Friends of Refugees

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Archive for the ‘funding’ Category

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, 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 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Resettlement agency worker responds to my public comment

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 8, 2014


There’s a comment in response to my comments submitted to the U.S. State Department for their annual call for public comments.  The author works at a refugee resettlement agency and disagrees with my points.  Today I responded to the author of the comment; both his/her comment and my response are below:

Nilo Nilo said

Dear Mr. Coen,

I work for one of the voluntary agencies (volags), however I’m not commenting as a rep. of the agency. I appreciate your opinions and desire to improve the program, even if I disagree. I just wanted to respond to a few points in your post. PRM visits affiliate sites at least every fifth year (at the outside). For example if a site was last visited in FY10 they can expect to be visited in FY14. HQs are visited every year. HQs visit each of their affiliate sites at least every 3 years. From what I’ve seen, volags are often more rigorous in their review of sites and hold them to a higher standard than PRM/Cooperative Agreement standards. The idea of having external monitors is an interesting idea and would have its pros and cons. It would provide outside eyes and may (or may not) be more stringent than volag monitors. On the other hand, volags do work with sites everyday to ensure the best available services are provided, to trouble shoot issues, and help them with training among other things. The depth of knowledge volags have about their affiliates allows a more specific review of programs (better or worse I couldn’t say).

In both PRM and volag monitoring visits, 4 families are visited in their homes and interviewed with interpretation (for one hour to 90 minutes each) about the services they received, their relationship with the agency, and their feelings about their resettlement experience. This makes up one-third to one-half of the visit time (including the time it takes to travel to and from refugees homes which are often far apart). I would disagree that either PRM or volags place more emphasis on documentation then refugee feedback.

Also, PRMs visits are announced 2 weeks before a visit, which could give sites a little time to scramble to cover tracks, I suppose, but is mostly because staff are very busy and sites need to make sure they have time and coverage during a PRM visit (when daily work is interrupted) to host the monitors. In my experience, serious issues tend to be systemic and are not so easy to “clean up” before a visit.

I’m not sure what you have in mind for monetary penalties (the specific agencies? the HQ?) but while both HQ and the agencies are technically “contractors” I think that term makes it easy to confuse with other, private, government contracts which are well funded – that is not the case in resettlement. We are all not for profit and compensated (as individuals and agencies) at a much lower rate than Deloitte or whoever comes to mind as a contractor – there are no profits – so monetary penalties would directly affect programs and (by turn refugees). Sites that have serious problems face restrictions on arrivals, heavier over-site, and if they don’t improve will be shut down. That last step doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.

The operational guidance you link to appears to be an overview of some of the R&P requirements, from FY2007. I think it’s important for your readers to know that the volags and agencies are actually held to a 51 page contract called the Cooperative Agreement, which is updated with new requirements each fiscal year. If you feel the content of this contract isn’t comprehensive enough or should include more/different requirements, that is a fair opinion, but I wouldn’t want anyone to be confused and think that the link you provided is what is used to guide programing or services.

There are improvements that need to be made in the program, believe me, but I think there is sometimes a misconception that resettlement agencies are somehow using the program to make money (it is always a loss – the amount provided is actually less than half of what it takes to run the program) or that staff are uncaring or incompetent. The first is never true and the second no more so than anywhere else. In my opinion, if one wants to help refugees, they should point out the flaws, but also advocate for increased funding both for per capita refugee funds and administration (which does, in fact, cost money). To be honest, resettlement is really an area where it is rather astonishing how much is done with so little, if one is willing to take in the full picture.


…and my response:

Thank-you for your comment. Yes, I have heard the claim of the State Dept visiting resettlement sites for monitoring inspections every 5 years but the inspection reports supplied from our FOIA requests do not back that up, so I’ll believe it when I see it.

I can’t be impressed with self-monitoring by resettlement agencies. How often do they report cheating, neglect, serious mistakes? What would be their incentive? Its a public program, therefore the results of these self-inspections should be easily available to the public. They are not available at all.

How are four families selected by the State Dept. for interviews? Shouldn’t all refugees at least fill out a questionnaire about their experiences in order to find problems, and then a visit to the four most serious cases? It would be done that way if the State Dept. as partner/friend/overseer of the resettlement agencies wanted to find problems.

