Archive for the ‘New York’ Category
Posted by Christopher Coen on April 4, 2015
A continuing series of violent assaults and break-ins are afflicting the refugee population in Buffalo, NY. These issues were already front and center four years when resettlement agencies attacked the messenger by criticizing filmmakers who helped bring forward the issues with a film. In 2012 the violence against the refugees continued. Now critics are saying that Buffalo police and city officials have been slow to respond to the challenges, including: language barriers, a lack of translators and refugees’ distrust of police related to abuse in their homelands. The issue of using refugees to counter population declines in troubled areas of the nation is also a central issue here. Dozens of frustrated Burmese have now gone public with their complaints this month at a Common Council meeting. An article in The Buffalo News tells more:
Other than the privacy curtain, it could pass for a hotel room. Clean and bright, there is a bedside table, a lamp, a bureau and a flat-screen TV. K’Paw Wah leaned back on his pillow…TV remote in hand, switched channels to a basketball game…
For most, it is a simple hand movement. For Wah – reed-thin, with stark cheekbones and flowing black hair – it is a triumph of will and spirit.
Only after laborious therapy has the Burmese immigrant of Karen ethnicity regained movement in his right arm. The comfortable room is not in a hotel, but in Terrace View nursing home near Erie County Medical Center. Wah has been hospitalized since a mugging last June left him paralyzed, a disheartening symbol of the assaults and break-ins afflicting the immigrant population on Buffalo’s West Side.
The county executive last week celebrated the recent influx of immigrants, which has staunched the county’s three-decade population bleed. The other side of the immigrant story is K’Paw Wah. He was born and raised in a Thai refugee camp, after his parents fled from oppressive Burmese rulers. He and his two daughters four years ago followed his older brother to Buffalo.
Wah’s dream of freedom ended violently. Heading home from a West Side convenience store late one night, he was jumped by at least two men with, he recalled, “their faces covered.” The attackers, Wah told me in halting but clear English, threw him hard to the ground, breaking his neck.
The thieves took his cellphone but, more than that, left him imprisoned in his body. Friends say he only recently regained movement in one arm and can stand at a walker while supported. Despite recent gains, he likely will always be physically dependent. No arrests have been made…
Wah’s fate is the grimmest reminder of the fragility of the immigrant population. Buffalo’s West Side is the end point for Burmese, Somalis, Burundi and other newcomers. Circumstances render them vulnerable and tough to protect. Language barriers, a lack of translators and a distrust of police related to abuse in their homeland contribute to their problems. Critics say police and city officials have been slow to respond to the challenge. Dozens of frustrated Burmese went public with their complaints this month at a Common Council meeting… Read more here
Posted in Buffalo, Burma/Myanmar, police, safety | Tagged: assaults, attacks, break-ins, Buffalo, Burmese, crime, immigration, police, population decline, public officials, refugees, resettlement | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Christopher Coen on March 28, 2015
A Karen refugee family (from Myanmar/Burma via Thailand) in Albany, NY said they had complained to their landlord of smoke and a burning electrical smell. The landlord hired a handyman who replaced electrical outlets in the living room and in the parents’ bedroom, however, the family claim they saw burn marks on one of the electrical receptacles the handyman replaced. An outlet in the children’s bedroom was not replaced. A month later during the night of March 16th the children woke up to find flames engulfing their bedroom. The parents succeeded in getting all the children and the extended family out of the apartment. The landlord and his family in an upstairs apartment also escaped, and the house then burned to the ground. The fire destroyed all the family’s belongings, including a 19-year-old’s passport, other legal documents and $4,000 in cash he needed for a planned trip to Thailand to arrange his marriage to a woman in a refugee camp. The Albany Times-Union has the story:
Albany – The 9-year-old boy was awakened when it became uncomfortably hot as he slept, and his 7-year-old sister thought she was dreaming of bright orange shapes climbing up the bunk bed they shared.
By the time the wailing smoke alarm awakened their parents in an adjoining bedroom, flames had engulfed the bunk bed and were spreading across the children’s bedroom.
The 29-year-old mother scooped up the 2-year-old sleeping near her bed while her husband raced down the hall to guide their children and his wife’s brother and mother out of the smoke-filled apartment.
