteers to assist refugees with R&P activities…

…The program director does not attend [bi-monthly meetings of the Refugee Forum or the annual consultation with the state refugee coordinator] and has limited contact with other refugee service providers. She demonstrated limited knowledge of how coordination of services for refugees occurs…

Other than webinars, the case manager has received no formal training on R&P requirements or case management training. She demonstrated [only] a basic understanding of R&P requirements…

Monitors visited four refugee families who had arrived between July and September 2013. …monitors observed that two families did not have bed frames. …one refugee did not know how to contact emergency services. No members of the families visited were employed.

Monitors reviewed 20 case files. Monitors were not able to verify timely compliance with core service delivery because most case note logs did not document the date that refugees applied for public benefits, food stamps, social security cards or other services; the date refugees received assistance with access to English language programs or employment programs; the date refugees attended their health screenings; or the date children were enrolled in school.

None of the files reviewed documented assistance with enrollment in English language classes. Ten files failed to document application for public benefits and seven files did not document the application outcome or start date… All three files for families with school-aged children failed to document assistance with school enrollment… The three files pertaining to males between the ages of 18 and 26 did not document registration with selective service…

None of the families visited by monitors fully understood when their benefits would end… Read more here

Posted in Cooperative Agreement, employment services, employment/jobs for refugees, furnishings, lack of, HIAS, Iranian, Jewish, Jewish Family Services of Los Angeles, Los Angeles, Operational Guidance, R&P, school for refugee children, State Department | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center in Worcester only “partially compliant”

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 9, 2016

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U.S. Department of State monitors visited the Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center (RIAC) in Worcester in October 2013 and assessed the agency as only “ partially compliant” with requirements. Apparently, RIAC did not have to pay any fines or face other serious consequences for leaving refugees without needed services, as is typical. The agency failed to use proper interpretation, failed to use car safety seats when transporting small children, and apparently placed refugees in apartments with leaking ceilings and mice infestations. In another apartment, monitors observed a hole in the bathroom wall, a broken window, and closet door off its hinges. Two of the families visited were not provided bed frames for all the beds in the apartments. Read excerpts below from the monitoring report:

Monitors found Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center (RIAC) of Worcester partially compliant with Reception and Placement Program (R&P) requirements. …appropriate language interpretation was not always used. Case files did not always contain complete public assistance and financial records. Three of the homes visited had rodent infestations and needed repairs. Refugee visits…the substance of these contacts was not always recorded in the case notes. The affiliate was not obeying local motor safety laws when transporting small children, and refugee minor files were incomplete…

Monitors visited four refugee families who arrived between March and June 2013. Two of the families visited did not receive appropriate interpretation when met at the airport…

Three out of the four apartments visited had mice infestations and bathrooms with several water-stained ceiling tiles. One family reported a leak in the bathroom ceiling, and the other two families stated the ceilings were already damaged when they moved into the apartments. One family reported that they do not feel safe in their neighborhood at night because they heard that a refugee had been robbed and beaten in the middle of the afternoon after cashing a check at a nearby bank… Another family reported that a broken kitchen chair was initially provided, and then discarded, and never replaced by the affiliate. In another apartment, monitors observed a hole in the bathroom wall, a broken window, and closet door off its hinges. Two of the families visited were not provided bed frames for all of the beds in the apartments and a view of their case files showed no reasons given for their absence.

Although case file reviews indicated that all refugees were given orientation by the affiliate, two families reported that they only received orientation about life in the U.S. when they were still overseas, and a third family stated that the U.S. tie who accompanied them to the orientation was not sufficiently fluent in English to interpret and that appropriate language interpretation was provided by RIAC. [Only] two families visited had members who were able to recount some orientation topics.

…The two families with small children reported that the affiliate did not use car seats when transporting their children in motor vehicles…

A single mother with a disabled son became emotional during the monitors’ visit…the refugee and RIAC staff told monitors that they often communicated with each other in English, which the refugee does not fully understand, or relied on one of her children, also not fluent in English, to interpret.

