Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Archive for the ‘funding’ Category

ORR funnels money for immigrant minor’s legal services to lawyer-less USCRI group

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 19, 2016

CorruptionUnder ORR director Eskinder Negash’s reign the agency funneled large amounts of funding to the USCRI, of which he had been the deputy director. After he resigned from the ORR last year the agency continued to funnel a large amount of funding to the USCRI, to which he has now returned as it’s Senior Vice President for Global Engagement. One of those ORR contracts recently went to USCRI for its Youth Coop affiliate in Miami for legal services for unaccompanied minors, though the group had no legal staff. Tossed aside were the organizations Americans for Immigrant Justice and Catholic Legal Services, which have represented migrant children for years, prompting Archbishop Thomas Wenski to write to HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell in October expressing his concern and that immigration court judges were angry about the situation. Youth-Coop has now formed a legal services entity and hired Arno Lemus as its legal director. Lemus, however, does not have the right legal background and has only two years as a barred lawyer. None of Lemus’ specialties in the law deal with the legal services the unaccompanied minors need, yet he’s being tasked with running a massive, extremely complex project linked with the fates of thousands of young, vulnerable children. An article at HuffPost explains the case:

WASHINGTON — Thousands of unaccompanied minors who came across the U.S. border as part of the migrant crisis are at risk of being deported without due process, the archbishop of Miami has warned the Obama administration.

Although the law dictates that these children must be given legal services, recent moves by the Office of Refugee Resettlement have thrown that into doubt. ORR, which is an agency under the umbrella of Health and Human Services, awarded the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants a contract to represent the children. USCRI in turn planned to subcontract with a social services firm that employed zero attorneys at the time.

“Many of these cases are time sensitive, and if they do not receive immediate attention, the affected children face imminent deportation,” Archbishop Thomas Wenski warned HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell in a letter sent in October, and which The Huffington Post obtained last week. Judges in Miami have privately warned that the move could jam up the court dockets for as long as a year… Read more here

Posted in children, funding, Guatemalan, Honduran, immigration services, Miami, ORR, revolving door, Salvadoran, teenagers, teens, USCRI, Youth Co-op, Inc. | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Feds to Resettlement Agencies – “States Cannot Block Syrians”

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 25, 2015


Today the federal government notified refugee resettlement agencies across the United States that states do not have the authority to refuse to accept Syrians. In a letter to state agencies the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) wrote, “States may not deny ORR-funded benefits and services to refugees based on a refugee’s country of origin or religious affiliation. Accordingly, states may not categorically deny ORR-funded benefits and services to Syrian refugees,” and that states that do not comply would be violating the law and “could be subject to enforcement action, including suspension or termination.” The announcement may mean that the federal government will place Syrians in states regardless hostile statements from 30 Republican governors. An article in the Houston Chronicle tells more:

The federal government on Wednesday informed refugee resettlement agencies in Texas and across the United States that states do not have the authority to refuse to accept Syrians.

The statement, made in a letter obtained by the Houston Chronicle, marks the first time that federal refugee program officials formally have denounced statements by governors including Greg Abbott of Texas and may signal they will place Syrians here and elsewhere regardless of the governors’ wishes…. Read more here

Posted in funding, Houston, Muslim, religion, Syrian, unwelcoming communities | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Call for Renewal of Private Sponsorship of Refugees

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 5, 2015

BeasponsorThe Niskanen Center, a libertarian think-tank in Washington D.C., is promoting a renewal of private sponsorship in the US refugee resettlement program. The group is calling for a relaunch of a Reagan administration era program known as the Private Sector Initiative (PSI), similar to a refugee resettlement program in Canada in which citizens act as sponsors to refugees, committing to provide the assistance individual refugees or refugee families need to resettle. The Canadian program has privately resettled 230,000 refugees since 1978, with the costs estimated to begin at about CA$12,600 (US$9,572) for a single refugee over one year. The Reagan administration created the PSI by entering into agreements with ethnic charities and from 1988 to 1993 privately resettled almost 16,000 refugees.  The US Arab community and others are suggesting the initiative as part of a way to address the enormous Syrian refugee crises that has seen 11 million Syrians displaced, seven million internally within Syria and four million outside of the country, or almost half of the country’s 23 million people. An article at Thomson Reuters Foundation explores the idea of renewing refugee resettlement private sponsorship in the US:

…although the United States has promised to resettle at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the coming year, this can only happen through government channels at present, prompting calls for change as the refugee crisis escalates…

Under the U.S. model, private donations can be made to non-government groups working with authorities to host refugees. But there is no way people can pick up the tab without going through this system…

[In Canada], for the duration of the sponsorship period, 12 months or until refugees become self-sufficient, Canadians who act as sponsors commit to providing them with a range of care, from lodging to clothing and introducing them to the community…

Niskanen Center, a libertarian think-tank in Washington D.C., is promoting private sponsorship in the United States.