“Everything we owned was in there and now it’s gone,” said the woman…
All seven members of her Burmese refugee family escaped from the first-floor, two-bedroom apartment shortly after 11 p.m. on Monday [March 16] … in a row of two-family homes
The landlord and his family in the upstairs apartment also escaped from the conflagration that burned through the roof and destroyed the building.
All the belongings of the family — whose parents grew up in a refugee camp in Thailand before coming to Albany several years ago — were destroyed. The woman’s 19-year-old brother lost $4,000 in cash, his passport and other legal documents he needed for a planned Friday flight to Thailand to arrange his marriage to a woman in a refugee camp he hopes to bring to Albany…
They did not have renter’s insurance. [The woman] said she did not know what that is
[She] said she had complained to the landlord a month ago of smoke and a burning electrical smell. He hired a handyman who replaced electrical outlets in the living room and in the parents’ bedroom. The woman said she saw burn marks on one of the electrical receptacles that was replaced. The outlet in the children’s bedroom was not replaced…
Three firefighters were injured, none seriously, and are out of work…
On Wednesday afternoon, a large pile of rubble where the two-family home had been was covered with plastic tarps, which flapped in a cold wind… Read more here
Posted in Albany, apartment building fires, children, housing, Karen, USCRI | Tagged: Albany, apartment, Burma, immigration, Karen, landlord, Myanmar, refugees, resettlement | 6 Comments »
Posted by Christopher Coen on July 4, 2014
It’s now been almost two years since this blog reported on attacks occurring on refugees in Rochester, NY. The US refugee program has not solved the problem and continues to resettle refugees to this known dangerous site. The State Department’s resettlement office has made clear that it does not consider crime rates when deciding where to resettle this vulnerable group (refugees). In 2012 Burmese refugees were under attack in the neighborhoods where the refugee program resettled them, and someone shot to death a Sudanese refugee. Last month an article reported that Nepali-Bhutanese refugees were under repeated attack as well. Another article in the Democrat & Chronicle documents the latest incidents:
Locked inside their house in northwest Rochester, the Nepalese family felt under siege.
Outside, a crowd of young men — 20 to 25 in number — broke windows to the home and threatened to storm inside, according to members of the family. Moments before, several young men had followed and jumped a Nepalese teen. That scuffle then escalated into the menacing gang…
It wasn’t until the police came that the crowd scattered. This incident, in daylight hours Thursday, is another in a growing list of attacks against South Asian refugee families who have been settled in areas of northwest Rochester near Jones Square…
As law enforcement officials decide how to curb the intimidation and violence, the refugees themselves say they feel ignored and left to fend for themselves…
Many of the refugees are hesitant to talk to police, and, when they do, they have not been able to provide much information about their attackers. Typically, the offenders have been young African-American men, creating a volatile situation in which the refugees feel at risk in the very neighborhoods where they have been resettled…
If deemed a “hate crime” — namely if evidence exists that the refugees are targeted because of their nationality and not simply because they may be seen as vulnerable — then there could be grounds for federal prosecutions…
Bill Wischmeyer, an advocate for the refugee community, said there were two other attacks on refugees this week, one on children playing soccer. Wischmeyer has been regularly contacting police, hoping to head off future violence.
Some of the refugees see the constant harassment as the opening salvos in a battle. Their supporters, meanwhile, try to assure them that the police will find means to protect them and help them find safety in their new home.
Wischmeyer came to the Parkway home on Thursday afternoon after the gang had left.
“I came over and it looked like a war zone,” he said. Read more here
Posted in abuse, crime, dangerous neighborhoods, elderly refugees, gangs, hate crimes, Nepali Bhutanese, Office of Admissions, police, Rochester, State Department, teenagers, teens | 2 Comments »
Posted by Christopher Coen on June 8, 2014
Refugees in Rochester NY say they are fed up with being targeted for crime on the city’s streets. Ironically, many of these refugees do not report the crimes to police. Reportedly, the assaults, robberies and verbal abuse against local Nepali-Bhutanese and other refugees are being committed by young men from the African-American community. There is some debate whether these attacks are hate crimes or if the young men are targeting the victims due to their vulnerability as immigrants. An article in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle examines the issue:
Are the assaults, robberies and verbal abuse against local Bhutanese, Nepali and other refugees by young men from the African-American community hate crimes or crimes of economics and opportunity?
Perhaps a little of both.
