Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Archive for the ‘States’ Category

South Dakota legislature moves forward with unconstitutional bill

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 7, 2016

Governor vows not to sign bill if it passes

unconstitutional

A South Dakota house bill that would scapegoat refugees by empowering the governor to close the state to incoming refugees has been described as unconstitutional by a law professor, a political science professor and Gov. Dennis Daugaard.  A state legislator claims terrorists will try to blend in with Syrian refugees. Yet, the federal government has a rigorous screening process to prevent that. The Migration Policy Institute points out that of the 784,000 refugees resettled in the U.S. since September 11, 2001, only three have been arrested for planning acts of terrorism, none of which were actually carried out. An article in The Rapid City Journal explains:

South Dakota House Bill 1158, whose goal is to empower the governor to close the state to incoming refugees, has been described as unconstitutional by a law professor, a political science professor and Gov. Dennis Daugaard, the man to whom the power to close the borders would be granted.

Even the sponsor of the bill, a Rapid City Republican lawmaker and Christian pastor, acknowledges that HB 1158 might not withstand a constitutional challenge…

A report released last October by the Migration Policy Institute, an independent, nonpartisan Washington, D.C.-based think tank, revealed that of the 784,000 refugees resettled in the U.S. since September 11, 2001, only three have been arrested for planning acts of terrorism, none of which were actually carried out.

“Actual acts of terrorism by a refugee?” law professor Stephen Legomsky said. “I don’t think there’s been a single one”…

Legomsky, the law professor from St. Louis, is unequivocal: “As a legal matter, the state cannot unilaterally amend the U.S. Constitution.”

The passage of the Refugee Act of 1980 made the federal government the pre-eminent authority of refugee resettlement within the states. The act established the refugee admissions program, which today draws from nine different agencies for the resettlement of refugees in states of the federal government’s choosing.

“It seems pretty clear,” said Elizabeth Smith, an associate professor of political science at the University of South Dakota, “that states don’t have the power to control who settles within their borders. The federal government has authority over U.S. borders, not the states”… Read more here

Posted in legislation, Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota, moratorium / restriction / reduction, right-wing, security/terrorism, South Dakota, Syrian, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Catholic Charities of Orange County broke almost every rule in the book

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 6, 2016

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Perusing a batch of US Department of State inspection reports recently received through a FOIA request it appears that Catholic Charities of Orange County (CCOC) violated most of the requirements of their refugee resettlement contract. The State Department rated the agency [in 2014] as “mostly non-compliant” with requirements. CCOC left refugees with urgent medical issues on their own to find expedited medical care.  Children were not enrolled in school.  A refugee family was in an apartment that was unsafe and unsanitary. CCOC had refugees sign blank service plans; apparently to be filled in later. Staff did not understand the basics of the refugee grant requirements, and expected refugees’ ties [friends or family members that refugees have been resettled to live near] to provide basic services. A case manager did not even know of the existence of the Cooperative Agreement. CCOC did not have any volunteers to help assist refugees. Read below excepts from the report:

Monitors found Catholic Charities of Orange County (CCOC) mostly non-compliant with Reception and Placement Program (R&P) requirements…

The affiliate does not use any volunteers…

…monitors visited one family whose children were not yet enrolled in school after over two months; another family who did not receive any assistance from the affiliate to make expedited medical appointments despite a child with epilepsy and a parent with heart disease (they complained to monitors that the affiliate showed little concern for their well-being); and a third family who described the apartment the affiliate secured for them as unsafe and unsanitary. Refugees visited did not recall receiving any [cultural] orientation and staff did not demonstrate a basic understanding of Cooperative Agreement requirements, and implied basic needs support and core service delivery was the responsibility of the US tie…

One refugee family [mentioned above] told monitors that they felt unsafe in the apartment the affiliate found for them after their US tie could no longer provide any assistance. They said homeless people often loitered on the front steps and neighbors often acted loud and drunk; consequently the father did not feel safe leaving his wife and young children alone during the day to look for work. The apartment had a clogged drain in the kitchen sink, a flickering overhead fluorescent light, and a purported insect infestation; all had been reported to the landlord [apparently to no effect]. The couple and their baby and toddler shared one small bedroom that scarcely fit a full size bed and a crib…the family have arrived close to three months before the monitors’ visit and was not enrolled in the Women’s, Infants, and Children (WIC) program…