“Even if this program is small, it will be a significant contributor to dealing with this issue,” said David Bier, its director of immigration policy.

Among the politicians who support private sponsorship is Congressional Democrat John Conyers, whose Michigan district has been home to generations of Arab-born people…

Last month, a coalition led by the Syrian American Council sent a letter to Obama requesting private sponsorship. [See below]

It seeks an unlimited number of privately sponsored refugees and at least 100,000 government-sponsored refugees. Sponsoring groups would cover all costs for 18 months or until a refugee becomes self-sufficient.
Some organizations have refrained from joining the campaign for private sponsorship, including the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants which prefers to focus on calls to increase the government-sponsored number to 100,000.

“We feel the establishment of a new and separate avenue will dilute efforts to increase the number of Syrian refugee arrivals,” said spokeswoman Stacie Blake.

Campaigners say money is not lacking in the U.S. Syrian-American community, which has hubs in Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit and New Jersey suburbs to the west of New York City.

Nearly one in five hold graduate or professional degrees, and the median family income is more than 10 percent higher than that of the overall population, U.S. Census Bureau data shows.

In Canada, the government estimates the costs of private sponsorship over a year begin at about CA$12,600 (US$9,572) for a single refugee and CA$29,700 (US$22,563) for a family of five.

“It could take a family from a situation of despair to building a new future, so it’s a worthwhile investment,” said Attar…. Read more here

The letter reads as follows:

“In 1987, the Reagan administration created the Private Sector Initiative (PSI) by entering into Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with ethnic charities. From 1988 to 1993, PSI and a related program privately resettled almost 16,000 refugees outside the regular refugee limit, with groups covering the resettlement costs. PSI was similar to a Canadian program which exists today and under which more than 230,000 refugees have been privately resettled since 1978. The present is the perfect time to replicate PSI’s success. In addition to your Administration’s commitment to increasing the total cap on refugees, which we believe should be further increased by 100,000, we urge you to create a separate refugee limit for refugees entering under MOUs with groups that agree to cover all the costs for 18 months or until the refugee becomes self-sufficient, whichever is earlier. Enabling such a program would empower the United States to become home to a greater number of refugees.” Read more here

Posted in Canadian refugee resettlement pgrm, funding, legislation, Obama administration, public/private partnership | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

No funding yet for resettlement increase from 70,000 to 85,000 in FY2016

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 30, 2015

Money in Maze - Dollar Sign in Middle

For some reason that I cannot figure out, the Office of Refugee Admissions in the US Department of State is trying to sell an expanded refugee resettlement program to a reluctant Congress as “an extremely expensive endeavor.” So said Kelly Gauger, deputy director for refugee admissions at the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. Last year the State Department spent $1.1 billion resettling in the country roughly 70,000 refugees from all over the world.  U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced in September that he U.S. will accept 85,000 refugees from around the world in fiscal 2016, and that total would rise to 100,000 in 2017.  Sens. Lindsey Graham and Patrick J. Leahy, the chairman and ranking Democrat, respectively, of the Appropriations subcommittee with responsibility for foreign aid, introduced a bill that would give an additional $1 billion for humanitarian funding for refugees displaced by fighting in the Middle East.  The legislation has attracted some support from Democratic senators, but has failed so far to pick up Republican backing.  Melanie Nezer, vice president for policy and advocacy at HIAS, has a better idea on how to lay out the case to the American people on why the increase is so important. She pointed out that providing support to refugees is in the national security interests of the United States by helping to take the load off key regional allies such as Jordan and Turkey, who are bearing the brunt off the millions of refugees fleeing Syria (Turkey is hosting approximately 1.9 million refugees from Syria, Jordan has received more than 600,000, and Lebanon over one million).  More foreign aid to these allies and accepting more of the Syrian refugees displaced within their borders for resettlement to the US would help reduce the chances of instability spreading from Syria to these allies. Although resettlement is initially more expensive than assisting refugees in camps and cities where they are displaced, resettlement becomes increasingly necessary the longer a crisis goes on, as people’s lives become stuck in a never ending wait.  From a larger perspective, more importantly, humanitarian programs take up only 2 percent of our national budget. The topic is discussed in an article in Roll Call:

Congress has the responsibility to increase funding for a refugee resettlement program, a senior State Department official said this week, rejecting criticism from humanitarian groups that the Obama administration has not acted swiftly enough to admit more Syrian refugees into the country.

