Friends of Refugees

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ORR Scam Alert – scheme to rob refugees of personal data

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 15, 2014

 scam_alert

The following is a current scam alert put out by the ORR (Office of Refugee Resettlement) in regard to a new fraud scheme to rob refugees of personal data, which can be used to commit identity theft. Criminals have so far targeted refugees from Myanmar in Iowa.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) would like to warn you of a new fraud scheme to rob refugees of personal data, which can be used to commit identity theft. 

Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center (EMBARC), an ORR grantee from Iowa, reports that last week some of their clients were visited by two men claiming to  be cell phone company representatives.  These men went door to door asking refugee families for their social security numbers, Medicaid numbers, and dates of birth, promising them free cell phones in return.  

ORR urges you to be aware that there are several criminals seeking to take advantage of newly arrived refugees who may not realize the need to protect their personal information from thieves and other criminals.  

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is following scam attempts such as these, and encourages anyone contacted with similar scams to report them through the FTC website. Their recently published Consumer Alert provides valuable tips on how to avoid being victimized, and what to do in case you are contacted.  They have also set up a new web page, Avoiding Scams Against Immigrants, with information and materials in several languages. 

Unfortunately, people are getting hurt by this scam: some refugees are losing thousands of dollars. How can you avoid scams like this?

Do not give important personal information – or money – to someone you don’t know or to someone who contacts you unexpectedly.

Do not give your personal or financial information to unknown persons who seek payment or solicits charitable contributions: providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.

Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming e-mails, including clicking links contained within those messages.

Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as officials asking for payments or donations, door-to-door, via phone, mail, e-mail or social networking sites.

If you are a refugee and get a call like this, talk to the case manager at your resettlement agency immediately. Then report it to the Federal Trade Commission online or at 1-877-FTC-HELP

Information courtesy of the Federal Trade Commission, FTC Consumer Alert

Resettled refugees are once again advised to consult with their local resettlement agencies if someone claiming to represent the government contacts them, especially if there are promises of cash or prizes.  If these scammers come to your home, report the incident to your local police. 

Please help the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) spread the warning about these scams, and stop others from being victimized by these criminals.

Thank you,

ORR

 

Posted in Burma/Myanmar, Iowa, ORR, scams, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

ORR now reneges on cutting refugee funding

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 12, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Republican governors go on attack in states receiving fewest Central American immigrant children

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 10, 2014

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It seems that the states with the fewest immigrant children and young adults of the 30,000 that have arrived since January are the ones making the biggest racket over their placement by the ORR. Republican governors of these states have gone on a media blitz complaining about everything from the speculative diseases these immigrants have to claims of so-called potential increases in crime. An article at The Daily Reflector covers North Carolina’s governor Pat McCrory:

Gov. Pat McCrory has been on a media blitz lately, with four news conferences in the last few days, one to fear-monger about refugee children…

McCrory said that the children relocated to North Carolina after fleeing dangerous and abuse situations in Central American countries did not receive health screenings and may be a threat to North Carolina children. He sounded ominous warnings about the lack of background checks of the sponsors providing the children their new home. But the children do undergo health screenings and the sponsors do undergo background checks. McCrory could have found that out by simply visiting the website of the office of Federal Office of Refugee Resettlement.

When confronted with the information that background checks are done on the sponsors of the children, McCrory said they were not the kind of background checks that need to be done. He didn’t provide any clarification and seemed caught off guard by pointed questions about the remarks he made about the immigrant children the day before… Read here

Posted in asylees, children, Guatemalan, health, North Carolina, ORR, right-wing, schools, teenagers, teens, unaccompanied minors, young adults | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Conservative websites spread misinformation on influx of immigrant children

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 3, 2014

SpreadingMisinformation

The now long ongoing influx of immigrant children across the US southern border – and highly publicized due to an increase in recent months – is now being met by a wave of misinformation spearheaded by conservative websites. The US agency responsible for apprehending the immigrants (ICE and here) and handing them over to the ORR advertised in January for contractors to aid with the transfer following ICE taking these illegal immigrants into custody. Conservative websites have locked on the issue to spread misinformation by falsely claiming that ICE is instead requesting services to transport these immigrants across the border to the US. They also claim that ICE, therefore the Obama administration, had anticipated the influx in January. Instead, the influx has actually been going on for several years with a more recent surge due to drug and gang related violence in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. An article in the Reno Gazette-Journal looks at this issue:

…The recent wave of publicity concerning the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America being apprehended at the southwest border has unleashed a flood of emails from readers. Many refer, directly or indirectly, to a request for information submitted Jan. 29 by the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement on the Federal Business Opportunities website titled “Escort Services for Unaccompanied Alien Children.”

Some have asked if Homeland Security is paying to bring foreign children across the border illegally, based on some conservative websites that misinterpreted the request for information. Infowars, for example, claimed that the Obama administration is using “taxpayer money to escort illegal minors into the United States.”
Other readers asked if the Obama administration placed the advertisement “back in January” and wonder how the administration knew months ago there would be a crisis at the border.