Monitors reviewed 20 case files…case files did not contain evidence beyond a referral that the affiliate assisted refugees with enrollment in English language programs or employment services within ten working days of arrival. Eight files indicated that health assessments occurred beyond the required 30 days, and two files did not contain any evidence of a health screening…

Complete service plans were found in all but two files, which contained blank plans signed by the refugee… Read more here

Posted in beds, California, Catholic, Catholic Charities of Orange County, children, community/cultural orientation, Cooperative Agreement, dangerous neighborhoods, failure to enroll refugee children in school, furnishings, lack of, health, home visits, housing, housing, overcrowding, housing, substandard, Iranian, Iraqi, language interpretation/translation, lack of, late health screenings, medical care, rats and roaches, safety, Slumlords, volunteers | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Alabama governor splurges on useless $150 thousand legal agreement

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 5, 2016

cash-mountain

Although state governors have no authority to stop resettlement of Syrian refugees because the federal government has sole authority when placing refugees, and there is no law or agreement that would permit a state to prevent refugees from particular countries from participation in the resettlement program, Alabama’s Republican Gov. Robert Bentley has now, nonetheless, inked an $150 legal agreement to oppose refugee resettlement. Bentley now claims that the federal government failed to provide the state with “sufficient information” about refugees who have settled or will be settled in the state. Florida’s Republican governor was caught saying the same thing but refused to answer if he had requested any information. An article at The Decatur Daily has the latest:

MONTGOMERY — Gov. Robert Bentley’s office has a $150,000 contract with the outside attorney assisting in his lawsuit against the federal government over the placement of refugees in the state.

In January, Bentley’s administration filed a lawsuit saying the federal government is not complying with the Refugee Act of 1980.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court, states the U.S. government failed to provide the state with sufficient information about refugees who have settled or will be settled in the state. It claims the state has been denied a meaningful role and input into the refugee resettlement process… Read more here

Posted in Georgia, right-wing, Syrian, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Attacks on refugees in Syracuse delivered with racial slurs

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 4, 2016

chinese
As part of the ongoing attacks on refugees in Syracuse that resettlement agencies and the US State Department have know about for at least six years, refugees say that attackers are using racial slurs. An article at Time Warner Cable News has the details:

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Nancy Ayea was resettled in Syracuse as a refugee from Burma, looking for a better life. But there have been obstacles to starting over.

“Our house got broken into and our window got broke into,” said Ayea. “And they took whatever they could find to resell it. My laptop and all that.”

And although she’s not a refugee herself, Kayla Kelechin’s husband was resettled from Southeast Asia. She says she and her husband have been victimized because of his background.

“There were stones being thrown through our windows,” said Kelechin. “We see them coming to our yard and attacking our children. They’ve thrown stones at our children and they’re like “Chinese, Chinese.” It always has to do with a racial slur. So we know it’s not the whole neighborhood — it’s us”… Read more here

Posted in abuse, Burma/Myanmar, Catholic, children, crime, dangerous neighborhoods, hate crimes, Nepali Bhutanese, safety, Syracuse | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

$11 million headquarters for Jewish Family Service of San Diego

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 2, 2016

lavish

I have to question spending $11 million on a new organizational headquarters when services to refugees are spotty and incomplete. Jewish Family Service of San Diego just opened a new headquarters for that sum (refugee resettlement is just once service the organization provides).  A US State Department noted in a 2005 monitoring trip, which visited three refugee families, that a member of an Iranian family had to sleep on the floor for lack of sufficient beds. A Sudanese family had a non-functioning smoke detector and did not know how to work with the landlord to get repairs. In addition, staff were not fully familiar with requirements of the refugee program, and overall the organization was over-reliant on refugee anchor relatives for providing services (and apparently not monitoring the refugee cases to make sure refugees were receiving all minimum services). An article in The Times of San Diego covers the new headquarters:

One of San Diego’s oldest social service organizations on Sunday dedicated a state-of-the-art campus in Kearny Mesa following completion of a four-year, $11 million project.