“There has to be political will not just on the part of the administration, but on the Congress to fund a resettlement program,” said Kelly Gauger, deputy director for refugee admissions at the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. “We need significantly more money than we’re getting now, and I am not sure that many of us have confidence that we’re going to get that money from this Congress.”

Earlier this month, Sens. Lindsey Graham and Patrick J. Leahy, the chairman and ranking Democrat, respectively, of the Appropriations subcommittee with responsibility for foreign aid, introduced legislation (S 2145) that would provide an additional $1 billion in humanitarian funding for refugees displaced by fighting in the Middle East. The measure has attracted support from Democratic senators such as Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut and Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, but has trailed in picking up Republican backing.

The bill, which would most likely be folded into any fiscal 2016 omnibus spending measure, would allow for some of the $1 billion to be redirected to the State Department-led U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, which last year spent $1.1 billion resettling roughly 70,000 refugees from all over the world in the country.

“The U.S. refugee resettlement program is an extremely expensive endeavor,” Gauger said speaking at a Bipartisan Policy Center forum. The State official said her bureau last year spent about $400 million on the program. “We’re going to need even more in [fiscal] 2016 to bring in 85,000.”

Eighty-five thousand is the number of global refugees President Barack Obama told Congress are expected to be resettled in the United States in fiscal 2016. Humanitarian groups, religious leaders and a growing chorus of Democrats have called for 100,000 Syrians to be brought to the country next year, above and beyond the normal caps on global refugees… Read more here

Posted in ceiling limit, refugee annual, Congress, funding, HIAS, Obama administration, Office of Admissions, Syrian | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

IRC’s Bob Carey takes top post of his agency’s government regulator, ORR

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 17, 2015

revolving-doorOn April 9 the HHS/ORR (Office of Refugee Resettlement) sent out a notice announcing the latest revolution of the revolving door between the private sector (resettlement contractors) and government agencies, such as the ORR and the State Department’s Office of Admissions — a new director for the ORR, the International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) vice president of resettlement and migration policy Bob Carey. Resettlement contractors in the US resettlement program such as the IRC, request and receive millions in federal government contracts to resettle refugees. In his role as IRC’s vice president Mr. Carey continually advocated for increased public funding for domestic refugee resettlement – a program to which contractors such as the IRC are supposedly required (an unenforced requirement) to bring significant private funding. Wouldn’t that mean, therefore, that they should be focusing on that task instead of spending significant time, energy and resources continually asking for increased government funding?

But this is not surprising in our government refugee resettlement program. With the contractors in charge of the government refugee agencies’ leadership we have a situation of regulatory capture. The regulated have moved in and taken over their government agency regulators. This is good for the private sector, but a pernicious arrangement for everyone else — mainly the refugees and the public. With the regulators taken out, the mice are free to play.

One of the bad effects is that these private groups are now able under-perform, even violate government contracts at will (the weak contracts they helped write), and face no consequences. An example is found in a question I submitted for the ORR’s interview with former IRC head George Rupp (a question which the ORR not surprisingly decided not to use):

“A 2007 State Department PRM monitoring report for the IRC office in Baltimore indicates that the IRC and another resettlement contractor frequently placed refugees into an East Baltimore apartment complex that had evidence of questionable maintenance and security standards (housing that is safe, sanitary, and in good repair is supposedly a State Department refugee contract requirement). Monitors also noted that the IRC had failed to give a three-member Meskhetian Turk refugee family a crib and other supplies for their infant son. I note, again, that these items are listed as “minimum” required items in the State Department contracts. Why does the IRC fail to meet so-called “minimum requirements” of their obligations to refugees in the public/private partnership?”

I wrote to Mr. Carey in a letter dated June 6, 2005 to ask about the IRC’s problems in refugee resettlement. Mr. Carey did not respond.

Posted in funding, IRC, ORR | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Political Right’s baseless criticism of San Diego facility for unaccompanied minors

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 12, 2014

southwest key san diego shelterThe political Right has been trying to attack the federal government’s costs for caring for the unprecedented surge of unaccompanied alien minors (and here, here and here) that have illegally crossed the Mexican border over the past two years. These minors are cared for by the federal Dept. of HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). A so-called prime example of wasteful spending (the real motivation for criticisms being anti-immigrant sentiments rather than government spending) is the nonprofit Southwest Key’s facility in San Diego. Criticisms, now spearheaded by Iowan senator Chuck Grassley, include amenities for the minors including organic orchard and garden supplying the facility’s kitchen as well as a small petting farm with ducks, chickens, and miniature ponies and an Acuaponics system cultivating over 1000 Tilapia fish. Yet, as Southwest Key points out the amenities mostly came with the property when it was leased by the non-profit and have added little costs. The animals on the farm were all donated or born there with the exception of $40 used to buy the stock for the Tilapia fish pond. Veterinary care is donated and feed costs are a negligible $60/month. An article in the San Diego Reader covers the story:

