Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Archive for the ‘Issues’ Category

U.S. senators call for admission of desperate Syrian refugees

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 19, 2014

refugee figuresDemocratic and Republican U.S. senators in a rare bipartisan show of unity last week called for the country to take in more of the millions of desperate Syrian refugees displaced by the three-year civil war. Out of an estimated 2.3 million, only 31 Syrian refugees were allowed in last fiscal year. So far, 135,000 Syrians have applied for asylum in the United States but strict restrictions on immigration designed to prevent terrorists from entering the country have kept almost all of the Syrian refugees out. An article at Reuters explains the crisis and the senators’ reactions:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic and Republican U.S. senators called on Tuesday for the country to take in more of the millions of people forced from their homes during Syria’s nearly three-year civil war.

Only 31 Syrian refugees – out of an estimated 2.3 million – were allowed into the United States in the fiscal year that ended in October.

At a Senate hearing a week before an international donors conference in Kuwait, U.S. officials and senators discussed the crisis in Syria, and the burden of housing hundreds of thousands of refugees for neighboring countries such as Jordan and Lebanon.

“This is the world’s worst ongoing humanitarian crisis and the worst refugee crisis since the Rwandan genocide in 1994, and perhaps since World War Two,” said Illinois Senator Richard Durbin, chairman of the Senate subcommittee on human rights, who said the United States has a “moral obligation” to assist.

So far, 135,000 Syrians have applied for asylum in the United States. But strict restrictions on immigration, many instituted to prevent terrorists from entering the country, have kept almost all of them out…

The United Nations is also trying to relocate this year 30,000 displaced Syrians it considers especially vulnerable…

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, the top Republican on the subcommittee, said he was particularly concerned about the plight of Christian refugees and said they should be considered as Washington decides how to deal with the demand for more visas.

Durbin, Cruz and other senators said Washington should remain zealous about screening would-be immigrants to make sure that no potential terrorists were allowed into the United States as part of any program for Syrians.

However, several said they believed it was possible.

“I think we should be making it easier, while still checking everything that we need to check,” Minnesota Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar said... Read more here

Posted in Congress, security/terrorism, Syrian | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Refugees abused at Bridge Refugee Services in Knoxville

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 15, 2014


A gentleman who contacted us back in April (history is here and here) about conditions for refugees resettled via Bridge Refugee Services in Knoxville contacted us again recently to give an update and more information.

He said there have been at least five injuries of refugees at the factories where they were placed by the temporary employment agencies that Bridge uses to get refugees employed.

One refugee reportedly injured his shoulder at work and Bridge would not do anything to help. An Ethiopian refugee broke his hand at Quality Bakery Products. African refugees were also injured at Ifco Systems pallets division in Knoxville. Again, the agency would not help. Another refugee injured his lungs, inhaling a chemical at a Cooper Standard factory (production of plastic automobile bumper parts). Yet another refugee passed out at that factory, also due to the chemicals. He now coughs a lot and has respiratory problems. A third refugee who worked at the factory developed a rash on his body, which may have been due to the chemicals used there. Yet another refugee, an older Iraqi gentleman, severely injured his shoulder pushing a heavy cart at the Goodwill warehouse on Middlebrook Pike. The cart came back at him and he put his arms out to stop it. He needed surgery to repair the shoulder and was off work for months. He said Goodwill treated him well so he decided not to sue. At Custom Food Inc. exposure to spices caused sinus problems for an Ethiopian refugee who has allergies. He requested to switch jobs but Bridge’s employment coordinator refused to help him. Finally, at Propak Logistics’ pallets repair section many Iraqi refugees reported injuries for years to Bridge’s employment coordinator but the coordinator ignored their complaints and sided with the company against the refugees.

Bridge has arranged work via Express Employment (and Adico), for whom the refugees work. Many refugees sign papers not knowing what they are signing; some do not read English. Under this arrangement with Express a factory pays $9 per hour but refugees only get a bit more than $7 per hour. The work is unstable, with refugees working a week and then being off a week.

