Archive for the ‘States’ Category
Posted by Christopher Coen on January 21, 2015
Apparently YMCA International remains in violation of the State Department refugee resettlement contract and no one seems to care. In 2008 during a State Department inspection monitors noted “…All refugee homes inspected had significant roach and/or mice infestation.” Now, a newspaper article reports that a Syrian refugee family resettled in Houston by this resettlement agency is living in an apartment practically overrun by cockroaches. The State Department contract explicitly states that resettlement “Housing should be safe, sanitary, and in good repair.” I don’t think insect infestation would qualify as sanitary. An article in the Houston Chronicle explains:
The sparse two-bedroom apartment in southwest Houston is a far cry from the sprawling home Chujaa Masre owned in Homs. Cockroaches seem to pour out of the walls, appearing to him almost as resistant to defeat as the Syrian army in his war-torn country.
His wife, horrified, at first declared they were going home, never mind the bombs and airstrikes that have ravaged their nation, killing what human rights groups estimate to be about 220,000 people in four years. Ever since fleeing Homs at the beginning of the military’s siege in 2011…
Masre, who was paired with the YMCA, said his assistance runs out in February…
By now, Masre has finessed his skill for eradicating pests. He’s learned to block up holes and fill in cracks to keep out mice and discovered the array of commercial options killing cockroaches. They take up an entire rack in his kitchen.
“But still they come,” he sighed… Read more here
Posted in housing, Houston, rats and roaches, State Department, YMCA International | Tagged: cockroaches, housing, houston, refugees, resettlement, roaches, syrian, YMCA International | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Christopher Coen on December 28, 2014
Nancy Koons, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle (CFS), has an op-ed piece in the local newspaper in Amarillo claiming that her organization’s attempt to cut resettlement in response to an overwhelmed local community and government agencies was undermined by increased refugee resettlement by Refugee Services of Texas, Amarillo office (RST). The picture she presents is of resettlement agencies seemingly disconnected from each other and from the impact of resettlement on the local host community. If the details are correct, then looking beyond blaming the other resettlement agency in town to defend her own agency, one has to admire her for her honesty. I think its only by facing the truth that problems may be corrected, and honesty promotes community trust. Although Koons took over as head of CFS in 2011 neither her predecessor nor anyone else at her agency apparently passed on to her the facts about the local community being overwhelmed with resettlement numbers (were they oblivious too?), and despite having lived in the community herself for six years Koons claims not have known anything until local government units came to her to complain. She claims to have then invited resettlement leaders to town to meet with local resettlement partners (something alternatively that Representative Mac Thornberry, Republican of Clarendon took credit for). Koons says she then reduced CFS’ projected refugee arrivals for 2012, but that RST, also claiming to be completely unaware of overwhelmed local government units, then increased their projected 2012 arrivals. The story paints a picture of resettlement agencies completely out of touch with their local community. The op-ed piece is found online at Amarillo Globe-News:
Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle, formerly Catholic Family Service Inc. [CFS], has provided social services in the Texas Panhandle since 1932, including a refugee resettlement program that began in the mid-1970s, following the fall of Saigon…
The refugee program was in response to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops [USCCB] which, with other national organizations, assisted the U.S. State Department with resettlement nationwide. With the goal of helping refugees achieve self-sufficiency, one consideration for establishment of a resettlement site was availability of employment. The meat-packing industry became a primary source…
…Until 2007-2008, USCCB was the only volunteer agency (volag) that facilitated resettlement in Amarillo, doing so through CFS.
In 2007-08, two more national volags began facilitating resettlement in Amarillo — Lutheran Immigration Services and Church World Services…These two additional volags facilitate refugee resettlement through Refugee Services of Texas, Amarillo office [RST].
Resettlement peaked in 2010 when CFS resettled 448 individuals and RST-Amarillo resettled 251 individuals. In total, 699 refugees were resettled in Amarillo in 2010. Refugees also came to Amarillo from other areas of the country, having already resettled through agencies in other cities. This is referred to as secondary migration…
In August 2011, I began in my role as executive director at CFS. Residing out of the Amarillo area for six years, I was unaware of the dramatic increase in refugee resettlement, languages and cultures, and consequently the impact on the community — particularly the schools. It wasn’t long before I heard from numerous concerned residents and staff from the Amarillo Independent School District. It was clear that the increasing rate of resettlement needed to slow down significantly to allow the community to catch up with challenges brought about by dramatic demographic changes. I invited officials from USCCB in Washington D.C., and the state refugee coordinator from Austin to meet with representatives from AISD to hear their challenges. At this meeting, AISD representatives graciously articulated extraordinary challenges in the schools. They begged USCCB and the state refugee coordinator to slow down the rate of resettlement to give AISD and the community the opportunity to “catch up,” and enable them to better serve all of the student population.
At CFS, I immediately reduced our projected arrivals for fiscal year 2012 by 50 percent, the projection of 400 was reduced to 200. RST-Amarillo had projected 200 arrivals for fiscal year 2012.
I learned soon after that our agency’s reduction was picked up by RST-Amarillo — they increased their projected 2012 arrivals to 400. Unfortunately, the community did not experience the reduction we had intended. In the following months, the local director of RST-Amarillo said he was unaware of problems at the schools. To his defense, complaints came to CFS because the community was, and still is, largely unaware of a second resettlement agency in Amarillo.
