Friends of Refugees

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Archive for the ‘police’ Category

San Diego police kill Myanmar refugee who had mental illness

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 19, 2014


San Diego police have shot and killed a refugee from Myanmar who had a mental illness.  The young man’s family called police after he threatened them with knives and a stick and police then escalated the volatile situation by breaking down the door and sending in a police dog.  After the young man injured the dog with a machete swing to its back he allegedly swung the weapon at police prompting two officers to open fire. This case is part of a growing problem of people with severe mental disorders who are coming in contact with the criminal justice system, with sometimes deadly consequences, without adequate mental health services.  As a result of other tragic killings by police, many police departments are using a crisis intervention team model, in which specially trained officers are dispatched to a scene when a person with mental illness is involved. An article at Fox 5 San Diego covers the killing of the refugee from Myanmar:

SAN DIEGO – Friends of a young man with mental illness, who was killed by police after he threatened his family and police with knives and a stick at his City Heights apartment over the weekend, wondered if police could have handled it differently.

Patrol personnel went to the residence in the 3800 block of Menlo Avenue at 10:20 p.m. Sunday on reports that a man was threatening the lives of his family, according to San Diego police.

Officers arrived to find the man holding a knife and a stick and behaving in an “agitated” manner, Lt. Mike Hastings said. As the officers tried to persuade him to disarm himself, he allegedly began threatening them and retrieved a machete.
Officers tried in vain to subdue the suspect with stun guns and police dogs, Hastings said. When one of the canines approached, the man struck the animal on the back with the machete, according to police.

The suspect then allegedly swung the weapon at an officer, prompting two others to open fire. He suffered multiple gunshot wounds and died at the scene.
The man was identified by friends on a social media website as 21-year-old Burmese refugee from Myanmar named Ja Ma Lo Day…

He suffered from mental illness and had been involved in several prior encounters with the police, according to the online posting… Read more here

Posted in Burma/Myanmar, language, mental health, police, San Diego | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Refugees in Rochester, NY still under attack

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 4, 2014


It’s now been almost two years since this blog reported on attacks occurring on refugees in Rochester, NY.  The US refugee program has not solved the problem and continues to resettle refugees to this known dangerous site.  The State Department’s resettlement office has made clear that it does not consider crime rates when deciding where to resettle this vulnerable group (refugees).  In 2012 Burmese refugees were under attack in the neighborhoods where the refugee program resettled them, and someone shot to death a Sudanese refugee.  Last month an article reported that Nepali-Bhutanese refugees were under repeated attack as well.  Another article in the Democrat & Chronicle documents the latest incidents:

Locked inside their house in northwest Rochester, the Nepalese family felt under siege.

Outside, a crowd of young men — 20 to 25 in number — broke windows to the home and threatened to storm inside, according to members of the family. Moments before, several young men had followed and jumped a Nepalese teen. That scuffle then escalated into the menacing gang…

It wasn’t until the police came that the crowd scattered. This incident, in daylight hours Thursday, is another in a growing list of attacks against South Asian refugee families who have been settled in areas of northwest Rochester near Jones Square…
As law enforcement officials decide how to curb the intimidation and violence, the refugees themselves say they feel ignored and left to fend for themselves…

Many of the refugees are hesitant to talk to police, and, when they do, they have not been able to provide much information about their attackers. Typically, the offenders have been young African-American men, creating a volatile situation in which the refugees feel at risk in the very neighborhoods where they have been resettled…

If deemed a “hate crime” — namely if evidence exists that the refugees are targeted because of their nationality and not simply because they may be seen as vulnerable — then there could be grounds for federal prosecutions…

Bill Wischmeyer, an advocate for the refugee community, said there were two other attacks on refugees this week, one on children playing soccer. Wischmeyer has been regularly contacting police, hoping to head off future violence.

Some of the refugees see the constant harassment as the opening salvos in a battle. Their supporters, meanwhile, try to assure them that the police will find means to protect them and help them find safety in their new home.

Wischmeyer came to the Parkway home on Thursday afternoon after the gang had left.