A former case manager also sent us information about the agency and pointed out that the refugee employment figures are dishonest as most of the refuges have only temporary employment that does not help them to pay rent and be self-sufficient. The nature of the temp jobs also means that the refugees will be unemployed just a short time after the agency reports them employed to the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at 90 days and 180 days. (This, however, is a problem throughout the refugee program, and it doesn’t seem that the the ORR has much of an interest in requiring that resettlement agencies report if refugees are working at temporary or non-temporary jobs.)

Many of the interpreters quit in 2012 and 2013 after the agency’s officer manager lowered their pay from $10 per hour to $8, and since that time the agency has picked the refugees up at the airport upon their arrival without interpreters for refugees from Myanmar (Burma) and Africa. The agency then takes the refugees to their apartments and gives flawed home safety orientation involving just pointing to things and turning things on and off in an attempt to show them how things work. It then takes weeks before they find an interpreter. When the case manager voiced his concerns about this to the office manager she responded that it was case managers’ responsibility to bring an interpreter. He asked her how he could use one that is not contracted. She said they would look into but that it was his responsibility to get one and that it was okay to have a volunteer interpreter.

These refugees don’t receive proper attention because nobody can communicate with them. The African refugees compared services the agency was giving them to other refugees and realized they were receiving fewer services and less attention in all areas. As a result, when the African refugees started their own organization to help their own community they refused to work with Bridge.

The case manager points out that the Bridge office in Chattanooga is more organized than the office in Knoxville due to the qualifications, dedication and experience of the office coordinator in Chattanooga. She comes in everyday at 8:30 am and leaves at 4:30 pm unlike the one in Knoxville who comes in at 9am or 10am and sneaks out around 2pm-3pm yet submits weekly time sheets indicating 40 hours of work. The agency lists the working hours on the door as 8:30am to 4:30pm, yet if refugees and others come in at 8:30am the only people they find are the financial manager and the case managers. If the case managers are not there the office stays closed until 9:30am.

The  Knoxville office manager also wastes staff time with pointless staff meetings early on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. On Friday they have two staff meetings; one for the Executive Director with meeting agendas that contain her personal events such as her son’s birthday and her marriage anniversary, and a second meeting with the office manager. The meetings consume most of the day until 2pm, at which time the Director and the office manager leave the office to go home while the rest of the staff stay to finish their paperwork, as Friday is supposed to be a day for that and not for meetings.

The case manager tried many times to tell the administration that their everyday meetings are just a barrier that prevents them from doing their jobs but the office manager insisted on enforcing these meetings. He said she has no management skills and is only in the office manager position because the Director of Bridge is her close friend. The office manager also told the staff that no one is allowed to communicate with the agency’s board of directors, EMM and CWS (Bridge’s national affiliates), or TOR (Tennessee Office for Refugees); this to prevent any leaks of information to those organizations.  He said anyone who dares to violate that rule knows they may face retaliation and lose their job.

He also reports that Bridge is placing refugees in apartments in a bad downtown neighborhood with a lot buying, selling and use of street drugs. The apartments have carpeting that smells bad, broken plumbing, and heavy insect infestations.

Transportation of refugees was yet another area of violation by the agency. A van donated in 2011 used to transport refugees had mechanical problems in the steering wheel as well as no air-conditioning. The case manager told the managers that the vehicle was not safe to use but it was clear to him that money in the budget for their salaries (the director and the office manager who do not even work the full-time they are supposed to work) was more important than refugee safety issues. The heat inside the vehicle was so unbearable in the summer months that a staff member was overcome by the heat and had to be taken to the ER by ambulance. The agency only stopped using the van and sold it to the junkyard when the major mechanical problem in the steering wheel prevented it from being driven.