How is life for so-called unaccompanied alien children at a federally sponsored youth shelter in El Cajon? Perhaps too sweet, in the opinion of Iowa Republican senator Charles Grassley, as expressed by him in an October 30 letter to U.S. Health and Human Services secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell…

But Grassley questioned the government’s “stewardship of taxpayer dollars” already spent by Southwest Key, the Austin, Texas-based nonprofit that runs the facility here, as well as others in Texas, Arizona, and California…

“On April 23, 2014, Southwest Key proposed to charge the government a ‘daily rate’ of $316 to house unaccompanied alien children in a facility in El Cajon, California,” according to Grassley’s letter, which cited Southwest Key’s description of the operation’s amenities on an application for federal funds.

“We have an organic orchard of orange, lemon, and grapefruit trees, as well as an Organic garden that supplements our kitchen with a wide variety of organic vegetables throughout the year,” the nonprofit said.

“We have a small petting farm with ducks, chickens, and miniature ponies. We have also established an Acuaponics system where we are cultivating over 1000 Tilapia.”…

Southwest Key responded to Grassley’s letter with a statement saying “the cost per child in our California facilities is higher than other locations because they are small facilities with fewer beds. As the amount of beds goes up, the cost per child goes down. Unfortunately, Southwest Key has not been able to secure a larger facility in that region in order to expand to more beds.”

As for the alleged amenities, the nonprofit said, “The orchard and organic farm were pre-existing on the property when we leased it, so we have not purchased any trees or plants.

“We did pay a one-time fee of $40 to buy forty fish as stock. Since then they have reproduced at no cost to us. The cost to keep the orchard and garden is only the electricity used to run the well pump for watering. The crops they produce, however, supplement to our food supply and actually lower our expenditures there.

“The poultry on the farm also supplements our food supply. The water in the tilapia farm is constantly recycled and only requires minimal watering to compensate for evaporation and the waste from the fish is used to fertilize the organic garden….

“The animals at the farm in our El Cajon facility were all donated with the exception of one pony that was born at El Cajon. The veterinary care provided to the animals is also donated. The total cost of feed for all the animals — ponies, chickens, ducks and tilapia is a negligible part of the overall budget (approximately $60/month for feeding all animals)…. Read more here

Posted in asylees, children, funding, ORR, right-wing, San Diego, unaccompanied minors | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Funding withdrawn then reinstated; may be withdrawn again — New wave of Central American minors expected in September and October

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 17, 2014

revolving_moneyFrom recent media articles its now clear that the ORR could have predicted a large drop off of Central American immigrant children and accompanying women due to the summer heat coming across the southern border. This calls into question why the ORR shifted $94 million dollars away from the refugee program to deal with the influx of unaccompanied minor immigrants only to now restore $22.5 million so far once the numbers coming across the border dropped off in July. Was it a publicity stunt to encourage the Congress to vote for higher funding to cover the influx? An ORR main contractor and national refugee resettlement agency the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) is also now claiming that a second wave of unaccompanied minors is expected to cross over the US-Mexican border in September and October after the summer heat abates. If this speculation becomes reality then the ORR may again shift money away from the refugee program to the unaccompanied minors — unless Congress passes a large increase for the ORR that the Obama administration has requested. Articles at Phoenix (CBS-5) and the Washington Post explain many of the details:

…Last week, … program directors received the welcome news of a small reprieve. With the drop in the numbers of children coming across the border in July, the Office of Refugee Resettlement was able to redirect $22.5 million of the still-unspent $94 million back to refugee social service programs. Saved from cuts were a variety of programs that help refugees find and keep work, including Greensboro’s.

But a $71.5 million gap remains, a new fiscal year approaches, and when Congress returns next month, refugee advocates still must make a case for adequate funding to lawmakers who have shown themselves willing to sacrifice refugee programs at the altar of anti-immigrant sentiment… Read more here and here

Posted in Congress, CWS, funding, Obama administration, ORR, unaccompanied minors | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

ORR now reneges on cutting refugee funding

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 12, 2014

YippeeeeAfter dire warnings from refugee resettlement contractor non-profits that local economies would suffer if the agencies lost funding for refugees due to the federal government refugee agency ORR shifting funds to the Central-American immigrants coming in across the southern border, the ORR has just as quickly restored the funds. The agency apparently suddenly noticed what others had already suspected and asked the ORR about – that the number of Central American minors had slowed in recent months – and ORR had jumped the gun. An article in the Inlander explains the funding restoration:

We wrote this week about a pot of federal funding that’s meant to help refugees…but is being stretched thin by the growing number of unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S./Mexico border..When the federal government decided to withhold this funding recently in order to redirect it to the border, local agencies worried they’d have to cut staff or start charging refugees for services.