If the State Dept is only interviewing four families to get their opinions, while relying on agency documentation for all the rest, then it is inarguable that the State Dept. places more emphasis on resettlement agencies’ documentation then on refugee feedback.

The pre-announced notification has allowed agencies to visit refugees to tell them what to say (a Tampa area agency was caught doing this), to deliver money and required items that were due weeks or months earlier (this is documented in the monitoring reports, copies of which are found on our website), and quick filling-in of documentation forms that were never completed or even begun and which were supposed to be contemporaneous (a practice also found in the monitoring reports).

Agencies would need to take monetary penalties from salaries, as management is responsible for violations and should take the penalty. Any charity that didn’t do this, but instead took the penalty from refugee programing, would obviously have no credibility.

As you said, the shutting down of agencies doesn’t happen often; not even after repeated, serious violations. Its a rare bird, therefore agencies need not worry too much.

The Operational Guidance is rarely changed, therefore a 2007 date should not surprise you. The previous one was in 2001 I believe. Changes are always minor. If you know of a newer version let us and the public know.

We link to the the Basic Terms of the Cooperative Agreement as our number one link (see bottom left column), so we do not pretend that the Operational Guidance is the only contract document (and the wording was changed under pressure form agencies around year 2000 so that even these minimum requirements are no longer a strict requirement). Even the most comprehensive contract document, however, is worth nothing if it is not enforced, penalties are non-existent, and agency shut-downs are so rare.

I have never claimed that refugee resettlement is a money-making enterprise. I have pointed out that many agencies are operating on 90% and above government funding, and linked to IRS 990 forms which prove this point. There is no reason to expect that resettlement agencies be fully compensated for resettlement. Resettlement was historically a private enterprise fully funded by charities. The U.S. federal government got involved in a large capacity after WWII to counter the communist block’s influence. The money the State Dept. furnishes is meant to be seed money for the agencies, who are expected to add significant private funding (which is regularly and often not done, resulting in credibility issues).

I think asking everyone to join you in requesting additional per capita funding for resettlement is hard to do when resettlement agencies have yet to prove that use the public money they get well, and when they fail to raise significant private funding as required. Your image is tied to your performance. That is why I ask for significant change in the program so that the public will gain trust and offer full support.


Posted in funding, moratorium / restriction / reduction, neglect, openess and transparency in government, Operational Guidance, public/private partnership, State Department | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Waterloo refugee resettlement office not to close as said

Posted by Christopher Coen on March 16, 2014


The USCRI (U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants) has announced that its local refugee resettlement office will not close after all when its federal grant runs out. The leadership has instead chosen to keep the office open on a part-time basis. About 1,200 Burmese refugees – attracted to the area by meatpacking jobs – who now make Waterloo their home will have ongoing assistance with interpretation/translation, tax preparation and other needs. An article at KCRG explains:

WATERLOO, Iowa – …

…On Wednesday night, volunteers worked with a handful of newer residents in Waterloo who have escaped persecution in Myanmar… At least 1,200 Burmese refugees now call Waterloo home…

In late February, [Ann Grove, lead case manager of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants office in Waterloo] said the federal funding for the USCRI office to help Burmese refugees in Black Hawk County was running out. Yet, on Tuesday, the office announced the USCRI’s leadership has chosen to keep the office open on a part-time basis.

“It gives us an opportunity to continue providing for the immediate needs of clients who are in town,” said Grove.

With the federal grant now expired, the office may have to depend on the continued involvement of volunteers… Read more here

Posted in Burma/Myanmar, funding, meatpacking industry, USCRI | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Planning for Wyoming refugee resettlement

Posted by Christopher Coen on March 14, 2014


Wyoming is the only one of the 50 states that does not have refugee resettlement. That may soon change as advocates work on a draft plan for refugee resettlement in the state. The governor has already come out in support of the idea. Newspaper editorial boards are also supporting the soon-to-be draft plan, citing the central humanitarian nature of the program. One editorial, however, is claiming that the program would require no state government spending, an assertion which seems improbable. A recent analysis of refugee resettlement in Georgia found that the state government there spent an estimated $6.7 million in state and local taxpayer costs on resettlement in fiscal year 2011 (costs for public schools, child care and other expenses), although while receiving $10 million from the federal government for resettlement, much of it paid out to local businesses in the state, and reaping an untold in tax money and earning put back into the system by resettled refugees for purchases of cars, homes and other items and services. The paper also claims that there are standards and an accountability system. We know, however, that those are extremely lax and allow private resettlement agencies to essentially police themselves – a regulatory and oversight model that just does not work in business. An editorial in the Casper Star-Tribune discusses the proposed resettlement program:

…Wyoming is the only one of the 50 states without a refugee resettlement program…

Wyoming must do more to welcome refugees. They are looking to escape the direst of circumstances, from torture to genocide to human trafficking, and we are missing out on the opportunity to help resettle them for everyone’s benefit.

This is what government assistance is for. First, there’s help, when it’s needed most. Then, there are standards and an accountability system. Finally, Wyoming could find itself with more new residents… — self-sufficient, with the skills to make a difference, and happy to give back to the communities that welcomed them.

After fleeing his home nation, Bahige was sent to Maryland, where organizations in that state supported him. He learned English, found a job in food service and became a teacher’s aide. When the University of Wyoming rewarded his hard work with a scholarship offer, he headed west.

…advocates are pushing for Wyoming to adopt a program of its own. [Advocates are] working with the UW law school to come up with a draft plan for Gov. Matt Mead’s consideration. Such efforts are worthy of support.

It’s not about welfare. It’s about help in times of horror.

Members of a nongovernmental agency pick up refugees from the airport and take them to an apartment stocked with donations. Refugees begin learning the language, and their children are enrolled in school. They start with food stamps, but for most refugees, government support begins to diminish after eight months. Within four months, they must have jobs. In fact, they’re even required to repay the cost of their plane tickets.

A program would take no state money. The federal government would funnel resettlement money through Wyoming agencies and a nongovernmental organization. 

The system has been successful in Colorado, and advocates say Wyoming’s strong economy might make it an even better landing spot.

Like the former child soldier, many Wyomingites or their ancestors came from somewhere else and stayed to make a better life. We should welcome others who are following the same dream. Read more here

Posted in funding, Wyoming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Georgia resettlement agencies’ proposals rejected

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 16, 2014


In the fiscal year ending in September, resettlement agencies in Georgia proposed resettling 3520 refugees, yet only resettled 2,710 refugees. Even that number, however, was up 8 percent from the year before. The U.S. State Department confirmed it limited the number of refugees coming to Georgia based partly on the state government’s request for reductions. The Republican governor has asked for reductions in resettlement since 2012. At 2,710 refugees resettled last year, that ranks the state at eighth among states in refugees resettled, closely matching Georgia’s ninth-place ranking for total population. The state government complains about Georgia’s share of costs to support refugees – an estimated $6.7 million in state and local taxpayer costs in fiscal year 2011 for public schools, child care and other expenses. The resettlement agencies point out that the federal government directed over $10 million dollars to the state for resettlement in that fiscal year alone, and that private aid money was also attracted to the statewide resettlement efforts (though they don’t say how much in private funding. One problem is that the resettlement agencies are concentrating nearly all the refugees in the Atlanta area, particularly in DeKalb County and especially in Clarkston – not only stressing that area but resulting in de facto segregation.) An article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution covers the issue:

The federal government is placing new limits on the number of refugees being resettled in Georgia, following requests from Gov. Nathan Deal’s administration for sharp cuts, public records show.

State officials started asking for reductions in 2012, citing worries that refugees are straining taxpayer-funded resources, including public schools.

Alarmed by the state’s position, resettlement agencies are publicly highlighting the economic benefits refugees bring. The agencies say refugees create a net gain by working, creating businesses, paying taxes and attracting more federal and private aid money than what the state and local governments spend on services…

In the fiscal year ending in September, Georgia received 2,710 refugees from around the world. That is up 8 percent from the year before. But it is 810 fewer people than originally proposed by resettlement agencies.

The U.S. State Department confirmed it limited the number of refugees coming to Georgia, based partly on the state’s requests…

In July, Deal’s administration asked the federal government to keep the same limits in place for this fiscal year, according to records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. And the federal government is sticking to roughly the same range.