“I came over and it looked like a war zone,” he said. Read more here

Posted in abuse, crime, dangerous neighborhoods, elderly refugees, gangs, hate crimes, Nepali Bhutanese, Office of Admissions, police, Rochester, State Department, teenagers, teens | 2 Comments »

Attacker of Albuquerque Iraqi Catholic refugee yelled anti-Muslim obscenities

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 17, 2014


An Iraqi Catholic refugee alleges she was assaulted in her Albuquerque apartment and robbed of $20,000 in gold. Now the FBI is investigating the case as a possible federal hate crime. An article in the Daily Reporter covers the story:

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — An Iraqi Catholic refugee who was assaulted in her Albuquerque apartment appears to be the victim of a hate crime by an attacker who yelled obscenities about Muslims, police said.

According to Albuquerque police, a man last week forced his way into the home of Seham Jaber, shouting nasty remarks about Muslims and punching her in the head and stomach. The intruder then tore up her family’s citizenship papers in the June 5 attack, investigators said.

“The irony is the individual thought the family was Muslim, and they’re actually refugees from Iraq who are Catholic,” Albuquerque police spokesman Simon Drobik said.

Jaber, who speaks Arabic, told police the unknown assailant also stole at least $20,000 in gold, which represented her family’s life savings. The assailant also stole jewelry, she said.

“No house, no car. It was all in gold,” Saad Sajet, Jaber’s husband, told the Albuquerque Journal.

The suspect was described as wearing a mask, jeans and a yellow T-shirt.

No arrest has been made.

The FBI now is investigating the case as a possible federal hate crime, Albuquerque police said Friday… Read more here

Posted in anti-Islamic, Catholic, dangerous neighborhoods, FBI, hate crimes, Iraqi, New Mexico, police, women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Refugees preyed upon on Rochester NY streets

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 8, 2014


Refugees in Rochester NY say they are fed up with being targeted for crime on the city’s streets. Ironically, many of these refugees do not report the crimes to police. Reportedly, the assaults, robberies and verbal abuse against local Nepali-Bhutanese and other refugees are being committed by young men from the African-American community. There is some debate whether these attacks are hate crimes or if the young men are targeting the victims due to their vulnerability as immigrants. An article in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle examines the issue:

Are the assaults, robberies and verbal abuse against local Bhutanese, Nepali and other refugees by young men from the African-American community hate crimes or crimes of economics and opportunity?

Perhaps a little of both.

Former Rochester police chief James Sheppard, who now works as a mentor to young African-American men whose lives have gone down paths of crime, downplayed tagging the crimes as “hate crimes” — defined generally as a criminal offense motivated by bias against race, religion, gender or other characteristics. He said the perpetrators are more often young black men who don’t feel good about themselves and who prey on the vulnerable for economic reasons…

Those who have been attacked say the abuse is often accompanied by comments such as “go back to your own country,” or “you don’t belong here.”…

Members of that community say they often do not call police because they either fear retaliation from the accused, they don’t think police will be effective at solving the problem, or they are simply more inclined just accept the abuse… Read more here

Posted in crime, dangerous neighborhoods, gangs, hate crimes, Nepali Bhutanese, police, Rochester, safety | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Springfield, Massachusetts case back into the public spotlight

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 1, 2014


The refugee case in Springfield, Massachusetts has come back into the public spotlight after police responding to call from a Somali family discovered them living in an apartment with an extremely heavy roach infestation and no electricity. Of the family’s children two required special breathing equipment, which was not functioning without electricity.  City inspectors said it was the worst roach infestation they had ever seen and condemned the apartment. In addition, there were missing or non-working smoke detectors, no working stove, and other conditions that made the apartment uninhabitable. The mayor and others have of course jumped on the refugee resettlement agencies in town but the family was resettled in 2003 and moved out of the state only to move back, and then out again and then back again.  Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts last assisted the family in 2011 until the family moved out-of-state a second time and claim it was not aware the family needed help again.

A couple of articles in The Republican newspaper report on the case:

SPRINGFIELD – City officials said Tuesday that Somali refugees including 12 children were found living in deplorable conditions in a Union Street apartment that had a heavy infestation of roaches and no electricity.

The duplex apartment at 515 Union St. was condemned Thursday by the city, and the tenants — believed to number three adults and 12 children — were relocated after Code Enforcement and Housing officials were notified and conducted the inspection, city officials said.

