Archive for the ‘States’ Category
Posted by Christopher Coen on November 12, 2014
The political Right has been trying to attack the federal government’s costs for caring for the unprecedented surge of unaccompanied alien minors (and here, here and here) that have illegally crossed the Mexican border over the past two years. These minors are cared for by the federal Dept. of HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). A so-called prime example of wasteful spending (the real motivation for criticisms being anti-immigrant sentiments rather than government spending) is the nonprofit Southwest Key’s facility in San Diego. Criticisms, now spearheaded by Iowan senator Chuck Grassley, include amenities for the minors including organic orchard and garden supplying the facility’s kitchen as well as a small petting farm with ducks, chickens, and miniature ponies and an Acuaponics system cultivating over 1000 Tilapia fish. Yet, as Southwest Key points out the amenities mostly came with the property when it was leased by the non-profit and have added little costs. The animals on the farm were all donated or born there with the exception of $40 used to buy the stock for the Tilapia fish pond. Veterinary care is donated and feed costs are a negligible $60/month. An article in the San Diego Reader covers the story:
How is life for so-called unaccompanied alien children at a federally sponsored youth shelter in El Cajon? Perhaps too sweet, in the opinion of Iowa Republican senator Charles Grassley, as expressed by him in an October 30 letter to U.S. Health and Human Services secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell…
But Grassley questioned the government’s “stewardship of taxpayer dollars” already spent by Southwest Key, the Austin, Texas-based nonprofit that runs the facility here, as well as others in Texas, Arizona, and California…
“On April 23, 2014, Southwest Key proposed to charge the government a ‘daily rate’ of $316 to house unaccompanied alien children in a facility in El Cajon, California,” according to Grassley’s letter, which cited Southwest Key’s description of the operation’s amenities on an application for federal funds.
“We have an organic orchard of orange, lemon, and grapefruit trees, as well as an Organic garden that supplements our kitchen with a wide variety of organic vegetables throughout the year,” the nonprofit said.
“We have a small petting farm with ducks, chickens, and miniature ponies. We have also established an Acuaponics system where we are cultivating over 1000 Tilapia.”…
Southwest Key responded to Grassley’s letter with a statement saying “the cost per child in our California facilities is higher than other locations because they are small facilities with fewer beds. As the amount of beds goes up, the cost per child goes down. Unfortunately, Southwest Key has not been able to secure a larger facility in that region in order to expand to more beds.”
As for the alleged amenities, the nonprofit said, “The orchard and organic farm were pre-existing on the property when we leased it, so we have not purchased any trees or plants.
“We did pay a one-time fee of $40 to buy forty fish as stock. Since then they have reproduced at no cost to us. The cost to keep the orchard and garden is only the electricity used to run the well pump for watering. The crops they produce, however, supplement to our food supply and actually lower our expenditures there.
“The poultry on the farm also supplements our food supply. The water in the tilapia farm is constantly recycled and only requires minimal watering to compensate for evaporation and the waste from the fish is used to fertilize the organic garden….