Jewish Family Service of San Diego‘s new campus consolidates the 97-year-old organization’s employees, programs, and services in two adjacent buildings on Balboa Avenue… Read more here

Posted in Jewish Family Service of San Diego, lavish new offices, San Diego | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

CEO of Catholic Charities defends refugees

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 30, 2016

sillouette
The CEO of Catholic Charities Jim Gannon wrote an Op-ed piece in defense of refugees after The Albuquerque Journal wrote an editorial in support of anti-refugee legislation. He points out that John Brennan, director of the CIA, does not support the legislation. He also refutes the myth that the UN or Obama administration is favoring Muslim refugees. The Op-ed has more:

The Albuquerque Journal editorial board suggested in an editorial comment Monday that the U.S. Senate’s failure to pass the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act was a derailment of prudent legislation. They used the fear instilled by the violent terrorist acts of Paris as the motivation for the need.

They cited John Brennan, director of the CIA, who does not support the legislation. Brennan does think it’s prudent to understand how ISIS or other terrorist organizations might strategize the use of migrating refugees. He does not advocate suspension of welcoming refugees into our country, but somehow his opinion is stretched by the editorial staff as a disguise for the lack of substance in their argument.

While the editorial staff denies it’s suggesting religious discrimination, it does hint just enough to suggest President Obama is favoring the resettlement of Muslims over Christian. When the fact is over 90 percent of Syrians are of the Islamic faith. All their information regarding Christian’s persecution, proponents of stronger checks and senior U.S. security and law enforcement officials go nameless… Read more here

Posted in Catholic, Congress, legislation, New Mexico, Obama administration | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“These agencies are treating us are pretty badly”

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 26, 2016

bureaucracy

An article in the Huffington Post describes what’ it like to deal with the refugee resettlement bureaucracy from the viewpoint of a Syrian refugee family resettled to Pomona, California. The family describes arriving here in heavy debt due to having to repay their airline tickets. They had to live in one dingy hotel room for four weeks before the resettlement agency found them housing. They describe being penalized for failing to give vaccination records when they had sent the records in as soon as they were notified. Now the family is struggling with having to pay $1,300 each month for a two bedroom apartment. Another criticism is that someone from their ethnic group was the one who found the father a job, but I think it’s a strength of the refugee program that ethnic communities aid in the process. It’s not clear that the IRC failed to aid in the job search. Read more below:

The Kanjous were one of the lucky families that made it through the screening process and were accepted as American refugees in September 2015. They, like many others, endured a long and arduous journey to get to U.S. soil. But they now face a new challenge: navigating a complex network of government and nonprofit organizations responsible for overseeing the refugee resettlement process.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, the process of refugee resettlement varies by state. Some depend on state-administered resettlement resources, while others utilize public-private partnerships or the Wilson-Fish program, an alternative to traditional state-administered refugee resettlement programs for providing cash and medical assistance and social services to refugees. For these refugees, the process of navigating these programs can often be the greatest challenge they face in their resettlement process.

Since arriving in the United States, with the help of local nonprofit organizations, Kanjou and his family have moved out of temporary housing into an apartment. Kanjou has secured a job as a construction worker, along with “Unfortunately these agencies are treating us are pretty badlyhealthcare and benefits. His daughters are enrolled in the local school. But according to the family, the refugee resettlement process in the U.S. has not provided the help and support they hoped for.

“Unfortunately these agencies are treating us are pretty badly because they penalize us for any minor thing,” Kanjou says. “Any paperwork they don’t have or any tiny mistake and they will deduct from our financial benefits. That really interrupts the development of our rebuilding process”…

The Kanjou family moved into the apartment of a Jordanian friend after landing in California. Four days later, a representative from the resettlement agency took them to the American Inn and Suites in Claremont where they lived, cramped in one dingy room, for the next four weeks…

Often, the process of navigating government agencies is inefficient and difficult. Mahmoud Tarifi, from the Islamic Center of Claremont, recalls an incident in which another refugee family went to get routine blood tests at a local health clinic.

“The IRC officer told me that the clinic has a translator and to just drop them off,” Tarifi explains. “So we did. And the next thing you know there was no translator and I was getting calls saying ‘We cannot understand what they’re asking us to do.’” Neither the IRC nor the health clinic took responsibility for the lapse, leaving the family unable to communicate with the health care workers.