“It was the heaviest infestation of roaches I have seen in years,” said David Cotter, the city’s deputy director of code enforcement in the Housing Division. “They were all over the walls, floors, ceilings, window areas, doorways. I ordered all the inspectors out of there until we could get a full extermination report.”

According to police, one child was doing her homework outside the building under a street lamp on Wednesday night due to the lack of electricity, Cotter said.

Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, who has been critical of the refugee resettlement policies in Springfield in the past, renewed his criticism on Tuesday. Refugees have not received adequate follow-up services from the resettlement agencies, from the federal level on down, leaving them to be a strain on city services, Sarno said.

“Where is the accountability?” Sarno said.

The residents were living in poverty and in crowded, unsafe conditions, Sarno said.

Sarno had urged the federal government to stop locating new refugees in Springfield last year, and called for a moratorium again on Tuesday.

“No mas, no more,” Sarno said… Read more here

Although Jewish Family Service is not responsible for this family, that was resettled eleven years ago, they have pledged to help.  A second article gives more information:

SPRINGFIELD – Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts President Robert Marmor said this week that his agency will work with the state to ensure the safety of 12 refugee children who were living in conditions at a Union Street apartment described as roach-infested…

In another twist, the 12 children and their parents have since moved temporarily into a Greenfield hotel after spending a night in a Marian Street apartment provided by their landlord. That apartment was also condemned, officials said…

Marmor, in a letter to Associate City Solicitor Lisa DeSousa, said his agency will act immediately to “ensure the children are safe and in appropriate child care and academic settings.”

David Cotter, the city’s deputy director of code enforcement, said the roach infestation was the worst he has seen in many years.

In addition, he said there were missing or non-working smoke detectors, no electricity or working stove, and other conditions that made the apartment uninhabitable.

Marmor said his employees, in communicating with the family, believe there has been numerous complaints to the landlord about conditions. The landlord is No Limit Investment, whose officers are listed as Jimmy Davis, of Philadelphia, and Dasha Miller, of Springfield, according to records.

Daniel Kelly, of Springfield, a lawyer representing the landlord, said they are working to correct all violations this week at 515 Union St. In addition, they are correcting violations found at the second apartment they provided to the family at 197 Marion St…

The electricity had been turned off at the Union Street apartment because of very large unpaid electric bills, Kelly said… Read more here

Posted in children, housing, Jewish Family Service of Western Masachusetts, moratorium / restriction / reduction, police, Somali Bantu, Springfield | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 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 »

Urban League of Springfield criticizes city’s stance against refugees

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 9, 2013


An op-ed from September 1 by Urban League of Springfield’s president and CEO Henry M. Thomas III explains the group’s analysis of the city’s stance against the Somali Bantu refugees. He suggests that landlords took advantage of the Somali Bantu refugees with the notion that they would not be whistle blowers. He suggests that the city should be “focused on enforcement of landlord responsibilities to keep…rental housing properties up to code”, and that the court should be more quick in processing violation claims. He also points out that people “should hold accountable the agencies and government institutions that have…responsibilities to effectively, efficiently and prudently address the challenges the refugees face.” The op-ed is found in The Republican:

Mayor Domenic J. Sarno is asking the State Department to refrain from resettling refugees in the city of Springfield. He argues that addressing their needs has become a burden on city services, noting that the refugees are victims of crime, subject to substandard living conditions and a drain on School Department resources. 

We do not question whether the resettling of our newest residents is a legitimate challenge or not. The question is whether an exclusionary approach toward groups such as the Somali Bantu is our best solution. The Urban League of Springfield thinks not

The city should be focused on enforcement of landlord responsibilities to keep their rental housing properties up to code…

The plight of refugees in their home country is extraordinarily severe. Their living conditions in their home of origin are much more challenging than what they endure from negligent landlords in Springfield. Perhaps that is why absentee landlords feel that they can break the law and not get called on it.

Landlords don’t expect the Somali Bantu, who fear deportation, to be whistleblowers. We understand that the mayor has every right and obligation to advocate for the city’s best interests. However, we don’t think a short-sighted exclusionary tactic is the answer. Springfield should use the legal tools it has to deal with substandard housing, to make sure resettlement resources offered by the federal and state government are adequate and to rethink the utilization of school resources to appropriately handle our educational obligations to the Somali Bantu children…

We should hold accountable the agencies and government institutions that have defined responsibilities to effectively, efficiently and prudently address the challenges the refugees face…

Local leaders must work to solve problems, not sidestep them. We realize the city is strapped for resources and we are totally empathic to that reality…

Going forward, the resettlement agencies will need to step up their games to be stronger trainers and advocates; City Hall will need to be tougher in prosecuting violators of housing codes; the court will need to be more expeditious in processing violation claims; and the School Department will need to rethink utilization of resources to provide required educational support.

