Friends of Refugees

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Archive for the ‘Des Moines’ Category

All charges dropped against 3 Eritrean refugees accused of carrying food paste and cell phone

Posted by Christopher Coen on March 30, 2012

All charges have been dropped against three Eritrean refugees who were accused of putting two mundane items — a cell phone taped to container of a paste-like food similar to tahini (reported elsewhere as halva) — through security at Phoenix’s airport last August. The items were apparently a gift from one refugee to another. In a case of apparent racial and ethnic profiling paired with trumped-up assumptions, sketchy logic, and a language barrier, authorities accused the three of deliberately transporting the food and cell phone to make it appear as an explosive device — albeit, strangely, without any wires, detonation-like device or any other suspicious component. An Assistant U.S. Attorney said that further prosecution would not be “in the interest of justice” — apparently a nice way of saying they put these people through hell based on false charges. And no, no compensation will be offered. The AP has the story:

All charges have been dropped against three African refugees who were accused of putting a fake bomb through security at Phoenix’s airport in a possible “dry run” for a terror attack.

U.S. District Judge Neil Wake dropped the charges against Luwiza Daman, Asa Shani and Shullu Gorado on March 13 at the request of a federal prosecutor who cited new information in the case, according to court documents obtained Thursday.

“Based on the new information, further prosecution is not in the interest of justice,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Koehler in his motion to dismiss the charges…

…Daman’s attorney, Philip Seplow, told the AP that he thinks the government simply realized the refugees were not guilty and the whole thing was a big misunderstanding, partially because of a significant language barrier.

Daman, Shani and Gorado are from war-torn Eritrea on the Red Sea in the Horn of Africa and spent years in refugee camps before getting asylum in the U.S. Gorado speaks some English, while Daman and Shani speak only their native language, a dialect known as Kunama.

“I had a pretty sympathetic and for most part factually innocent client,” Seplow said…

…Daman, Shani and Gorado had been charged with a felony count of causing what appeared to be an explosive device to go through a security checkpoint at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport on Aug. 5.

Authorities had said that Daman had a suspicious item in her bag as she went through airport security intending to board a plane to Des Moines, Iowa. They said Shani had taped the items together and gave the package to Gorado, who gave it to Daman to take on the flight.

The package turned out to be a container of a paste-like food similar to tahini, with a cell phone taped to it. But authorities say it looked just like an improvised explosive device when it went through an X-ray machine, and pointed out that cell phones can be used to trigger bombs… Read more here

Posted in Des Moines, Eritrean, Phoenix, security/terrorism | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Des Moines USCRI field office helps first refugee clients

Posted by Christopher Coen on March 18, 2011

A Zimbabwean refugee woman’s children are the first refugees to be resettled by the new USCRI field office in Des Moines, IA, according to an article in the Des Moines Register. The office will start with resettling 100 refugees this year.
…NEW OFFICE OPENS: Also this year, a national refugee resettlement organization, the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, opened a field office in Des Moines. Rumbi Chinhamhora’s children are two of the first refugees the office has resettled. The group expects to resettle no more than 100 refugees by the end of fiscal year 2011, but next year projects 350… Read more here
The State Department’s [Refugee] Office of Admissions should never have allowed the USCRI to fill the vacuum in Iowa left when the Iowa Bureau of Refugee Services and Lutheran Services in Iowa shuttered their refugee resettlement programs last year. The USCRI has a deplorable track record in the care of their refugee clients.
We’ll have to closely monitor this new office to see if it brings USCRI’s typical care of refugees to Iowa.

Posted in Des Moines, Des Moines USCRI (field office), Iowa, neglect, Office of Admissions, State Department, USCRI, Zimbabwean | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants to open office in Iowa

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 2, 2010

The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), formerly known as IRSA, or Immigration and Refugee Services of America, has announced plans to open a resettlement office in Des Moines later this month. The two agencies that were bringing the bulk of international refugees to Iowa, Iowa Bureau of Refugee Services (part of the state government) and the nonprofit Lutheran Services in Iowa, closed this year. Radio Iowa has more details.

A Virginia-based non-profit group plans to start resettling refugees in Iowa next year….Earlier this year, three agencies that sponsored refugees either suspended operations or cut back. Now, the State Department has authorized a new organization to fill the gap with a Des Moines office.

Peter Limon is with the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. “Our whole purpose is to give refugees as good a start as we can, get them resettled, get them acclimated, get them culturalized and then get them work,” Limon says. “If we find out that an Iowa city turns out to be a great place, we could open another office there and then we’d have two offices in Iowa.”…

…The first arrivals are expected in Iowa around February. With more than 30 offices around the country, Limon says the agency will open its Des Moines office later this month…

…Limon says they plan to start with resettling about 100 refugees a year and increase the arrivals to nearly 400 a year. Read more here

Firstly, note that Peter Limon shares a sir name with his organization’s director, Lavinia Limon. Are they relatives? Is this a family operation (a.k.a. nepotism)? Why on earth does the State Department allow its contractors to run themselves like family operations? The last time I saw that in action was at the Tampa office of World Relief. The agency lost its contract to resettle refugees in 2006 after the State Department found some serious irregularities. A husband and wife ran an absolutely horrendous and unethical operation there. Word was that the husband hired his wife to work there even though she appeared to have a bipolar disorder (maybe she couldn’t get a job anywhere else). So the refugees were subjected to emotional outbursts that no other clients anywhere would tolerate. They did not feel comfortable complaining to the director about his wife.

Secondly, why is the State Department letting the USCRI open an office in Iowa? I think I would rate the USCRI as the single worst VOLAG in the nation. Over the past several years I have noted serious problems, deficiencies, and irregularities (and that’s being nice) at so many USCRI affiliates that I have lost count. Off the top of my head I’m remembering cases in Akron, Boston, Bowling Green, Chicago, Connecticut, Erie, Houston, Kansas City, New Hampshire, and Raleigh, and those are just the USCRI affiliates that got caught. You can well guess that’s the least of it since the State Department has a “partner” philosophy when it comes to their relationship with their contractors. Problems are swept under the rug whenever possible and withheld from public purview.

Posted in Des Moines, Des Moines USCRI (field office), Iowa, USCRI | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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