This type of bureaucratic bungling sometimes results in more serious consequences for families like the Kanjous. The government provides refugees with a monthly stipend for their first eight months in the U.S. Kanjou recently received a letter instructing him to send in his daughter’s immunization forms or face a penalty. He immediately complied, but still saw his monthly stipend reduced by $250… Read more here

 

Posted in California, housing, IRC, language interpretation/translation, lack of, Syrian | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Refugees continue to suffer abuse and violence on Syracuse’s North Side

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 25, 2016

_violence

Myanmar and Bhutanese refugees continue to suffer abuse and attacks on Syracuse’s North Side. Cases of home invasions and severe beatings. These attacks have gone on at least since 2009, yet the US State Department has continued to place the refugees in these neighborhoods, with around 1,000 refugees moving into the neighborhood each year.  Refugee children have also suffered attacks in school. I wrote to the PRM’s Assistant Secretary about this issue back in 2010.  An article at Syracuse.com has the story:

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — A decade after fleeing an ethnic conflict in Asia, Chandra Pradham and his family are facing a different kind of violence on Syracuse’s North Side.

Pradham, his wife and three children fled Bhutan in the 1990s and spent more than a decade in a refugee camp in Nepal. Three years ago, they made it to Syracuse where Pradham and both of his teenage sons have been beaten up while walking in their neighborhood. Pradham spent a day in the hospital last month after a particularly brutal attack.

Among refugees, the Pradhams aren’t alone.

In the past several years, refugees on the North Side have reported beatings, robberies and home invasions. Lately, police and community leaders are coming together to address the problem… Read more here

Posted in abuse, Assistant Secretary of the PRM, Burma/Myanmar, crime, dangerous neighborhoods, Nepali Bhutanese, safety, Syracuse | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Militia speaker from California bores audiences with nutty theories

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 23, 2016

Porky_Pig_Thats_All_Folks

A man from California, a former member of the Minutemen militia in California, is traveling through Minnesota giving weird speeches on refugee resettlement. Themes included refugees working as slaves in the US, Sharia law taking over the country, and the evilness of Hillary Clinton, Democrats, socialism, the United Nations, Forum Communications, the Blandin Foundation, the American Red Cross, the popular vote, and democracy as opposed to republicanism. He recently stopped in Baxter to harp on refugee resettlement-related conspiracy theories, though no refugees are being resettled in the county, nor are there any plans for resettlement. The nutty man also complained that donations collected in an empty KFC bucket passed around did not cover his expenses. An article in The Grand Forks Herald explains the speech, and an article in The St. Cloud Times debunks the many harebrained myths the man is trying to spread:

BAXTER, Minn. – Roughly 200 people turned out to a Baxter church Tuesday to see a speaker critical of refugee resettlement in the United States.

Ron Branstner, a former member of the Minutemen militia in California, staged a presentation on the perils that refugee resettlement and illegal immigration posed at the The Journey North Community Church.

Branstner, who said he aligned with neither political party, equated refugee resettlement to human trafficking. His 2 ½-hour presentation made the case that money flowing between the federal government and nongovernmental organizations maintained a system of modern-day slavery by which refugees and illegal immigrants are exploited, while U.S. taxpayers pick up the tab…

…there were yawns in the audience and at least one person appeared to doze off… Read more here

and…

Earlier this month, California resident Ron Branstner told a crowd at VFW Granite Post 428 in St. Cloud that refugee resettlement in the United States is equivalent to human trafficking and a costly burden to taxpayers.

The St. Cloud Times checked some of Branstner’s statements with officials knowledgeable about refugee programs and found that several statements lacked veracity… Read more here

Posted in Minnesota, right-wing, St. Cloud, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Fire that damaged refugee apartment building in Chicago being investigated as “criminal”

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 22, 2016

Building’s owner has long history of legal issues with city: cited 39 times in past 10 years.