He pointed to another serious problem – that the agency did not have a shredder for years until recently in 2013. He used his own shredder that he brought from home. He says that every-time he spoke to the current administrators to give the staff a shredder they ignored him just as the previous executive director did when he told her a case manager who quit in 2010 threw boxes filled with confidential papers in the trash. She wasn’t concerned so he and another staff member dived in the dumpster to recover those boxes. The current administrators also do not care if staff use their own equipment to get the job done, such as their own laptops and other devices needed – a violation of HIPAA policy (privacy law). The agency is also violating the HIPAA policy by having unauthorized people being involved with refugee clients’ personal medical information, e.g. the office manager talks about the clients’ medical issues in front of her husband who often comes to the office.

The agency is run so poorly by the current administration, and with a lack of supervision from the board of directors, that the most highly qualified and decorated case workers have quit the agency since 2010 – in 2010 three case workers quit; in 2011 two quit; and three in 2013. In early 2013 the only two case managers left quit in the same month due to the hopeless situation with the management.

By the way, the most recent State Department monitoring report for this agency seems to have occurred back in 2006 — at least that is the most recent one that the State Department has released to us. The agency had a different director and case managers at that time.

Posted in abuse, Bridge Refugee and Sponsorship Services, Bridge Refugee and Sponsorship Services, Burma/Myanmar, Burundian, community/cultural orientation, cultural/community orientation, post arrival, dangerous neighborhoods, employment abuses, employment/jobs for refugees, Ethiopian, home safety orientation, housing, housing, substandard, Iraqi, Knoxsville, language, language interpretation/translation, lack of, rats and roaches, transportation | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Somali-Bantu refugees in Maine farm to support themselves

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 29, 2013


In Maine and around the country Somali-Bantu refugees are learning to support themselves as farmers. There is now a whole resettlement movement focused on agriculture, with scores of programs around the country. In Maine backers of the local program claim the efforts help the refugees learn some English while improving their physical and mental health. The farming is also a source of economic self-sufficiency for the refugees – at least during the growing season in Maine. A radio report and article at Public Radio International explains:

…Somali Bantu refugees refuse to let the weeds overtake their hard-won fields near Maine’s second largest city. That they’ve come to embrace farming as exalted work is significant, given the ethnic minority’s history. Farming was about the last thing Somali Bantus expected to do after fleeing their country, which collapsed into civil war in 1991.

For 200 years, the Bantus had toiled as subsistence farmers along the fertile floodplains of the Juba Valley in Somalia, where they had been brought as slaves from Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi.

…[Refugees] flocked here from Atlanta, Dallas and Syracuse, drawn by affordable housing, good schools and, importantly, access to land. About 13,000 Somali Bantus were resettled from Kenyan refugee camps to the US by 2007. Now they farm and garden around the country, but perhaps nowhere as intensively as in Maine, where one of the greatest concentrations of Somalis — roughly 5,000 (about 1,500 Bantus) — has resettled in Lewiston housing projects and abandoned multiplexes…

Resettlement agencies gradually realized farming could help these otherwise low-skilled refugees (who didn’t know how to drive and lacked literacy even in their native dialects) learn some English while improving their physical and mental health. There’s now a whole resettlement movement focused on agriculture, with scores of programs around the country since the US Office of Refugee Resettlement started funding such efforts in 1998. In 2004, the USDA signed a joint memorandum to significantly fund these programs, though money for such beginning and socially-disadvantaged farmers lapsed when the Farm Bill expired last fall…

Maine’s New America Sustainable Agriculture Project, or NASAP, is a movement leader. Conceived in 2002, the project has helped nearly 100 recent immigrants (primarily Somali Bantu but also South Sudanese, Guatemalan and Mexican) grow from community gardeners into managers of a 30-acre incubator on a land trust-protected family farm.

The program broadened in 2009, when NASAP merged with the youth gardening non-profit Cultivating Community. The farmers, who collaboratively market as Fresh Start Farms, sold more than $150,000 of produce this season to 300 CSA (community supported agriculture) customers, at 20 Maine farmers’ markets and to several restaurants. As the first group of farmers — nine of them…graduate from the program this fall, they’ll still lease land together and receive technical and business support.