First of all, ICE did not solicit bids for vendors to bring children across the border, as Infowars claimed. The request for information was referring to children who illegally crossed the border and were apprehended by Border Patrol agents. The private escorts would transfer “approximately 65,000″ unaccompanied foreign children from Border Patrol facilities to Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement shelters… Read more here

Posted in children, gangs, Guatemalan, ICE, ORR, right-wing, teens, Texas, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

San Diego police kill Myanmar refugee who had mental illness

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 19, 2014

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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 »

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 »

Another fatal fire – this time in Phoenix

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 12, 2014

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A late afternoon fire killed a 7-month-old Somali baby boy at the McDowell East Apartments in Phoenix two weeks ago.  The cause of the fire remains under investigation.  Firefighters believe that a smoke detector had no batteries.  The local fire marshal says it’s shockingly common for smoke detectors to have no batteries, which should be a message to resettlement agencies to check refugee clients’ smoke detectors periodically.  Another fire in June in New Bern, NC displaced many refugee families.  In that case the cause of the fire was children playing with a lighter.  An article in The Republic covers the Phoenix story:

As residents of a Phoenix community continue to grieve for a 7-month-old baby who died in an apartment fire, questions linger about whether the unit had a working smoke detector and if family members, who are Somali ­refugees, would have understood its importance.

Officials said 7-month-old Mohamed Ali likely died of smoke inhalation after his family’s home in the McDowell East Apartments, near 24th Street and McDowell Road, caught fire at about 3 p.m. Monday.

The baby’s mother and grandmother were able to get the other children living in the home out of harm’s way but were unable to get the baby out because of heavy smoke and a wall of flames that blocked their path. Neighbors, including an off-duty firefighter, also rushed in to help but were unable to reach Mohamed.

The fire displaced about 80 people living in the complex, which is largely occupied by refugee families. Most of them have since returned home to their apartments.

Investigators on Wednesday were still trying to determine the fire’s cause.

Sgt. Trent Crump, a police spokesman, said investigators believe the family’s apartment didn’t have a working detector — the battery was missing. Crump said that it’s not clear who ­removed the battery or when but that it is part of the ongoing inquiry…

Fatuma Dubow, a Somali refugee who lives in the complex, said most people from her homeland don’t have electricity, so checking a smoke detector or understanding how it works is knowledge that develops over time…

Another Somali refugee who lives nearby said she knew that smoke detectors were important but was under the impression that they alerted police and fire automatically during a fire…

Cathy Peterson, vice president of program operations for Catholic Charities Community Service, gave a…description for her group’s health and safety orientations.

“The heath and safety (primer) would include the smoke alarms,” she said… Read more here

Posted in apartment building fires, children, housing, Phoenix, Somali Bantu | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Refugees in Rochester, NY still under attack

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 4, 2014

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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 »

Apartment house fire in New Bern, N.C.

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 30, 2014

fire.

There been another apartment house fire, this time in New Bern, North Carolina.  Children playing with a lighter started the fire.  The fire displaced about 30 refugees from Myanmar — placed in the apartments by Interfaith Refugee Ministry.  The fire damaged 8 apartments occupied by the refugees, who lost everything. The story is found at WNCT CBS Channel 9.

NEW BERN, N.C. – Several fire departments battled a fire at Coopers Landing apartments on Simmons Street in New Bern Wednesday morning.

Colleen Roberts, public information officer with New Bern, says investigators site children playing with a lighter as the cause.

About 30 people have been displaced.

The fire affected units occupied by Burmese refugees who were placed there by the Interfaith Refugee Ministry, who helps refugees coming to the country get a fresh start…

The fire damaged 8 apartments…  Read more here

 

Posted in apartment building fires, Burma/Myanmar, children, housing, Interfaith Refugee Ministry, North Carolina | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Springfield, MA struggling

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 27, 2014

jobsearch

While the Mayor of Springfield continues to scapegoat refugees for perceived political gain a leader of a local refugee resettlement group is using the defense that the city is struggling with, “a weak economy, high unemployment, crime, proverty [sic], inadequate housing, and low high school graduation rates.” Of course that raises the question about whether the city is a proper destination for refugees in the US resettlement program.  An article in The Republican continues a series of articles covering the issue:

SPRINGFIELD – An organization that resettles refugees in Western Massachusetts said Monday the program should not serve as “a scapegoat” for city problems, as Mayor Domenic J. Sarno has renewed a request for a moratorium on new refugees in Springfield.

Jodie Justofin, a spokeswoman for Lutheran Social Services, said Monday that Sarno’s concerns about the resettlement of refugees in Springfield, including his claim that it poses a hardship on city services, was already addressed in a letter from the agency’s president Angela Bovill, in August.

“As you’ll note, Angela put this political issue in the context of the many challenges facing Springfield,” Justofin said. “In a city of 150,000 residents, the relatively small number of refugees (about 1 percent of the population) residing in Springfield should not be made a scapegoat for the city’s problems. Many of these refugees are contributing members of society, working, paying taxes and enriching the community.”…

At that time, Bovill said in part: “I trust you don’t mean to imply that in a city with a population of more than 150,000, Springfield’s longstanding struggle with a weak economy, high unemployment, crime, proverty [sic], inadequate housing, and low high school graduation rates are a direct result of the 250-300 refugees resettling to the City annually,”… Read more here

Posted in crime, employment/jobs for refugees, housing, Jewish Family Service of Western Masachusetts, moratorium / restriction / reduction, schools, Somali Bantu, Springfield | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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