Former Rochester police chief James Sheppard, who now works as a mentor to young African-American men whose lives have gone down paths of crime, downplayed tagging the crimes as “hate crimes” — defined generally as a criminal offense motivated by bias against race, religion, gender or other characteristics. He said the perpetrators are more often young black men who don’t feel good about themselves and who prey on the vulnerable for economic reasons…
Those who have been attacked say the abuse is often accompanied by comments such as “go back to your own country,” or “you don’t belong here.”…
Members of that community say they often do not call police because they either fear retaliation from the accused, they don’t think police will be effective at solving the problem, or they are simply more inclined just accept the abuse… Read more here
Posted in crime, dangerous neighborhoods, gangs, hate crimes, Nepali Bhutanese, police, Rochester, safety | Tagged: African-American, bhutanese, hate crime, immigration, Nepali, refugees, resettlement, rochester, street crime, young men | 1 Comment »
Posted by Christopher Coen on July 11, 2013
A refugee family resettled in 2006 apparently by the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees have been displaced after their apartment caught fire. One 4-year-old child suffered burns to her hands and knees, and lung damage from smoke inhalation. The fire started in the kitchen while the mother was at the market. The mother was unable to communicate with emergency workers due to lack of English. An article in the Union Observer-Dispatch explains:
UTICA — On Feb. 22, Johara Abdi came home to a nightmare.
Her Adrean Terrace apartment was on fire with her 4-year-old daughter Halima Haji still inside.
And the Somali-Bantu refugee didn’t know enough English to communicate with emergency responders.
“I went to go shopping. When I get here, I see a lot of fire,” Abdi said through an interpreter. “I couldn’t (communicate). It was very difficult life for me.”
Emergencies, such as fires, are terrible situations for anyone, especially for refugees and immigrants who speak little or no English.
Abdi’s oldest daughter was able to get the other children out of the apartment that night, but Halima was asleep upstairs. By the time they realized it, the fire and smoke prevented them from going back inside…
Agencies, such as the…the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees, work with emergency responders to help make families feel at ease and, if possible, get a professionally trained interpreter.
Abdi and her nine children, ages 2 to 17, were displaced from the five-bedroom apartment at 64 W. Adrean Terrace, by the fire, which originated in the kitchen… Read more here
Posted in apartment building fires, children, housing, language, Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees, Somali Bantu, Utica | Tagged: apartment, English, fire, interpreter, Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees, refugees, resettlement, Somali bantu, Utica | 2 Comments »
Posted by Christopher Coen on July 5, 2013
Due to sequestration (Congress couldn’t agree on a federal budget, initiating an automatic 5 percent spending cut) more resettlement agencies have felt the effects of the federal funding cuts. The Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees in Utica, NY lost funding for domestic violence and interpretation services. The Utica Observer-Dispatch has more:
A lack of federal funding is causing cuts at the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees.
Two directors in charge of the center’s domestic violence and Compass Cultural Institute interpretation programs were laid off about a month ago, along with a full-time administrator and an interpreter, said Shelly Callahan, the center’s executive director.
Though a managing director of Compass is taking over for her predecessor, Callahan said the domestic violence program essentially is gone…
“It’s just generally frustrating,” said Callahan, who pointed to federal sequestration cuts. “These are people that have expertise in what they’re doing and they’re really good at their job.”
Tracy Davis, director of finance and administration, said about 60 percent of the center’s budget comes from federal funding…
In general, the center’s budget has decreased. This year’s budget – the fiscal year runs from March 1 through Feb. 28 – is $2.3 million, down from $2.6 million last year…
Roberto Ponce, director of communications for the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, offered this statement about centers nationwide seeing cuts on the federal level: “We would assume that it would have to do with the sequestration. We’re seeing the results of that.”
To fill in the service-related gaps, Callahan said the center will continue to do less with more and still refer refugees and immigrants to other organizations in the area, such as the YMCA for domestic violence victims. She said, however, those groups do not have the same cultural competency as the center does… Read more here
Posted in funding, language interpretation/translation, lack of, Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees, Utica | Tagged: budget cuts, domestic violence, interpretation, Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees, refugees, resettlement, sequestration, Utica | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Christopher Coen on May 29, 2013
A refugee family from the Central African republic were removed from an Atlanta-bound American Eagle flight two weeks ago due to their smell. The family landed in New York City from their long overseas flight, and for reasons unexplained, World Relief immediately placed them on the flight to Atlanta. It would make sense to place the refugees in a hotel overnight to rest and that is what often happens. It would also have given the refugees a chance to shower and wash up before continuing their long journey. Atlanta’s Channel 2 WSB-TV has a print article and video news story detailing what happened:
ATLANTA — A local woman is upset that a refugee family from Africa was kicked off a flight to Atlanta because of the way they smelled…
Once on board, passengers on American Eagle Flight 4657 sat for more than an hour before the family was escorted off the place because they smelled too badly.