It’s really a great resource for people to be in a community of other farmers,” says NASAP director Daniel Ungier. “We try to be aware of the fact that sustainable agriculture is moving towards ‘interdependence.’ We don’t want to push them in the opposite direction by asking people to do it on their own.”… Read more here

Posted in community farms, economic self-sufficiency, Lewiston, Maine, secondary migration, refugee, Somali Bantu, women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

More refugees work and pay taxes than not, making up for those unable

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 24, 2013

supportIts become popular in a certain part of the political spectrum in the US to scapegoat refugees for economic ills of the country. U.S. Citizens who are struggling economically can be both vulnerable to these false arguments as well as contributors to a climate of hostility to other vulnerable populations — people resettled to this country. A Nepali-Bhutanese man’s Op-ed in The Oregonian however makes the case for refugee resettlement by addressing the economic arguments:

Refugee resettlement is an integral part of the U.S. immigration program, helping to bring the world’s most vulnerable populations to safety in the US. But some wonder why the federal government welcomes more of these strangers when the U.S. already has so many homeless and unemployed citizens. Based on my experiences arriving from a Bhutanese refugee camp in Nepal, refugee resettlement need not be viewed as an issue of benefits to newcomers at the expense of old-timers. Usually, both the U.S. government and its newest arrivals end up winners.

First of all, refugees don’t come to U.S. for free or without going through a security check. When a refugee comes from refugee camps overseas or from a country torn by war or political unrest, he or she takes a travel loan from the U.S. government for airfare. Refugees have to pay that money back. I owed $1,300 for my one-way plane ticket. Within a year, I paid every penny back.

Refugee resettlement is an investment in the lives of refugees and in the development of this country. Annually, the U.S. resettles an average of 70,000 people, or roughly 1 percent of the total world refugee population. Since 1975, more than three million refugees have been resettled into the U.S., according to the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). That’s an enormous addition to the tax base. Even though refugees have to wait until they are U.S. citizens to receive certain benefits, they start paying taxes upon arrival…

…more refugees work and pay taxes than not, making up for those who are unable to…

…Initially, limited English skills lead most refugees to work entry level jobs that average Americans would rather not do. Big corporations like Marriott and Hilton count on refugees coming here to fill a legal workforce. Those same corporations donated to both Democratic and Republican parties and their candidates during the 2012 general election to push for the admission of more legal workers. These hard-working refugees stay at work longer than American co-workers. This helps American employers save some money on training and hiring costs. More seriously, refugees developed a burning desire to work while being banned from doing so in home and camp countries… Read more here

Posted in economic self-sufficiency, employment/jobs for refugees, legislation, Nepali Bhutanese, Oregon | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Study finds cheating students more likely to want government jobs

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 8, 2013


A recent study found that cheating students are more likely to want government jobs. I live the reality of that fact nearly every time I must deal with refugee resettlement government oversight agencies. In the US the humanitarian refugee program is strangely cloaked in secrecy at the government level; a secrecy that has no other purpose than to shield government agency staff and officials from accountability for their actions. It does nothing to help the refugees or the people and their interests for whom the government agencies supposedly work. An example of this is the State Department’s inspection reports of refugee resettlement agencies (contractors). In March of 2010 I put in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the reports completed from September 1, 2009 to March 1, 2010. In January 2012 the State Department FOIA office sent me six inspection reports supposedly in fulfillment of the request for six months of inspection reports. Yet, in email correspondence of January 20, 2012 with Barbara Day of the PRM’s Office of [Refugee] Admissions she claimed there were 23 inspection reports completed during that time period. I asked the FOIA office where the missing documents were? The FOIA office then did a little trick. They opened a new FOIA case and said to wait. Now, nearly two more years later I am still waiting for the 17 missing reports. What are they trying to hide? Notice how willfully they violate the law – Freedom of Information Act – to keep this public information away from the public. But that goes back to the type of people/personalities that are attracted to government jobs – jobs which have no real customers; customers who can vote with their feet and go elsewhere. I think what a shame it is that we arrive in such a situation when we have had so many Americans sacrifice their lives to oppose tyranny in the name of our country and our Constitution. Barbara Day has asked me to refer people to her who are alleging wrongdoing by resettlement agencies. How do I do that in good faith when she engages in such dishonest and unethical behavior with the FOIA requests? The newspaper article on government workers is found in in the Los Angeles Times:

College students who cheated on a simple task were more likely to want government jobs, researchers from Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania found in a study of hundreds of students in Bangalore, India.