Georgia’s Department of Human Services — which distributes federal funding to resettlement agencies — estimated it cost $6.7 million in state and local taxpayer funds to support refugees in fiscal year 2011. That figure includes Georgia’s share of costs for public schools, child care and other expenses. The state’s estimate does not reflect taxes paid by refugees and the businesses they have created. A state report also shows the federal government kicked in $10.2 million for refugees during the same time frame.

Over the past three fiscal years, 7,866 refugees have been resettled in Georgia. During that same time frame, 184,589 were resettled nationwide. Georgia ranked eighth among states in the past fiscal year, according to an AJC analysis of pubic records. That hews closely to Georgia’s ninth-place ranking for total population.

Georgia has been a welcoming home for many refugees, but the program does pose some challenges for the state,” said Brian Robinson, a spokesman for the governor. “We’re willing to do our part, but we want to make sure we’re not taking more than our fair share.”…

J.D. McCrary, the executive director of the International Rescue Committee in Atlanta, called the state’s actions “unfortunate.” He and other advocates said Georgia — a state of more than 9 million people — could successfully resettle as many as 4,000 refugees each year… Read more here

Posted in capacity, Catholic Charities Atlanta, funding, Georgia, IRC, moratorium / restriction / reduction, Office of Admissions, schools | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Federal funding dries up for Waterloo resettlement office

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 7, 2014

dreis up

The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) having made a late arrival to Waterloo, Iowa to serve thousands of secondary migrant refugees (refugees who first resettled elsewhere and then relocated to Waterloo for jobs) is now pulling out. The ORR funded a branch office of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants to offer services to the refugees since late 2012. Now, the group is arranging for volunteer groups and people to supposedly take over in its place and offer refugee services. Finding between $100,000 and $140,000 each year to fund these efforts is the biggest hurdle. An article in The Republic carries the story originally reported by the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier:

WATERLOO, Iowa — A federal agency is ending services to Burmese refugees in Waterloo, leaving volunteers scrambling to figure out how they can continue to help the immigrants.

The local office of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, which opened in December 2012, will close on Feb. 28 when federal funding runs out, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported ( ). It has been helping Burmese refugees, especially those in their few first years in the country, learn English and understand what community services are available. That includes preparing for citizenship.

The office always intended to be a temporary presence in Waterloo, where about 1,200 Burmese refugees currently reside. To date, it has helped about 200 refugees…

[Ann Grove, lead case worker] said finding ways to fund these efforts among the groups may be the biggest hurdle. It will take about $100,000 a year to replicate most services provided by the federal office, she said… “…If we’re looking at increasing the amount of interpretation to our desired level, we’re probably talking closer to $140,000.”

…[the] plan [is] to focus on case work, community education, employment and language. Read more here


Posted in Burma/Myanmar, funding, meatpacking industry, ORR, poultry production, secondary migration, refugee, USCRI, Waterloo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Congress increases ORR funding to $1.489 BIL from last year’s $1.12 BIL

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 27, 2014


Congress has increased the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s budget by nearly half a billion dollars this year (compare to last year), but resettlement agencies and some others are claiming this as a shortfall. That’s because the ORR had requested $1.6 billlion to cover an estimated 26,000 unaccompanied children coming to the United States from Mexico and Central America this year – an increase of approximately 10,000 unaccompanied minors from the number of children in the 2012 fiscal year. Critics of the numbers, however, say that taking care of 10,000 extra children should not require yet another half billion dollars added to the ORR budget. An article in The Duke Chronicle explains the numbers:

Congress has…increased funding for the Office of Refugee Resettlement to $1.489 billion from last year’s $1.12 billion, said Jen Smyers, associate director for immigration and refugee policy at Church World Service—a group that works with refugees in Durham and across the country. ORR estimated it would need $1.6 billion to serve all the populations in its care this year—a half billion increase from last year’s budget—and is looking for ways to meet the more than $100 million shortfall, Smyers added.

We never thought [the funding] was going to get cut from last year’s level,” Smyers said. “Our fear was that they would not get anywhere near [ORR's] needs…

Projected costs for this fiscal year increased by nearly half a billion dollars to cover an estimated 26,000 unaccompanied alien children coming to the United States from Mexico and Central America this year, Smyers said. This is an increase of approximately 10,000 unaccompanied children from the number of children in the 2012 fiscal year.