No case files contained documentation that refugees understood key orientation objectives… Read more here

Posted in beds, children, community/cultural orientation, Cooperative Agreement, crime, dangerous neighborhoods, disabled refugees, ECDC, employment services, employment/jobs for refugees, furnishings, lack of, household items, missing or broken, housing, housing, substandard, Iraqi, language interpretation/translation, lack of, Nepali Bhutanese, rats and roaches, Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center (Boston), State Department, Worcester | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Catholic Charities San Bernardino out of compliance

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 8, 2016

graphic - refugee security clearance

A 2014 inspection report for Catholic Charities San Bernardino reveals that the resettlement agency violated many requirements of their State Department resettlement contracts. The State Department rated the agency as only “partially compliant” with requirements. Staff had poor understanding of the Cooperative Agreement, refugees had not received vaccinations or health screenings, and none of the refugees was employed. The affiliate did not help refugees enroll in English Language programs nor employment services, nor register with Selective Service. Read more below:

Monitors found Catholic Charities San Bernardino (CCSB) partially compliant with Reception and Placement Program (R&P) requirements…

Monitors interviewed the resettlement director and the part-time case manager. Although the resettlement director has supervised R&P activities for ten years, she had only a basic understanding of Cooperative Agreement requirements and reported limited oversight of R&P activities. The case manager, who has worked with the affiliate for six months, was not familiar with the Cooperative Agreement, and has limited understanding of R&P requirements…

Monitors visited four refugee families who arrived between August and November 2013…

Three out of four families had not received vaccinations or completed their health screenings. No members of the families visited were employed, and all families reported they were not receiving assistance with an employment search from the county Department of Social Services. Monitors visited two families with children under the age of five years of age and one was not receiving WIC benefits. Refugees visited who did not speak English told monitors that affiliate staff did not assist them to enroll in English language programs.

Monitors reviewed 20 case files…

None of the four case files pertaining to males between the ages of 18 and 26 documented registration with Selective Service within 30 days of arrival. None of the files reviewed documented assistance with enrollment in English language programs or employment services… Read more here

Posted in Afghan, Catholic Charities San Bernardino, Cooperative Agreement, employment services, employment/jobs for refugees, health, Iraqi, late health screenings, men, San Bernardino, USCCB | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Refugees in Jacksonville still recovering from van crash

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 30, 2015

crash

Refugees in Jacksonville in Florida are still trying to recover from a serious crash in which the van they were traveling in overturned in October. World Relief has started a donation fund for the injured refugees.  Action News Jax has the latest details:

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Action News Jax first reported the Oct. 30 crash that included a group of local refugees headed to work on Interstate 75. Many of those involved in the crash are just trying to start a new life in a new country.

Some of the families are now struggling to recover both physically and financially.

Local refugee families are still recovering from the serious crash that almost took their lives.

Seventeen refugees headed from Jacksonville to work at Pilgrim’s Pride in Lake City when their van overturned and caused serious injuries for many of the workers… Read more here

Posted in Jacksonville, passenger van roll-over, poultry production, World Relief | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

According to studies, low-skilled immigration helps the economy on net

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 24, 2015

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In this election-season climate of resentment and anger, right-wing politicians are railing against low-skilled immigrant families. A careful look at the data, however, shows that the negative outlook is misplaced. To start, legal immigration has always been quite a bit higher than the illegal kind, and illegal immigration is now close to zero, and both groups of immigrants prosper. According to a 2007 Brookings Institute report, the Pew report, and a Center for Immigration Studies report immigrants to the U.S. tend to experience very strong upward mobility between the first and second generations, and is much higher than for native-born Americans. An article from Bloomberg at MSN.com has more:

(Bloomberg View) — The immigration issue is fraught at the best of times, but especially so right now, with the rhetoric emanating from Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Yet David Frum, a former George W. Bush speechwriter and senior editor at the Atlantic, has chosen this time to wade into the fray with a long article about the downsides of low-skilled immigration. Unfortunately, Frum’s article has a number of problems, as well as some weak arguments, that make low-skilled immigration appear less beneficial than it really is… Read more here

Posted in employment/jobs for refugees | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Second Tragic Van Crash in Three Years for Refugees in Jacksonville, Florida

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 2, 2015

vancrashIt’s been three years since word of the last passenger van rollover crash involving refugees. In October 2012 there was a van crash outside Jacksonville, Florida.  In that case a car driving the wrong way on Interstate 10 in Baker County struck a van carrying refugees resettled by World Relief who were on the return leg of a 190-mile round-trip to jobs at a chicken processing plant; two refugees were killed and seven injured. Last Friday, almost three years to the day, 17 refugee workers resettled by World Relief in Jacksonville, and traveling in a passenger van to their jobs at the Pilgrim’s Pride chicken processing plant in Suwannee County, were involved in another crash that overturned the vehicle, ejecting multiple unsecured passengers. The 2006 Ford E-350 van, carrying 17, is designed to carry at most 15 passengers.  There has been a series of passenger van rollover accidents involving refugees.  One man has since 2008 advised groups to get rid of all 12-passenger and 15-passenger vans, and replace them with 7-passenger mini vans or school buses, which have a much lower rollover propensity at higher occupant loads.  Articles and video news reports about this recent rollover are found at Action News Jax:

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Fla. — Thirteen people are in the hospital after a three-vehicle crash in Columbia County on Friday afternoon. Two of those people are in critical condition.