Surrounding cities and towns should open their doors as well. The undisputed degree of difficulty around resettling refugees can be mitigated by learning from the mistakes made thus far; here and elsewhere… Read more here

Posted in crime, housing, housing, substandard, Jewish Family Service of Western Masachusetts, LSS Lutheran Social Services of New England, moratorium / restriction / reduction, police, school for refugee children, schools, Somali Bantu, Springfield | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Springfield refugee resettlement task force meeting closed to the public

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 7, 2013

meetingIn a secretive meeting closed to the public, on Thursday the Mayor of Springfield, MA and five agencies involved in refugee resettlement will sit down as part of a task force to discuss the mayor’s claims of alleged problems in local refugee resettlement. The two refugee resettlement agencies have released documents ahead of the meeting that show what services and programs they offer the refugees. The argument being it seems that “there are just so many programs” for the refugees. None of that, however, tells us whether these services are actually delivered, whether the services are quality services, and how they address refugees’ problems that are not covered by the services and programs. Are refugees ever polled for their opinion on these services and programs to improve services? If not, why not? These people should be experts at what they need and both what they received and what they did not get. The two resettlement agencies also will not release information about how many refugees they resettled in Springfield in fiscal year 2013 that just ended at the end of September. They claim they need confirmation from the Massachusetts state refugee office. They don’t know how many refugees they resettled? Hmmm. For their part the City seems to still be taking the position that landlords who rent out properties in disrepair or who fail to make repairs is best blamed on tenants for merely living in such places – in this case refugee tenants – and that this causes “work” for the City code enforcement department. The City has also failed to say exactly what city services departments, such as police, have done to assist diverse populations, and what the schools are doing to teach refugee students. After all, the police should be the experts at public safety, and the schools should be the experts at education. What specifically would they like the refugee organizations to do to aid the police and the schools? An article in The Republican discusses issues surrounding the task force meeting set for Thursday, October 10th:

SPRINGFIELD — Two months after Mayor Domenic Sarno urged the federal government to stop sending new refugees to Springfield, a local task force will meet Thursday to respond to the mayor’s concerns about hardships faced by the refugees and the city…

Hopefully, this is the beginning of an open and honest dialogue with the resettlement agencies,” Sarno said Thursday, after receiving 14 documents that further explain the refugee resettlement program and the assistance received by refugees…

Sarno said he continues to have serious concerns that too many refugees are being placed in Springfield, straining city services such as schools, code enforcement, and police because of cases of substandard housing, claims of inadequate services by some refugees and their advocates, and challenges refugees face pertaining to language, education and employment…

The first meeting will be at 11 a.m., at the Law Office-Code Enforcement Division, 95 State St., and will be closed to the public…

DeSousa said the goal of the meetings is to ensure that refugees in Springfield have sufficient services including “adequately housed, have an understanding of and access to basic health care, have enough financial or in-kind support that they can meet their basic needs including shelter, food, heat, and transportation, and that sufficient support is in place to provide each family with the tools necessary to successfully acclimate to and participate in our community.” Read more here

Posted in housing, Jewish Family Service of Western Masachusetts, LSS Lutheran Social Services of New England, moratorium / restriction / reduction, Office of Admissions, openess and transparency in government, police, safety, schools, Springfield | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Refugees in substandard housing in Springfield, MA

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 17, 2013

 8-14-13, rotted roof shingles 2

The Mayor of Springfield, Massachusetts has asked the State Department to stop approving placement of refugees to the City by the two local refugee resettlement agencies due to concerns about refugees living in substandard housing, crimes against refugees, and strain on City resources including the school system. The substandard housing is an issue this blog has covered extensively. A few of the resettlement sites covered here include Columbus, Phoenix, Louisville, Bowling Green, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Omaha, Fredericksburg, Chicago, Houston (and here), Rockford, Knoxville, and Syracuse.