Suzanne Shanahan, associate director of ethics at the Kenan Institute and associate research professor in sociology, was critical of the calculations used to reach the increase in ORR’s budget requirements. She said that taking care of 10,000 extra children should not require a 30 percent increase in funds.

The U.S. resettles 60,000 refugees a year, and the 60,000 refugees cost $1.12 billion [last year],” Shanahan said. “To say that a half billion dollars is what it takes to increase that by 10,000, the math is extremely wrong.”

With regard to the $100 million shortfall, Shanahan said this is only between a 6 and 7 percent total shortfall, which is not “extraordinary.”… Read more here

Posted in children, Congress, CWS, funding, ORR | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Refugees in Tennessee contribute almost twice as much as consume

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 25, 2013

case studyConservative state lawmakers in Tennessee ordered a state government study on the economics of refugee resettlement in the state. Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, admits that a major impetus for the study was to tease out whether refugees are more likely to rely on government assistance. Yet the report produced suggests that refugees contributed almost twice as much in tax revenues as they consumed in state-funded services in the past two decades. An article in The Tennessean reports on the results of the study:

A new study of foreign-born refugees who live in Tennessee has found they contributed almost twice as much in tax revenues as they consumed in state-funded services in the past two decades.

But limitations of the study — an unprecedented research effort by the state — left the state lawmakers who asked for it with questions on Tuesday…

Researchers with the legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee reported a number of first-time findings about refugees in the state. Their report estimates some 57,000 refugees live in Tennessee, a number that has doubled since 1990 but which still represents less than 1 percent of the population.

Making “conservative estimates,” researchers said that since 1990, the state has spent $753 million on services for refugees — including for schooling and health care — and received almost twice as much, $1.3 billion, in tax revenues from them…

Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, said a major impetus for the study was to tease out whether refugees are more likely to rely on government assistance… Read more here

Posted in funding, Tennessee | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

National restriction on refugee arrivals and travel moratorium may finally end October 28

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 19, 2013


Although the federal government shutdown has now ended, refugee resettlement won’t restart until at least Oct. 28. Complex approval, documentation and travel logistics will also delay many refugee arrivals for months. Some refugees may be required to reapply for medical approvals or security clearances that are good for a limited time, and depending on the country, refugees also may have to reapply for exit visas. An article in USAToday explains:

…roughly 4,500 refugees who had been cleared to come to the United States in October — including 73 heading for Kentucky — but now face delays that resettlement officials say may take months for some to resolve…

Now more than 2 weeks old, the shutdown forced the U.S. State Department to suspend most refugee arrivals and enact a travel moratorium, partly because the financial, medical and federal benefits or services aren’t available in some areas to help newcomers from Somalia, Iraq, Myanmar, Bhutan and a host of other countries, officials said.

Although most expect Congress to reach an agreement to reopen the government, resettlement won’t restart until at least Oct. 28 — and even then, the shutdown’s cascading effect on complex approval, documentation and travel logistics will delay many arrivals for months.

Nowhere to go

…Some may be required to reapply for medical approvals or security clearances that are good for a limited time — and depending on the country, refugees also may have to reapply for exit visas, including Burmese leaving Thai refugee camps…

The shutdown came just as the government was set to begin admitting 70,000 refugees for the coming federal fiscal year, said Cindy Jensen, director of resettlement with the International Rescue Committee. The moratorium was first extended to Oct. 21, and then again to Oct. 28.

A State Department official said the move was meant to ensure refugees receive proper support when they arrive but acknowledged it had left thousands of people “sitting in limbo.”

The government is allowing those who are seen as being at high risk to continue to arrive, such as Iraqi refugees who helped the United States during the war.

Church World Service, one of a handful of federally approved resettlement agencies, reported that nearly half of the refugees under its authority, initially cleared for travel in October, will be delayed as long as three months…

…Kentucky Refugee Ministries, which operates on a tight budget, is having to use reserves to continue to pay caseworkers and provide services, partly because the shutdown has kept the agency from getting the federal reimbursement of $750 per arrival budgeted for October… Read more here

Posted in Catholic Charities of Louisville Inc., Congress, CWS, funding, IRC, Louisville, moratorium / restriction / reduction | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


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