“The animals at the farm in our El Cajon facility were all donated with the exception of one pony that was born at El Cajon. The veterinary care provided to the animals is also donated. The total cost of feed for all the animals — ponies, chickens, ducks and tilapia is a negligible part of the overall budget (approximately $60/month for feeding all animals)…. Read more here
Posted in asylees, children, funding, ORR, right-wing, San Diego, unaccompanied minors | Tagged: chuck grassley, immigration, minors, Office of Refugee Resettlement, ORR, refugees, resettlement, San Diego, Southwest key, unaccompanied | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Christopher Coen on November 1, 2014
There have been rumors due to fear of deadly contagious diseases that refugees may be bringing the deadly Ebola fever into the US. Yet, as the national refugee contractor USCRI indicates, only 25 of the 70,000 refugees who came into the US last fiscal year (through the end of September) were from effected countries. In addition, these people traveled well before the threat of Ebola began in West Africa so they were not at risk. Refugees arriving this fiscal year should closely match the originating countries make-up of refugees resettled last year. What could be of concern, however, according to the medical director at the University of Arizona Health Network, are those refugees resettled in earlier years (refugees cannot easily travel abroad without green cards for they are eligible only after being in the US one year) who could have recently traveled to West Africa, the epicenter of Ebola. Nevertheless, a variety of people have traveled back and forth between the US and effected countries and trying to avoid people based on country of origin will not keep anyone safe. Using universal precautions is the best way to avoid exposure – washing hands, avoiding touching your mouth, nose and eyes, avoiding blood and bodily fluids of sick people, not touching used medical materials, etc. Furthermore, the disease is not airborne and one cannot be infected through water or food. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) has announced that “Ebola poses no significant risk to the United States.” An article at Burlington’s WCAX-TV discusses the issue:
BURLINGTON, Vt. – While there have been no confirmed cases of Ebola in the state of Vermont, a heightened awareness of the disease has prompted many questions, specifically around what constitutes “voluntary quarantine,” and how it’s enforced… We…spoke with the director of government and community relations for U.S. committee for refugees and immigrants. They say there have been no refugees traveling from the countries currently experiencing Ebola outbreaks. Last fiscal year, 70,000 refugees came to the U.S., but only 25 were from effected countries. Again, these individuals traveled well before the threat of Ebola began in West Africa so they were not at risk. There are strict protocols in place for screening all refugees. If Ebola is detected, the state refugee health coordinator would be contacted within the Vermont Department of Health… Read more here
…and from the Green Valley News and Sun in Tucson, AZ:
A medical director at the University of Arizona Health Network said Tucson’s relatively high population of African nationals increases the likelihood of an Ebola patient arriving at a UAMC hospital. More than 250 refugees from West African countries have resettled in Pima County since 1998, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Dr. Sean Elliott, medical director for infection prevention for the University of Arizona Health Network, said members of those families could have recently traveled to West Africa, the epicenter of the deadly fever. “Just because of the cultural mix of Tucson’s population, it is likely we will have a case [of Ebola],” he said… Read more here
Posted in health, Tucson, USCRI, Vermont | Tagged: africa, Burlington, Ebola, health, immigration, quarantine, refugees, resettlement, Tucson, USCRI | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Christopher Coen on October 30, 2014
This post is based on an article from the summer about the reaction of the mayors of Dover, Somersworth and Rochester outside Manchester on the impact of impending refugee resettlement in their communities. A group of around 100 Congolese refugees was set to be resettled via the resettlement agency Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success (ORIS). The mayors asked how the refugees would be supported after eight months when refugee cash assistance ends. For those refugees who do not find jobs an obvious answer is the usual set of welfare for low-income residents – cash assistance, food stamps, section-8, etc. These are state and federally funded programs. Much is made about the lack of power of local governments to accept or deny new residents when in fact local governments do not get to decide that. The public and US permanent residents have always been free to come and go as they wish, i.e. the constitutionally granted freedom of movement. Everyday communities experience any number of people, including low-income people, moving to them. Where I do see a point is the issue of educational impacts (locally funded) on local communities, which the federal government could do more better help. This does need to be looked at in terms of the larger picture as families with adults needing ESL classes or children needing English language learners (ELL) education have adults eager to work, who then not only support local communities with their labor but also pay taxes and buy goods and services. An article in Foster’s Daily Democrat has more:
DOVER — Misinformation has surfaced this week regarding the relocation and settlement of Congolese refugees to Tri-City communities; however, one aspect of the program through the Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success is true — the communities of Dover, Somersworth and Rochester will have no say in the matter….
What is known is that no more than 100 Congolese families would be resettled throughout Tri-City communities and as a community, Weston said, there is no authority on whether to accept or not…
She also said this is not a program, federally operated through the state, that Dover is embracing…
Very little is known at this time as far as details into who would pick up financial and educational responsibility after the eight-month commitment of support ends from the program…
“We have not endorsed these folks and we do have major concerns of the financial and educational impact on each of our cities,” Weston said.