“After complaints from other customers aboard the aircraft… We make these decisions with the comfort of our customers and crew members in mind, and always with careful consideration,” airline spokesman Matt Miller told Channel 2’s Tony Thomas via email…
A representative for the resettlement group World Relief told Thomas the family is from the Central African Republic and they came seeking asylum…
The family was booked on another flight for the following day and is now in metro Atlanta trying to adjust to their new life. Read more here
Posted in Atlanta, Central African Republic, cultural adjustment, NYC, World Relief | Tagged: American Eagle, Atlanta, Central African Republic, flight, LaGuardia, plane, refugees, resettlement, smell, World Relief | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Christopher Coen on March 27, 2013
New York State is opening a statewide office that will focus on refugees and other immigrants – the Office for New Americans. The office will focus on basic services new immigrants need and will also include assistance for starting their own businesses. An article in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle explains:
ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday an Office for New Americans, the first statewide office to focus on the state’s immigrants.
The office will include 27 neighborhood-based opportunity centers to help immigrants learn English, prepare for citizenship and enter the workforce, particularly to start their own businesses. They will be housed at community-based offices, including in Poughkeepsie, Rochester, Ithaca and White Plains.
“By establishing the Office for New Americans, we are helping our state live up to the promise of the Lady in our Harbor and ensure that New York remains a land of opportunity for all,” Cuomo said in a statement.
Immigration to New York from foreign countries reached 1.2 million people in the 1990s, but dropped to 895,150 new immigrants between 2000 and 2010, a report in 2011 from the Empire Center for New York State Policy found. As of 2010, New York’s foreign-born population was about 21 percent of the total 19.4 million people, the report said. Only California had more immigrants, at 27 percent of its population… Read more here
Posted in economic self-sufficiency, employment/jobs for refugees, Rochester | Tagged: government office, New York, Office for New Americans, refugees | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Christopher Coen on October 23, 2012
An article in the Buffalo News explains how a police officer in that city has taken the initiative to help refugees locally. Each year he joins a clothing drive for refugees, and has even traveled to Burma/Myanmar to see how the refugees from that country live. The article also mentions that refugees in Buffalo are living in code-breaking bungalows (rentals?) and that when they arrive they do not seem to get cold-weather clothing (the State Department contract supposedly requires resettlement agencies to give refugees all needed clothing).
From The Buffalo News:
He got the call a few years ago. A woman was wandering, lost, on Buffalo’s West Side. She did not speak English. The encounter sparked Mike Long’s journey from his South Buffalo roots, more deeply into the streets he patrols, and finally to the Burmese countryside.
A Google search led the Buffalo cop to Jericho Road Ministries, the refugee help center. Within minutes, the lost woman in his patrol car was flanked by translators fluent in Burundi and Swahili. They made sense of the woman’s words. Long drove her home – and knew he needed to better understand her world.
“You never want to impose your beliefs on a people, or feel like you know what is best for them,” he said Friday. “I thought I could better serve the refugees here if I saw where they came from.”
In the spirit of helping, the 37-year-old cop took a reverse-immigrant journey. A friend of a friend had started an orphanage in the Burmese countryside. A few months ago, Long joined a caravan bringing medicine, Crocs and clothes to 35 kids…
…Many refugees who resettle on the West Side – mostly Burmese and brightly garbed Somalis – live in code-busting bungalows…
[Long] also knows what he sees every winter: Recent arrivals, shoulders hunched against the freeze, wearing nothing warmer than a long-sleeved shirt. It is why Long, three years ago, jumped headlong into Jericho Road’s annual clothing drive (www.jrm-buffalo.org)… Read more here
Posted in Buffalo, Burma/Myanmar, clothes, housing, housing, substandard, police | Tagged: Buffalo, Burma, Myanmar, police, refugees, resettlement | 1 Comment »