 Mayor Sarno apparently attached five housing inspection reports to his letter to the State Department but those are not included in the copy accompanying the August 13th article in the The Republican newspaper. His comments in the letter about substandard housing conditions are here:

8-13-13, blurb from Springfied mayor letter to B. Day re substandard housing

A video news report at WWLP -22News claims to show some of the conditions at these apartments, including this one showing rotted roof shingles, no hot running water and infestation with bugs:

8-14-13, rotted roof shingles

Robert Marmor, president and CEO of the Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts, said his agency “does not place any person or family in ‘uninhabitable’ residences or unsafe conditions,” while also claiming that his own personal inspection of eight apartments found two in poor condition due to “landlord negligence.” (See August 14, 2013 article in The Republican, Mayor Domenic Sarno’s call for freeze on more refugees in Springfield draws rebuttals). How were the eight apartments chosen as a sample?

The resettlement agencies are claiming they do not place refugees in substandard housing, yet the carefully chosen wording leaves open the possibility that apartment conditions soon deteriorate and refugees are either unable to communicate issues to the landlords or landlords are taking advantage of refugees’ lack of understanding about their housing rights. If so, where are the resettlement agencies when this occurs? Have they done enough to educate refugees about their housing rights? Do they monitor ongoing conditions after refugees track out of the short initial resettlement phase? What exactly have they done to help advocate for refugees living in substandard conditions? Notice that none of these basic questions are answered by the resettlement agencies’ short and apparently carefully constructed PR statements.

The Mayor for his part though should also explain what the City has done and is doing to deal with negligent landlords. Are there protections for tenants who may face retaliation when they report code violations to the City? Are local courts fair to community members who face eviction hearings or who take landlords to small claims court?

Posted in Congolese, crime, dangerous neighborhoods, Eritrean, HIAS, housing, housing, substandard, Iranian, Jewish Family Service of Western Masachusetts, LSS Lutheran Social Services of New England, moratorium / restriction / reduction, Nepali Bhutanese, Office of Admissions, police, rats and roaches, safety, schools, Somali Bantu, Springfield | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Police changing procedures after refugees murdered at apartment complex in Phoenix

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 30, 2013


In light of the communication problems after the murder of two Karenni refugees at apartment complex in Phoenix in April, the police will now have access to refugee community leaders and interpreters in the communities 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Officers can also carry a card that includes contact numbers for refugee agencies and questions to ask refugees to better identify appropriate resources. An article in The Arizona Republic explains:

…Two Burmese refugees were stabbed at the Serrano Village Apartments near 28th Avenue and Camelback Road, leaving fellow refugees stunned and afraid.

Ker Reh, 54, and Kay Reh, 24, who are not related, were attacked outside an apartment unit where they were attending a prayer service for a friend who had died of natural causes….

Thousands of Burmese refugees call Phoenix home, and the homicides highlighted the struggles the community faces. Community leaders and the police department are working to overcome some of those issues, such as language barriers and fear of the police…

More than 4,100 Burmese refugees have moved to Arizona since fiscal 1999 with a majority of them — 3,858 — concentrated in apartments around Phoenix…

The main stumbling block for the refugees is their lack of English skills, leaders said. Phoenix police had to call a translator on April 28 to the murder scene to help piece together what had happened.

…many refugees don’t call 911 for help because they can’t speak English.

The 911 ask many questions so people are scared to call,” said Ray, who taught himself English when he arrived to this country. He spent 20 years in a Thai refugee camp.

Phary Reh, 35, said many of the older refugees also fear the police because of their experiences with them in Thailand and Burma.

When they are driving and see police, they are scared,” he said. “In their heart, it reminds them of the police in Thailand.”…

Police spokesman Steve Martos said the department also is enhancing its ability to serve the Myanmar refugees.

This incident helped us address a deficiency as it relates to language barriers,” he said. “We have since worked with the refugee community to find ways we can have access to their community leaders and someone to translate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”…

Now, officers can carry a card that includes contact numbers for refugee agencies and questions to ask refugees to better identify appropriate resources… Read more here

Posted in Catholic Charities Phoenix, crime, dangerous neighborhoods, gangs, hate crimes, Karenni, language, Phoenix, police, safety | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »


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