Their results, recently released as a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research, suggest that one of the contributing forces behind government corruption could be who gets into government work in the first place.

For instance, “if people have the view that jobs in government are corrupt, people who are honest might not want to get into that system,” said Rema Hanna, an associate professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. To combat that problem, governments may need to find new ways to screen people seeking jobs, she said…

Cheating seemed to be rampant: More than a third of students had scores that fell in the top 1% of the predicted distribution, researchers found. Students who apparently cheated were 6.3% more likely to say they wanted to work in government, the researchers found.

Overall, we find that dishonest individuals — as measured by the dice task — prefer to enter government service,” wrote Hanna and coauthor Shing-yi Wang, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

They added, “Importantly, we show that cheating on this task is also predictive of fraudulent behaviors by real government officials.”…

Surveying people about corruption also did little to predict whether people were prone to lie in real life, the researchers concluded — a troubling finding for governments that have folded such questions into job screening. Nor did ability seem to make a difference. Read more here

Posted in Office of Admissions, openess and transparency in government | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Refugee teen bullied in Syracuse

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 1, 2013


A refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo reports that when she arrived in Syracuse for resettlement she was bullied in high school. She fell back on her survival skills from back home and eventually summoned the courage to stand up for herself. A resettlement agency in the city also reports that it can no longer find refugees steady work “en masse” with manufacturing employers who have now left the area (of course the State Department refugee contract individualized case management requirement should not have allowed such an approach to begin with). WRVO Public Media has the story:

…For Lorina Mpinga, who was a teenager when she arrived from D.R.C, figuring out high school without knowing English proved to be a massive challenge.

Mpinga was bullied her first year in high school. She had a hard time standing up for herself at first without English language skills, but eventually got the courage.

“I have to make sure I tell them and let them know who I am, not a little scared girl and I don’t want to live a life of being scared of going to school every day,” she said.

Asked whether or not being bullied as a teenager put a damper on coming here, Mpinga quickly dismisses the idea.

“I know, from before, that you always have to stand up for yourself” and being a teenager anywhere in the world is tough, she added…

City officials recognize the refugee community as a source of new population and key to revitalizing the Northside, but for now it’s still a working class neighborhood that has its fair share of crime and vacancy…

the factory jobs that used to be open to immigrants with little or no English are gone.

…the factory jobs that used to be open to immigrants with little or no English are gone.

“There are no places like G.E. anymore, there are no places where you could move up doing a manual labor type job [and] all you need is training basically,” Susan Ohlsen from InterFaith Works said.

Job training programs run through various non-profits help new Americans get jobs in health care or construction, but finding refugees steady work en masse is a challenge, according to Ohslen… Read more here

Posted in Congolese, employment services, Interfaith Works, Interfaith Works, schools, Syracuse, teens | 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 »

Catholic Church in Minneapolis-St. Paul attempted to stifle sexual abuse lawsuits

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 17, 2013


It turns out that the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis gave more than $800,000 in a lobbying effort to expand the time limit for lawsuits by victims of childhood sexual abuse. I long had some worries regarding the church being entrusted to care for refugees. In 2005 I wrote to the organization’s resettlement director as well as to the Archbishop (here and here) regarding deficiencies in refugee resettlement at the agency, though I never received any response. Deficiencies included refugees lived in overcrowded and uncomfortable conditions that led in some instances to eviction, late health screenings, no furniture provided other than beds, failure to enroll refugees in Refugee Cash Assistance and Refugee Medicaid Assistance, and failure to enroll refugee children in school. An article in the Star Tribune explains the lobbying effort by the church against childhood sexual abuse victims:

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis was at the forefront of extensive lobbying against efforts to expand the time limit for lawsuits by victims of childhood sexual abuse, according to a document obtained by the Star Tribune.