apartment_fire

An early morning fire in the Rogers Park neighborhood in Chicago Monday caused major damage to an apartment building and left at least seven firefighters injured. Smoke alarms did not sound nor were there any fire extinguishers available in the building. The building’s owner Cameel Halim has long history of legal issues with the city: the city has cited him 39 times in the past 10 years. That includes three times since 2012 where investigators couldn’t gain entry to the building to make sure smoke detectors worked properly, records show. In January 2010, the building was cited for failure “to maintain interior stairway system in safe condition and sound repair” because pickets were missing from the front staircase handrails. Other violations cited by the city included several instances of rotting decks, window frames and doors, peeling paint, non-secured porches, water-damaged balconies, stagnant sewage in the basement, live rats, and open plaster in the basement ceiling. In November 2011, the courts ruled in favor of Centerpoint Energy Services, Inc., which was seeking $1.7 million from natural gas supplied to Halim’s rental properties. In the suit, the energy provider alleged Halim moved funds from Wilmette Real Estate & Management’s account to he and his wife’s personal account to avoid paying the judgment. The energy provider argued many of Halim’s rental property corporations were “shell corporations.” The question is: did a resettlement agency place these refugees in this building (most likely since these are recently resettled Syrian refugees), and if so, which agency? Articles at DNAinfo have the story:

ROGERS PARK — An extra-alarm fire in a Rogers Park apartment building that injured seven firefighters and left some units uninhabitable is now being investigated by Chicago Police as “criminal,” according Ald. Joe Moore (49th).

Moore said Chicago Fire Department Commissioner Jose Santiago updated him Tuesday morning with news that the fire may have been fueled by a possible accelerant found on the wall of a stairwell that collapsed during the blaze, injuring a firefighter.

“They strongly believe it was arson,” Moore said… Read more here

and…

… The building at 1700-08 W. Estes Ave. has been inspected nine times over the past 10 years by the city and was cited for 39 violations during those visits. That includes three times since 2012 where investigators couldn’t gain entry to the building in order to make sure smoke detectors worked properly, records show.

Chicago Fire Department Commissioner Jose Santiago said one firefighter Monday injured his shoulder after a set of stairs collapsed while crews were making their way to the third floor of the building.
In January 2010, the building was cited for failure “to maintain interior stairway system in safe condition and sound repair” because pickets were missing from the front staircase handrails…

Court records show [owner Cameel Halim] and his various real estate corporations have been sued dozens of times in Cook County civil and chancery courts in the past 24 years, including by the city of Chicago for building and environmental violations.

In November 2011, the courts ruled in favor of Centerpoint Energy Services, Inc., which was seeking $1.7 million from natural gas supplied to Halim’s rental properties.

In the suit, the energy provider alleged Halim moved funds from Wilmette Real Estate & Management’s account to he and his wife’s personal account in order to avoid paying the judgment. The energy provider argued many of Halim’s rental property corporations were “shell corporations.”

Jenira Torres…said she was awoken by her distressed cat rather than her smoke alarm. Throughout the ordeal, she said neither the alarm in her apartment nor in her hallway or stairwell sounded.

“They weren’t going off,” she said, adding the hallway alarms weren’t sounding either…

Torres said she never noticed any fire extinguishers in the building.

According to Chicago municipal code, “Fire extinguishers shall not be required in multiple dwellings not exceeding three stories in height and having a floor area not exceeding 3,000 square feet.”

Though the city lists the building as having only three floors, the first floor is elevated…

Other violations cited by the city included several instances of rotting decks, window frames and doors, peeling paint, non-secured porches, water-damaged balconies, stagnant sewage in the basement, live rats, and open plaster in the basement ceiling. Read more here

and…

ROGERS PARK — Members of the Elaly family escaped war-torn Syria and traveled thousands of miles to move to Rogers Park — but were forced to restart their lives again this week after a fire tore through their apartment.

On Monday, the family lost their home in the apartment fire in the 1700 block of West Estes Avenue in Rogers Park.

But by Wednesday evening, more than $3,800 had been raised for the Elalys by more than 50 people through a GoFundMe campaign started by Syrian Community Network’s President Suzanne Akhras. The donation amount far exceeded the $3,000 goal within hours of it being posted. By Thursday morning, about $6,300 had been raised.

The blaze consumed the family’s living space along with their personal belongings. Of the 16 apartments affected by the fire, Ald. Joe Moore (49th) said about seven units total were left uninhabitable… Read more here

Posted in apartment building fires, Chicago, housing, housing, substandard, Slumlords, Syrian | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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