Hilliard said the idea that the community would legally have to support the refugees through both social services and education once the assistance from the state runs out is totally unacceptable for the Hilltop City. And while he said he could not speak on behalf of Dover and Rochester, he knows each community shares the same concerns…
“I really see this as really taxing the resources of the Tri-City communities for years to come if it’s not very clear up front how many refugees will be coming and where it’s capped, if at all,” he said… Read more here
Posted in Congolese, ELL, New Hampshire, ORIS, schools | Tagged: Congolese, Dover, funding, immigration, manchester, refugees, resettlement, rochester, Somersworth, Tri-City | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Christopher Coen on October 16, 2014
The suicide rate among Nepali-Bhutanese refugees continues as a subject of concern. The suicide rate among Bhutanese here is 20.3 per 100,000 people, nearly double the rate of 12.4 per 100,000 for U.S. residents overall, and higher than the global suicide rate of 16 per 100,000. In six years, up to 55 Bhutanese immigrants have hanged themselves, using ropes or traditional scarves, with the last one occurring in Ohio in April. A former Bhutanese refugee in Portland, OR has made it his goal to support refugees from his country and reduce the number of suicides. An article in the Los Angeles Times tells more:
…In six years, up to 55 Bhutanese immigrants have hanged themselves, using ropes or traditional scarves, and [Som Subeti of Portland’s Lutheran Community Services] suspects the rate might be even higher. He has hounded federal agencies such as the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement to investigate the trend. He sent emails, made telephone calls, even traveled to Washington to address officials…. Due in part to Subedi’s pressure, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a study that found the problem to be endemic: The suicide rate among Bhutanese here is 20.3 per 100,000 people, nearly double the rate of 12.4 per 100,000 for U.S. residents overall and higher than the global suicide rate of 16 per 100,000… He wrote a column for the Oregonian newspaper, questioning the American dream. “I am a refugee from Bhutan,” he began, describing how he once encouraged friends in the camps in Nepal to hurry to the U.S., a place he called “close to heaven.” He wrote: “Now I see those newly arrived struggling; they question me about my ‘heaven.’ Some say they would return, if possible, to their dark refugee camps rather than face their desperate situations in Oregon. I have come to feel that ‘the American dream’ is dangerous, because people come here with great expectations. I have stopped calling the camps in Nepal.” Benefits for Bhutanese stop after a few months, often before the recipients have assimilated. Subedi disagrees with the CDC conclusion that a Bhutanese predisposition to suicide was brought to the U.S. from the refugee camps. “It’s like saying, ‘It isn’t our problem,'” he said. “America is all about immigrants. The U.S. has resources other nations don’t. But there isn’t the will to help refugees here.”… His compatriots continue to take their own lives, the last one in Ohio in April… Read more here
Posted in Lutheran Community Service, mental health, Nepali Bhutanese, Oregon, ORR, suicide | Tagged: bhutanese, immigration, nepalese, ORR, Portland, refugees, resettlement, Som Subeti, suicide, U.S. Centers for Disease Control | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Christopher Coen on September 24, 2014
For new readers, across the US the private, yet publicly-funded, refugee resettlement agencies have in many cases placed refugees in slumlord apartments with no tools for knowing their rights or how to help themselves. This, as part of a humanitarian program. Refugees have also moved to these apartments under their own volition. Somali refugees in Columbus, Ohio have been living in some of these slumlord apartments, in this case owned/manages by Volunteers of America. It seems that (a) local resettlement agency/agencies has/have left the refugees with a poor to nonexistent understanding of their rights, while apparently turning a blind eye to the horrible problems. This is not the first case like this in recent years from Columbus. Last year a similar case unfolded at the Summit Park apartments. The Columbus Dispatch has the latest story:
Cockroaches and mice scurry across the carpeted floor where Luul Botan’s three young children play.
The bathroom and kitchen faucets leak a steady stream of water. Some of the kitchen cabinets are broken. The drawers stick. And the front door doesn’t close easily, leaving the 32-year-old mother fearful that someone might break into their North Side apartment at night.
“The conditions are horrible, and the management at Capital Park apartments doesn’t care how bad it gets,” she said last week through a Somali interpreter.
Botan said she fears that her children, who are 5 years, 1 year and 4 months old, are being sickened by the insects and mouse droppings. She said she asked the manager five times to replace a missing screen in the living-room window of her second-floor apartment in the complex on Agler Road.