An internal accounting analysis prepared by the archdiocese shows that the lobbying association known as the Minnesota Religious Council received more than $800,000 from the Catholic Church during a seven-year period ending in the middle of 2008. A similar analysis was not available for subsequent years, but state lobbying records show the council spent more than $425,000 on lobbyists from 2006 through 2012.

Lobbying records also show the council doubled its lobbying force to six individuals on March 22, 2013, just weeks before the passage of the Child Victims Act. That law eliminated the statute of limitation for child sexual abuse cases going forward. It also created a three-year window for litigation of many previously barred claims in cases where churches, schools and other institutions failed to provide protection to children.

Since the law took effect in late May, at least 18 lawsuits seeking damages for sex abuse have been filed against Minnesota Catholic clergy and leaders… Read more here

Posted in Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, children, failure to enroll refugee children in school, furnishings, lack of, housing, overcrowding, late health screenings, medical care, sexual abuse, Twin Cities | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Tyson plans to employ refugees at Wilkesboro chicken processing complex

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 7, 2013


*CORRECTION*: World Relief High Point office claims it never partnered with Tyson and only referred seven refugees to the Tyson plant (see comment from Office director Andrew Timbie below).

Tyson Foods, Inc. Plans to employ about 250 Karen refugees from Myanmar (formerly Burma) at the company’s chicken processing complex in Wilkesboro, NC. The World Relief resettlement agency offices in High Point and Raleigh will be directing refugees to Tyson “to hire them in mass.” This seems to be a prescription for employer abuse when refugees are not treated as individuals with varying levels of employability and various employment area interests but are instead directed in mass to employers in distant and sometimes isolated locations. I note that the State Department resettlement contract documents signed by World Relief require individual assessments via individual case management. How will Tyson treat these people when it knows it can order up more large batches of refugee workers to replace them if it wishes?

A local church official says he was told that Tyson has carried out similar efforts in connection with its processing plant in Center, Texas, and with plants in Arkansas and Missouri.  Tyson has also lured refugees in Texas, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kentucky.  Tyson has a troubling history in their treatment of Hmong refugees as well. An article in the Wilkes Journal Patriot has details about the plans for Wilkesboro:

Tyson Foods Inc. has announced plans to employ Burmese refugees at the company’s chicken processing complex in Wilkesboro.

Tyson officials shared the plans with about 30 local businesses, public schools, town and county government and law enforcement leaders and others during a meeting Tuesday at the Tyson technical services building on N.C. 268 West in Wilkesboro.

The [Karen] refugees are originally from Myanmar…

About 250 over two years

Worth Sparkman, Tyson public relations manager, said later that the company anticipated hiring about 250 refugees over the next two years to work at the processing complex in Wilkesboro…

People who attended the meeting, which wasn’t announced to the public or media, said Tyson officials indicated that it was hard to predict how many Burmese refugees might come to Wilkes to work at the Tyson complex and when.

Local officials comment

They said Tyson officials told them the newcomers would come as families and would contribute to the local economy with the money they spend here, including for housing. Refugees start paying U.S. and state taxes when they become employed.

People who attended the meeting said Tyson officials also talked about the responsibility of Christians to reach out and help the refugees and about the tradition of coming to America for a better life…

Dr. Marty Hemric, Wilkes school superintendent, attended the meeting and said state funding for the school system’s English as a second language program would increase if the number of students who don’t speak English increased.

Wilkes Sheriff Chris Shew also attended the meeting and said his biggest concern was finding interpreters for his department’s interactions with the refugees. “My concern is being able to bridge the communication gap,” he said.