The crash backed up Interstate 75 northbound…

The Florida Highway Patrol said Pah Kyar was driving a van that was carrying at least 17 foreign workers to their jobs at the Pilgrim’s Pride chicken processing plant in Suwannee County.

According to an FHP report, Kyar was traveling northbound in the center lane of I-75. A Ford F350 truck was in front of a Toyota 4-Runner that were both traveling in the inside lane also heading northbound. FHP says Kyar slowed rapidly in the van and attempted to move to the center median….the 4-Runner was unable to avoid Kyar’s rapid deceleration and lane change. The front end of the 4-Runner struck the rear of the van driven by Kyar sending the van into the median. The van overturned and multiple unsecured passengers were ejected, the report says. Kyar was cited for an improper lane change and was not injured in the crash.

“Due to the fact that there were ejections and it sounds like there was multiple people in the vehicle – upwards to possibly 17 – we’re thinking obviously that there were many not wearing seatbelts,” said FHP Sgt. Tracy Pace.

Action News Jax checked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website and found the 2006 Ford E-350 driven by Kyar is designed to carry a maximum of 15 passengers.

Pace said the workers are from Myanmar and Nepal.

Ten people in the van were driven to the hospital. Three more were airlifted… Read more here

and

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Fla. — The Wah family is just one of the families recovering from a crash that happened on Interstate 75 in Columbia County on Friday.

The Florida Highway Patrol said 17 people were in the van when it crashed with another vehicle and a tow truck.

World Relief in Jacksonville said those in the van were all refugees and were headed to work at Pilgrim’s Pride…
Pilgrim’s Pride said the van that was involved in the crash was not theirs. Koirala said the van is what the refugees personally used to carpool to work.

World Relief said there was a fatal crash back in 2012 when refugees were returning home from work at Pilgrim’s Pride… Read more here

Posted in Burma/Myanmar, Jacksonville, meatpacking industry, Nepali Bhutanese, passenger van roll-over, poultry production, World Relief | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Labor-starved Vermont businesses welcome refugees

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 15, 2015

help_wantedVermont has an older, declining population and the 4th lowest unemployment rate in the country at 3.6 percent.  As a result, employers in the state find themselves starved for workers.  With more jobs than workers, Vermont workers are avoiding low-paying manufacturing work involving repetitive, tedious work.  These are the jobs some people claim that refugees are “stealing.”   Refugees resettled to the state are helping to keep many businesses running.  An article at Public Radio International tells more:

…[The Koffee Kup Bakery] produces 480,000 doughnuts a day at its bakery. Most of the people responsible for baking and packaging all those donughts are refugees, largely from Bhutan and Nepal. 

Making doughnuts — seasonal pumpkin ones this time of year — is repetitive, tedious work. Once they’re cool, doughnuts stream down a conveyor belt where workers quickly pluck off six and box them up. Starting pay here is $14 an hour, plus benefits, which is at the high end for lower skilled workers.

“Without the refugee workforce, we would not have been able to succeed at the level we’ve been able to succeed,” says human resources manager Judy Schraven.

She says her refugee employees have been instrumental in growing the company’s revenues 30 percent annually for the past three years. She says if she posts an ad looking for employees, people don’t answer.

“It is actually almost impossible to find non-refugee workers that are willing to work in the manufacturing environments.”…
Vermont has an older, declining population and the state has the 4th lowest unemployment rate in the country at 3.6 percent. So, many local companies are tapping into the refugee labor pool. To do that, they turn to Eric Duffy, an employment counselor with the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program. 

“The demand is much higher than we can supply at this time. Almost on a daily basis we’re getting phone calls from new people trying to work with us,” says Duffy… Read more here

Posted in employment/jobs for refugees, Nepali Bhutanese | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