Today, a rare happy update to a story about budget cuts: The federal agency that had decided to redirect this funding has changed its mind.

“Although Congress has not approved the additional funding that President Obama requested, there has been a decrease in the rate of [unaccompanied minors] arrivals,” Tom Medina wrote the Inlander in an email late Thursday afternoon. Medina oversees the [Washington] state office that distributes the federal funds to local groups like World Relief. “During the conference call, [the Office of Refugee Resettlement] reported the year-to-date total of UAC’s in the U.S. stood at 54,000 through the end of July. ORR is projecting that the total by September 30 will be around 60,000, which is what they had originally budgeted for.”

“This,” Medina wrote, “means that we will be able to restore the RRA and Mental Health contracts that we had to terminate last month.” Read more here

Posted in children, funding, Guatemalan, Honduran, ORR, Salvadoran, teenagers, unaccompanied minors, World Relief | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

US federal government begins fast-track deportation of Central American adults and children

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 16, 2014

aiplane take-off

The Obama administration is now taking a stiff position on the huge influx of people, most of them children, from Central America and Mexico fleeing drug and gang violence and poverty. On Monday the administration deported a group of Honduran children and their adult accompanists.  The administration claims that without government action, more than 150,000 unaccompanied children could flee the Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala alone next year.  Technically these are not refugees as they are not claiming they are fleeing political oppression.  The ORR contends that it will need to pay for the influx by diverting funds away from refugees already resettled to the US.  Reuters has the latest development in this ongoing disaster:

(Reuters) – The United States deported a group of Honduran children as young as 1-1/2 years old on Monday in the first flight since President Barack Obama pledged to speed up the process of sending back illegal immigrant minors from Central America.

Fleeing violence and poverty, record numbers of children from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala have crossed into the United States over the past year, testing U.S. border facilities and sparking intense debate about how to solve the problem.

Monday’s charter flight from New Mexico to San Pedro Sula, the city with the highest murder rate in the world, returned 17 Honduran women, as well as 12 girls and nine boys, aged between 18 months and 15 years, the Honduran government said.

Looking happy, the deported children exited the airport on an overcast and sweltering afternoon. One by one, they filed into a bus, playing with balloons they had been given…

During the eight months ended June 15, some 52,000 children were detained at the U.S. border with Mexico, most of them from Central America. That was double the previous year’s tally and tens of thousands more are believed to have slipped through.

So chaotic are the circumstances of the exodus that some of the children are not even correctly reunited with their parents, said Valdette Willeman, director of the Center for Attention for Returned Migrants in Honduras.

“Many of the mothers are sometimes not even the real mothers of the children,” she said…

Obama’s administration has projected that without government action, more than 150,000 unaccompanied children under the age of 18 could flee the three Central American nations next year. .. Read more here

Posted in capacity, children, funding, gangs, Guatemalan, ORR, safety, teenagers, unaccompanied minors | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

ORR to divert $94 mil from the refugee resettlement fund to aid influx of migrant children

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 2, 2014


To deal with the unprecedented influx of migrant children crossing the border illegally from Central America the ORR (Office for Refugee Resettlement) is transferring nearly $94 million from the refugee resettlement fund to the Unaccompanied Alien Children program. The transfer will result in a reduction in services to refugees being resettled to the US, including services such as English language learning, career development and housing placement. An article in NPR in Louisville covers the issue:

An increase of undocumented children coming into America is expected to reduce the funding for services available to displaced people living in Kentucky and across the U.S.

Kentucky Office for Refugees officials expect to see a $2.28 million cut in federal funding to provide refugees in Kentucky with services such as English language learning, career development and housing placement.

The reduction in funding stems from an influx of children coming to the U.S. to escape violence and economic struggle in Central America, refugee services officials said.  To better serve these children, the Office for Refugee Resettlement is transferring nearly $94 million to the Unaccompanied Alien Children program.  The $2.28 million Kentucky officials expect to lose is a part of the $94 million transfer.

Because of the cuts, thousands of newly arrived refugees would receive a limited amount of…services… Read more here

Posted in children, funding, Kentucky, Louisville, ORR, teenagers, unaccompanied minors | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »


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