Wilkes County Manager John Yates, Wilkes Department of Social Services Director Bill Sebastian, Wilkesboro Town Manager Ken Noland and other local officials are calling officials in communities elsewhere in the country who have experienced an influx of refugees for insight on what to expect here…

Involvement of churches

The Rev. Steve Gouge, director of missions of the Brushy Mountain Baptist Association, said Tyson officials contacted and met with him Thursday to discuss their interest in having the association’s churches interact with the refugees…

Gouge…said he was impressed with the plans shared by Tyson officials and said he was told the company carried out similar efforts in connection with its processing plant in Center, Texas, and with plants in Arkansas and Missouri…

Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride and other large food processors in the U.S. increasingly are turning to refugees from Myanmar, Sudan, Somalia and other countries for a more stable workforce. Tyson Foods processing complexes in Center, Texas; Shelbyville, Tenn., Waterloo, Iowa; and elsewhere each employ hundreds of resettled refugees.

World Relief assists

Tyson and other companies find many of these workers with assistance of nonprofit agencies that have contracts with the U.S. State Department to help refugees in the United States become resettled and self-sufficient…

Our role as a resettlement agency is to help find homes for them (refugees), help them get their Social Security cards” and address other basic needs, said Andrew Timbie, manager of the World Relief office in High Point.

We have a team working with employers to hire them in mass. Our goal is to get them employed and to set them up for self-sufficiency.”

Timbie said World Relief staff work with leaders of refugee populations to get the word out about available jobs, such as at the Tyson complex in Wilkesboro...Read more here

Posted in Karen, meatpacking industry, poultry production, Raleigh-Durham, secondary migration, refugee, Wilkesboro, World Relief | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Kansas bounty hunter wrongfully attacks former Lost Boy of Sudan in Amarillo

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 2, 2013


One of the former Lost Boys of Sudan now living in Amarillo, Texas has filed a negligence lawsuit against a Kansas bounty hunter claiming the man wrongfully targeted him and attacked without warning. Aguer Gak claims that Donald Ray Adams, without announcing his intentions or identifying himself as a bounty hunter, and without asking Gak his name or for any identification, Tased Gak, pepper sprayed him, Tased him again, and then shackled Gak in Amarillo on Nov. 17, 2012. Adams claimed he was searching for a bail jumper. In the state of Kansas becoming a licensed bounty hunter requires only completing a two-day course and paying $200. An article at has the details of the story:

An Amarillo man filed a negligence suit Wednesday against a Kansas bounty hunter, alleging the man wrongfully identified him as a bail jumper, Tasing and assaulting him in front of a north Amarillo motel last year.

The suit was filed in 320th District Court by Aguer Gak, a Sudanese immigrant who works at Tyson Fresh Meats, against Donald Ray Adams.

On Nov. 17, 2012, Adams, 66, approached Gak about 8:30 p.m. as Gak was talking on a cellphone near the Cowboy Motel, 3619. E. Amarillo Blvd., according to the suit and Amarillo police reports.

Without announcing his intentions or identifying himself as a bounty hunter, and without asking Gak his name or for any identification, Adams Tased Gak, then pepper sprayed him, then Tased him again, then shackled Gak,” the suit states. “The quick actions of an intervening Good Samaritan with a broom allowed Gak to escape Adams’ capture, with Gak fleeing for his life, still shackled with Adams’ restraints.”

During the melee, two other witnesses called 911 and one man told police the fracas sounded like someone was being killed…

One witness, Deng Awon Kon, told police Adams left in his pickup before police arrived. Kon said he followed Adams until he stopped near some police vehicles.

Adams, according to a police report, told officers Gak, 33, was a Kansas bail jumper he was attempting to apprehend, but one investigating officer determined Adams had attempted to capture the wrong man.

Officers said they later located Gak — who still was handcuffed and had two Taser probes buried in his arm — a few blocks from the motel. Officers transported him back to the motel, where he identified Adams as the man who attacked him, Amarillo police reports said.

A Potter County jury found Adams guilty of misdemeanor assault July 17, and a judge sentenced him to serve nine days in jail and ordered him to pay a $2,000 fine…

Gak’s Amarillo attorney, Vince Nowak, said he suffered injuries to his head and his arm during the incident… Read more here

Posted in Amarillo, police, safety, Sudanese | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


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