Frustrated that our effort to reduce was wasted, I researched arrival data from the State Department and compared it to Census data. Clearly, Amarillo had one of the highest resettlement rates per-capita in the state, if not the U.S.
In July 2012, I shared this information with Mayor Paul Harpole. Dialogue continues on the local and national levels to address critical refugee issues in our community. Compared to fiscal year 2010, Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle anticipates 160 arrivals, a 64 percent reduction from 2010. RST-Amarillo anticipates 282 arrivals, a 12 percent increase from 2010… Read more here
Posted in Amarillo, Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle, police, refugee, Refugee Services of Texas, school for refugee children, schools, secondary migration, Texas | Tagged: Amarillo, Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle, immigration, Nancy Koons, Refugee Services of Texas, refugees, resettlement | 2 Comments »
Posted by Christopher Coen on December 27, 2014
Dover/Tri-Cities New Hampshire officials are breathing a sigh of relief after discovering there are no plans to resettle “African immigrants” in the Tri-Cities. No mention has been made of other immigrants such as good Nepali-Bhutanese refugees or “evil” Muslim refugees. The Manchester-based Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success, or ORIS, apparently had merely to mention possible future refugee resettlement to Dover officials and the Mayor, as well as mayors of surrounding communities, went on a diatribe of complaints about lack of local community involvement in resettlement. Does anyone see the irony of complaining about lack of consultation after being consulted about future possibilities for resettlement? An article covering the issue is found at Foster’s Daily Democrat:
DOVER — There are no plans to resettle African immigrants in the Tri-Cities, according to state officials and two refugee relocation groups.
The refugee issue emerged last summer when representatives from the Manchester-based Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success, or ORIS, approached Dover officials about becoming a resettlement community. The group appeared to back away from the plan amid concern from residents and local officials.
Barbara Seebart, the state refugee coordinator for the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services, said she’s not aware of any plans for refugee resettlement in the Tri-Cities.
Meanwhile, both N.H.-based resettlement organizations confirmed they are not considering Dover or surrounding communities…
Even so, some city officials remain concerned about the issue.
Mayor Karen Weston doesn’t oppose refugee resettlement but believes host communities should have more control in determining how many can arrive each year. She also believes the federal government should offer funding to offset the effects on city and school budgets.
“There are no plans today, but it can happen any day,” Weston said. “That is why we want to be proactive and (pursue) possible legislation with the federal government.”
She hopes to arrange a conference call with Rochester Mayor T.J. Jean, Somersworth Mayor Dana Hilliard and members of the state’s congressional issue to address those immigration law changes. Weston expects that call won’t happen until next year….
Cities and towns cannot block refugee resettlement, the same way they cannot restrict people of any race or ethnic group from moving in. [Edit. – although apparently would like to]
Regardless, refugees don’t just show up in host cities overnight. There is a well-established federal system for refugee resettlement that includes extensive collaboration with local communities, Seebart said.
Marchildon agrees. Her agency undertakes a lengthy process when considering possible partner cities.
“If a new resettlement site is being nurtured,” she said, “there would be a long process of engaging city government and community social support services and the community.” Read more here
Posted in New Hampshire | Tagged: Dover, immigration, New Hampshire, ORIS, refugees, resettlement | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Christopher Coen on December 21, 2014
An ORR shelter in Texas for traumatized unaccompanied minors has been cited for overly using restraints. State records show children at Shiloh have made allegations of physical abuses and painful restraints. The state has cited the company that runs the facility 21 times for violating restraint guidelines. The local prosecutor has urged ORR officials to increase monitoring and lower the number of placements to “reduce the risks.” (one has to wonder if cases like this lead to the resignation of ORR’s director – its easier to cut and run when failing to answer questions no longer works). An AP article at the Star-Telegram has the details:
MANVEL, Texas A shelter for traumatized immigrant children near Houston that has received $13 million in federal funds and been cited for overly using restraints says staff members deeply care about the well-being of residents, a newspaper reported Sunday.
The Shiloh Treatment Center in rural Manvel is among a network of shelters that Congress says needs greater oversight from the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement, which has been overwhelmed by a record number of children from Central America.
The shelter network overseen by the agency, known as ORR, has jumped from 50 to 125 facilities since the federal government began contracting with Shiloh in 2009, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Facilities such as Shiloh take among the most challenging immigrant cases, including children who arrive traumatized by their journeys or violence back home. State records show children at Shiloh have made allegations of physical abuses and painful restraints, and a local prosecutor wrote to federal authorities in 2011 with concerns…
U.S. Rep. Pete Olson said that when he called ORR with questions about Shiloh this summer, it only sent him a letter with basic information.
“The one thing that comes out over and over is the lack of transparency,” Olson said…
Jeri Yenne, Brazoria County’s Republican district attorney, said she firmly believes that Shiloh’s staff is made up of well-intentioned people. But she sent a letter to federal officials after the state had documented abuse allegations at Shiloh and another treatment center founded by Hill, according to the newspaper.
Yenne said she urged officials to increase monitoring and lower the number of placements to “reduce the risks.” An agency spokesman said federal staff are assigned to monitor every facility…
The newspaper reported that the agency has not responded to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Houston Chronicle in January for monitoring reports and other communication with Shiloh. Read more here
Posted in abuse, asylees, children, ORR, PTSD, teenagers, Texas, unaccompanied minors | Tagged: asylees, immigration, Manvel, minors, Office of Refugee Resettlement, ORR, refugees, resettlement, Texas, unaccompanied | Leave a Comment »
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 »