“I’m so afraid my daughter will fall out when she runs over to watch children playing outside. It’s so dangerous,” she said.
During the past several weeks, dozens of Capital Park residents have called the city of Columbus about what they say is a worsening problem. With the help of Legal Aid attorneys and other volunteers, the mostly low-income Somali refugees have also begun sending letters to the management of the 314-unit complex owned by Volunteers of America, requesting repairs that many have already asked for.
“The tenants in this case are stepping up, asking the landlord merely to do what Ohio law requires: Keep the rental property fit, habitable and up to code,” said Benjamin D. Horne, a managing attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Columbus.
Most of the residents were resettled by the federal government from refugee camps in Kenya, he said. They have little knowledge of their rights… Read more here
Posted in Columbus, housing, Slumlords, substandard housing | Tagged: apartments, capital park, Columbus, immigration, refugees, resettlement, slum ord, slumlord, Somali, Volunteers of America | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Christopher Coen on September 5, 2014
[Editor’s note: The following group of minors is not an official part of the US refugee resettlement program, but rather a separate immigrant group that the US Congress has charged the Office of refugee Resettlement (ORR) with managing. These youth are arriving without official sanction, as opposed to refugees in the national program who have been invited to resettle in the US].
According to a recent news article the Arkansas Department of Health, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has concluded that unaccompanied minors who have arrived in the state from Central America pose little risk of spreading infectious diseases to the public. The minors are screened for infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and vaccinated for a host of others. The article is found at The Courier:
LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Department of Health, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has concluded that unaccompanied children who have arrived in the state from Central America pose little risk of spreading infectious diseases to the public…
Children arriving to the U.S. from Central America receive multiple vaccines before they are released from the U.S. Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement’s-funded program into a community. These vaccines protect against: tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, meningococcal disease, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, flu, pneumonia, polio, and hepatitis A and B. Furthermore, any child who enrolls in an Arkansas school also must meet state vaccination requirements.
In addition, the Office of Refugee Resettlement screens all children for tuberculosis. Children found to have TB disease are sent to shelters that have the capacity to care for them. Only those children who are no longer infectious are placed with a sponsor… Read more here
Posted in Arkansas, children, el salvadoran, Guatemalan, health, honduran, office of refugee resettlement, teenagers, unaccompanied minors | Tagged: Arkansas, CDC, Center for Disease Control and prevention, clean bill of health, health, immigration, infectious disease, refugees, resettlement, unaccompanied youth | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Christopher Coen on August 25, 2014
The mayor of Athens, Georgia sent a letter last week to the state officials who control refugee resettlement in Georgia requesting that a plan by the Atlanta office of the International Rescue Committee to bring refugees to Athens be put on hold. Athens-Clarke County Mayor Nancy Denson claims she is worried that the presence of refugees might strain Athens’ already burdened social services and school system. She goes on to claim that Athens can only offer minimum wage jobs to refugees and that allowing the refugees to resettle would be “importing poverty”. I guess my question is do local businesses want to fill those low wage jobs or not? What plans does the mayor have for helping to increase wages for families? An article in Athens Banner-Herald has more:
Athens-Clarke County Mayor Nancy Denson sent a letter last week to the state officials who control refugee resettlement in Georgia requesting that a plan by the Atlanta office of the International Rescue Committee to bring refugees to Athens be put on hold.
Denson worried that the presence of refugees might strain Athens’ already burdened social services and school system. Athens can offer very little outside of low-wage employment to the refugees, Denson said.
The mayor and other local leaders also expressed concern in recent interviews about adding to the area’s poverty level.
Upwards of 150 refugees, including men, women and children, were expected to resettle in Athens in 2015… Read more here
Posted in capacity, Georgia, IRC, schools, unwelcoming communities | Tagged: Atens, Georgie, immigration, International Rescue Committee, IRC, Nancy Denson, refugees, resettlement | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Christopher Coen on August 17, 2014
Case managers failing to file accurate reports about their visits with clients. Poorly designed contracts and unwillingness to pull the plug on contractors with poor performance. A lack of quality assurance mechanisms. Inquiries done after contract money already has been spent. Contractors who perform poorly often not sanctioned. Millions of dollars wasted. Sound familiar?