High suicide rate among Bhutanese refugees explained

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 1, 2015

suicide-messageA recent newspaper article from Iowa finally gives the most complete explanation for the high rate of suicide among Bhutanese refugees (Lhotshampa). These refugees have the highest suicide rate in the country (including refugees and every other group in the US), with 20 self-inflicted deaths per 100,000 people (this blog began addressing this issue five years ago, here-1, here-2, here-3, and here-4). Now, Parangkush Subedi, a health policy analyst from the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), explains that much of this goes beyond past traumatic experiences, language, isolation, the great difficulty of adjusting to a new culture, and trying to find and maintain employment. Subedi says that the Bhutanese refugees are also deeply influenced by their culture. They believe they must also fight evil spirits, satisfy the lurking souls of the ancestors, and contend with ancient Hindu or Buddhist beliefs about fate — preordained karma. This belief tells them that their problems are a form of punishment; creating a heavy burden of guilt and hopelessness. All these factors combined lead to a large percentage of this refugee group having undiagnosed mental illnesses, chiefly severe depression. To address this issue Subedi urges Bhutanese refugee community members to set aside the stigma, talk about it and ask for help from a doctor, refugee coordinator, teacher or suicide hotline. Subedi asks that the larger Bhutanese refugee community increase its outreach to community members, and that community members listen without judging. He also recommends music, yoga, dance activities, and most importantly, sharing stories of hope so refugees who are struggling are aware that others in their position have succeeded. The article is found in the Des Moines Register:

Sorrow can feel overwhelming if you’ve lost someone, can’t find a job or pay your bills. But imagine also being uprooted from all that’s familiar, not speaking the language or understanding the customs, and being home-bound. Then, to round out the challenges, you have to fight evil spirits, satisfy the lurking souls of the ancestors, and contend with preordained karma…

…the U.N. High Commission for Refugees in 2007 began relocating [Bhutanese refugees] on a permanent basis. America has taken in 75,000 Bhutanese refugees since then. But with 20 self-inflicted deaths per 100,000 people,they have the highest suicide rate in the country.

So suicide prevention commanded center stage at a national gathering in West Des Moines over the weekend of the Association of Bhutanese in America. A health policy analyst from the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) urged community members to set aside the stigma, talk about it and ask for help.

More than one in five Bhutanese refugees nationwide is depressed, but according to Parangkush Subedi of ORR, they may not know what that means. Some develop physical symptoms, like panic attacks, stress or gastrointestinal disorders. But many are [also] deeply influenced by ancient Hindu or Buddhist beliefs about fate, and think that if they can’t find a job or make the rent, it’s a form of punishment. Add in traumatic life circumstances and, Subedi told the gathering in Nepali, “They feel they have no alternative to suicide.”…

Depression is the most common mental illness in America, affecting more than one in four adults. Certain triggering factors like job loss or family conflict can bring it on in most of us. And people of any background may abuse substances in response. But refugees have also been separated from the extended family networks they leaned on, and from their places of worship. Less able to navigate society than even their school-age children, parents see their roles shifting from heads of household to burdens. They feel shame and stigma. Their children, increasingly integrated into this new society, start to pull away. Other refugee populations have had similar experiences, but Subedi said the Bhutanese are particularly emotional, and many experienced trauma in the refugee camps. Those who suffered gender-based violence are especially vulnerable…

…in the end we’re all looking for the same basic things: Meaning, connectedness, a way to express ourselves. Forging community may be the best antidote to sorrow… Read more here

Posted in community/cultural orientation, cultural adjustment, employment/jobs for refugees, language, mental health, Nepali Bhutanese, ORR | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Capital campaigns in refugee resettlement

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 16, 2015

headquarters-3Whenever it comes to capital campaigns for new headquarters, refugee resettlement contractors (non-profit businesses) often excel at raising millions of dollars (see examples here and here and here). Conversely, ask resettlement agencies to give their refugee clients basic services and material items and they are quick to say that resources are limited and that they don’t get enough funding from the federal government. A case in point is Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota (LSSND). According to recent media reports the agency recently moved into its new $5 million headquarters, which houses many of its community service programs, including refugee resettlement. In the ten years during which I monitored this agency, however, refugee clients often went without basic clothing items, including winter boots and coats — in Fargo of all places (not exactly a warm climate). LSSND often gave refugees damaged, dirty and broken donated housing items and furnishings. Refugees were pushed into any jobs offered, no matter how inappropriate and even dangerous due to the person’s health condition or lack of English skills, due to limited resources for helping refugees become economically self-sufficient. A LSSND middle-age Sudanese refugee client who had helped birth over 10,000 infants in Africa was required to take a job at a storage tank manufacturing company, despite his protestations that he was not strong enough. He was then injured, involving an apparent hernia, while doing lifting. Now, $5 million later, however, LSSND agency employees at the new headquarters are basking under “large windows that fill the interior with natural light”, illuminating “the new structure’s fine art décor.” LSSND’s CEO Jessica Thomasson says these amenities are not just for clients’ “sense of pride”, but for the benefit of employees (maybe that’s the other way around). My idea, however, is that instead of resettlement agencies raising millions for capital improvements, they have campaigns to raise millions for basic services for refugees, and begin funding needs before wants.

