Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Archive for the ‘States’ Category

Bhutanese immigrants in U.S. killing themselves at alarming rate

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 16, 2014

yellow_ribbonThe 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: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Cockroaches and mice scurry across floor where Luul Botan’s children play

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 24, 2014

slumlordFor 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: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Unaccompanied minors arriving from Central America pose little risk of spreading infectious diseases

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 5, 2014

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[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: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Athens GA mayor opposes IRC resettlement office

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 25, 2014

opposeThe 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: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Poor policing of private contractors

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 17, 2014

outsourcing_america_exposed_mapCase 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: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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 »

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

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 10, 2014

blitz

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, teenagers, Texas, unaccompanied minors, 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 »

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 »

 
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