People often ask me what changes I would like to see in the refugee program to make it more effective. Most of my answers from my own observations over the past thirteen years involve the federal oversight of the refugee program, and include such things as adding teeth to the refugee contracts – consequences for the refugee contractors who violate the program contract requirement. A detailed examination of this serious problem, albeit regarding state oversight of contractors (nevertheless applicable to the federal refugee contracts), is found in a recent posting at The Pew Charitable Trusts website:
…Case managers for people with developmental disabilities failed to file accurate reports about their visits with clients…
…officials did a poor job overseeing state contracts with outside firms.
The review, which examined [procurement and monitoring of contracts], determined that oversight failures not only wasted taxpayers’ money but put some of its most vulnerable residents at risk…
…“The state engages in oversight by audit and exposé. It’s a ‘gotcha’ way to do it,” said Janice Fine, an associate professor at Rutgers’ School of Management and Labor Relations who co-authored the study. “I was shocked by how little oversight was happening in real time, as opposed to after the fact.”
Many states have struggled to adequately oversee billions of dollars in contracts with companies — both for-profit and not-for-profit. Too often, states rush to tighten contracting laws or regulations only after a public controversy erupts or they’ve been slammed by auditors. By that time, millions of dollars may have been wasted.
“Lots of states are facing this oversight problem,” said Barbara S. Romzek, dean of American University’s School of Public Affairs. “State agencies might write good contracts but they don’t execute them. And contract oversight is important because it’s getting what you pay for. Public money should not be spent poorly. The services should be high quality and taxpayers should be getting their money’s worth.
…other obstacles to quality contracting are poorly designed contracts and unwillingness to pull the plug on a contractor with poor performance, Romzek added.
…contract oversight problems uncovered were longstanding and occurred during both Democratic and Republican administrations…
…mandate real-time evaluation of contractors, require that contractors pay a sliding scale fee for monitoring costs…
“It just makes no sense to be doing this outsourcing unless we have some mechanism in place to make sure that taxpayers dollars are being spent effectively and that the goals of the contract are being achieved,” said [New Jersey Democratic state Sen. Bob Gordon], who chairs the House Oversight Committee. “There should be a monitoring or evaluation process built into every program so that you can see if it’s working and make a mid-course correction, if possible. In the business world, it’s called quality assurance.”…
…the responsibility lies with the state contract managers, who should be doing monitoring from the start. Instead, states rely on auditors, who launch their inquiries after the money already has been spent.
“It’s the old pay and chase model,” [Kinney Poynter, executive director of the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers] said. “You pay the vendors and then you have to chase them. But afterwards, it’s too late. The best internal controls are those in place up front and continuously enforced.”
Elliott Sclar, an economist and professor of urban planning at Columbia University, agrees that states tend to regulate contracts “ex post facto – after the fact.”
“Often, it’s the auditors who come in and find some abuse,” Sclar said. “And at that point everyone is scrambling around, but you didn’t get what you paid for, and it’s too late.”
Another problem is that contractors who perform poorly often aren’t sanctioned, said Amanda Girth, an assistant professor at Ohio State University’s John Glenn School of Public Affairs.
Girth said that the process often can be onerous because states know that they could wind up in court, either suing a contractor or being sued by one if they cancel the contract.
“Those barriers are just too high. Even though there are penalty clauses, they don’t execute them because it’s just too much trouble,” she said. “It’s a very real and serious problem.”…Read more here
Posted in New Jersey, ORR, public/private partnership, reform, State Department, States | Tagged: cheating, contract, government contracts, immigration, neglect, ORR, oversight, pew charitible trusts, refugees, resettlement, State Department | 1 Comment »
Posted by Christopher Coen on August 15, 2014
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.
Posted in Burma/Myanmar, Iowa, ORR, scams, Uncategorized | Tagged: Burma, Federal Trade Commission, identity theft, immigration, Iowa, Myanmar, ORR, refugees, resettlement, scam | Leave a Comment »