Thomasson also prides LSSND’s “great” relationships with area employers, allowing refugees can find quick employment. Yet, that also includes quick termination, and from jobs paying scarcely more than the federal minimum wage. I had the opportunity two years ago to sit down with the owner and a vice president of one of the main companies LSSND works with; a wire harness manufacturer. The two men made it clear to me that they terminate refugees quickly when there is any under-performance. In fact, they were looking to hire a supervisor whose job would mainly be to fire people; essentially someone who did not need to have supervisory skills — working with employees to resolve problems.

An article in the Fargo Forum announces LSSND’s new headquarters grand opening:

FARGO – Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota’s new headquarters building is a beauty. Large windows fill the interior with natural light and there are many spaces, big and small, where folks can gather and talk, either in a large-meeting setting, or one on one.

As you enter the building, there’s not one waiting room but two, and there are large photos on the walls showing people with warm smiles.

The portraits, which include images of past clients as well as volunteers and staff, are a feature of LSS offices across the state and are intended to put visitors at ease, said Kristi Becker Ulrich, director of communications and development at LSS.

That aim is bolstered by the new structure’s fine art decor and overall feel, she said.

“I think there’s a sense of pride when they (clients) come to a building like this,” said Ulrich, who along with other staff moved into the new structure at 3911 20th Ave. S. in March…

The work cost about $5 million, which came from private donations.

A sculpture in the lobby pays tribute to that generosity with a display of the names of donors inscribed on medallions. The size of the medallions varies and is commensurate with the size of a given donation.

“We had one donor who donated more than $500,000 to our capital campaign, so she has a dove,” Ulrich said…
One area where the agency plays a major role is in resettling refugees, a service it started offering at the end of World War II.

“We’re really a conduit for that resettlement work to happen,” said Jessica Thomasson, LSS of North Dakota CEO.

 said the agency is only able to do such work because of the many connections it has built with others, including schools and employers.

“We have a great relationship with a lot of employers,” Thomasson said, which allows many new Americans to find work quickly.

“I think employers are both supportive (of resettlement efforts), but also grateful for the opportunity to have access to a very hard-working workforce,” Thomasson said while acknowledging that some in the community don’t always view newcomers favorably… Read more here

Posted in employment services, employment/jobs for refugees, lavish new offices | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Refugees in Tucson face underemployment, prejudice and racism from the community

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 1, 2015

stock-vector-business-finance-office-workplace-people-man-working-icon-symbol-sign-78377362

A recent newspaper article explores the plight of refugees placed for resettlement in Tucson, Arizona. It seems that the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is placing refugee professionals such as mechanical engineers and doctors in entry-level jobs such as dish washing. While I don’t wish to be cynical I do wish to have some healthy skepticism here. Are there really no jobs in Tucson, even lower level ones, in which employers are looking for people with engineering or medical knowledge? It seems that the IRC has grown accustomed to using the least effort in placing refugees in jobs, without taking advantage of other options. The state of Idaho created a program to help these refugees, and help Idaho, rather than waste these professionals’ knowledge and experience. The article also discusses a case in which a refugee man was riding his bike home from work at 2 a.m. when a group of men in a pickup truck taunted him and ran him off the road. The entire side of his body was torn up. The IRC relocated him from his home for fear of persecution. An article in The Arizona Daily Wildcat explains:

…Caitlin Reinhard, senior employment specialist for the International Rescue Committee, in Tucson [spoke] about the issues refugees face in the community. Regardless of professional and educational background, the first job that many refugees obtain are minimum wage, entry-level jobs. Therefore, it is not uncommon for a mechanical engineer to be placed in Tucson and work as a dishwasher.

Reinhard emphasized the reluctance of employers to hire overqualified employees. For example, a refugee who was a doctor in their home country would have more trouble finding employment than a refugee with a grade-school level of education…

In conjunction with employment issues…Tucson refugees face prejudice and racism from the community in which they are working to become members. Reinhard spoke of a client who worked the night shift at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Golf Resort and Spa. On his way home from work, the man rode his bike to the intersection of Alvernon Way and Grant Road at 2 a.m. when a group of men in a pickup truck taunted him and ran him off the road. The entire side of his body was torn up.

We were more outraged than he was,” Reinhard said.

The  man was relocated from his home for fear of persecution. He did not harbor negative feelings toward Americans. However, because of our cultural biases, our community threatened his safety… Read more here

Posted in abuse, Arizona, employment/jobs for refugees, hate crimes, IRC, professionals, safety | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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