Posted by Christopher Coen on September 20, 2011
An article in Public Radio International’s The World explains the issue of managing refugee children in their transition to a new culture — in particular, their newfound power of dialing 911. The article also explains related language-barrier problems.
Fargo police officer Cristie Jacobsen has responded to a lot of 9-11 calls, but few with less urgency than this one. “A teenage girl called the police on her mother because her mother had prepared a very simple ethnic meal for her and she didn’t like it,” said Jacobsen.
Coming to a new nation as a refugee — adjusting to a new language, culture, and climate — is always a struggle. But now in Fargo, North Dakota many refugee parents are being manipulated by their children.
Refugee children have been calling the Fargo Police because they don’t want to do the dishes or wear a particular shirt. They’ve also gotten a lot of calls about this: Parents were taking away their kid’s Mountain Dew.
“The children didn’t like it,” said Jacobsen. “Because they had gotten used to drinking it, they enjoyed the caffeine splurge and things like that and so it became a power struggle.”… Read more here
Posted in children, cultural adjustment, language, North Dakota | Tagged: 9/11, children, Fargo, police, refugees, resettlement | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Christopher Coen on October 19, 2010
A nursing home called the police on three Somali refugee women in Jamestown, North Dakota after they went in to apply for a job and were told to leave. According to an article in the Jamestown Sun the women were responding to a newspaper ad, but the administrator of the nursing home said she had inadvertently left the ad in the newspaper after filling the position two days earlier. Yet, after the women left an American friend called the nursing home and an employee told her that the position was still open.
A dispute between a Somali woman applying for work and the management of a local nursing home degenerated into a loud conflict last week that led to law enforcement officers being called, according to reports from the Jamestown Police Department.
The incident occurred on Oct. 6 when Ismahan Ismail, accompanied by two friends, applied for a job at Bethel 4 Acres. Ismail has been a resident of Jamestown since April when she moved to the area from San Diego, Calif. Originally from Somalia, she has lived in the United States for 10 years…
…“They came in and wanted a job,” said Delores Bagan, administrator of Bethel 4 Acres. “We said the job was filled and they called me a liar and showed the ad from the paper. They kept on arguing. We told them the job was filled and they should go. They wouldn’t take no for an answer.”
Bagan said she had filled the job “a couple of days” earlier but had inadvertently allowed the classified ad in The Jamestown Sun to continue to run. She also commented on the appearance of the women, who were dressed in full-length, robe-like dresses and head scarves.
“Dressed in that flowing garb they couldn’t fill a position scrubbing floors and toilets,” she said.
Bagan said the women swore at her and didn’t leave until they saw the police…
…Ismail’s account of the incident differs.
“We were looking for a job everywhere possible,” she said. “One lady came out, she didn’t have a welcoming face, she said there were no jobs so we left. Another lady came out and yelled ‘why you come three at a time.’ She said ‘leave my property’ and started cussing — and I was mad and cussing too.”
The incident caused people associated with the Somali refugee community to investigate.
“I called (Bethel 4 Acres) right after I heard,” said Jackie Hyra, a Jamestown resident associated with the refugee community through her membership on the outreach committee of the First Congregational United Church of Christ. “I told them I lived in the country and didn’t want to drive in unless there was a job opening. I was told there were openings and I should come in.”
When asked about this, Bagan reiterated there were no job openings available and it’s possible an employee hadn’t been informed. Read more here
I suppose it is possible that the nursing home administrator left the ad running after filling the position. That happens often enough. But then an employee also tells someone calling that the position is still open? Well, I suppose that’s possible. Employees make mistakes.
One thing I can say though having taken hundreds of refugees to look for jobs – the experience is often best described as nothing less than peculiar. I took one African refugee to a furniture store to apply for a labor position and they told him the guy doing the hiring wasn’t in. They didn’t give him an application, tell him when to come back or anything. I told the refugee to go back in and ask when he should return. They told him to come back in two hours. When we returned two hours later they told the refugee once again that the guy wasn’t in. This was my first experience with an employer who didn’t at least offer an application.
I think employers that put out notices for job positions and then don’t let people apply for the positions should reasonably expect suspicion of their motivations.
Posted in employment/jobs for refugees, North Dakota, police, Somali, unwelcoming communities | Tagged: employment discrimination, jamestown, North Dakota, refugee employment, refugee resettlement, refugee resettlement agencies, refugee resettlement program, refugees, Somali refugees | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Christopher Coen on October 13, 2010
Terry Rusch, the Director of the Office of Admissions, PRM at the State Department is retiring. In her farewell address she tells us that staff at the PRM like to “party hard”. Of course, I never really doubted that during the past nine years of monitoring their office.
Refugees kept encountering the same disgraceful problems – whether it was resettlement to dangerous inner-city neighborhoods or having resettlement agency case workers who would not return calls or help refugees look for jobs – and always the Office of Admissions failed to address the issues. They usually just simply refused to respond to refugees’ complaints that we forwarded to them. The group that Rusch is retiring from is a tight inner circle of close associates that lives large, parties hard, and is absolutely heady about the magnificence of their humanitarian work.
According to Rusch:
The Bureau has always been home to intelligent, committed and hardworking people. It is a model of how the Department’s Civil and Foreign Service personnel can bring their various skills and expertise to the table to work on issues together – whether we are in crisis management or day-to-day operations mode. But those who work hard should party hard and PRM’s reputation for the latter is well-deserved. I’ll miss participating in our various theatrical productions in which we’ve spoofed everyone and everything refugee world-related, always with the goal of ensuring that no one was allowed to take themselves too seriously around here….
…And now, a big part of the reason I am so comfortable with the move into retirement is that the program is in great shape and staffed with excellent officers led by a skilled and experienced leadership team of Larry, Kelly, Barbara and Amy…
…As in politics, all resettlement is local. Neither the federal government nor national voluntary agency headquarters resettle refugees. Communities do. Cities and towns across the country are on the front lines of refugee reception and integration – day-in, day-out, year-in, year-out. They are the ones who welcome the newcomer and give them the chance for a new life. They need to be listened to and deserve our respect and gratitude… Read more here
This last paragraph is a kicker because volunteers in our group have spent years helping refugees at the local level, during which time we have tried to open a dialogue with Terry Rusch to show her what was really happening locally, instead of the usual filtered picture she received via her refugee resettlement contractors. Rusch showed no sign of listening at all. In multiple dozens of letters we documented the failure of resettlement agencies to give the most minimal of refugee services which they were contractually obligated to, yet the Office of Admissions under Rusch ignored almost every one of these letters.
When the Lost Boys of Sudan refugees in Chicago complained of violent street attacks, Rusch’s office dismissed their complaints as mere “perceptions” of neighborhood safety. Rusch sent colleague Kelly Gauger to Chicago, who personally rejected our imploring that the Lost Boys said they had been repeatedly attacked. Nothing was done. A group of the Sudanese refugees were then attacked by a gang in their neighborhood the next month, with three of them receiving serious knife wounds.
When we warned Rusch’s Office of Admissions over the course of several years about refugees in Fargo whose resettlement agency did not give them winter coats, who gave the refugees broken furniture, forced them into foster care, and didn’t help them look for work, the Office of Admissions responding by waiting a few years to send monitors to inspect, and then marveling at the resettlement agency’s use of three-ring binders.
When we warned Rusch and her helpers about refugees outside Tampa who slept on the floor for months because their resettlement agency failed to give them any furniture and referred the refugees to jobs that involved 2-3 hour bike commutes in each direction to Pinellas County, there was no response for a year. What the Office of Admissions did with the complaint remains a secret mystery – a way in which they like to run the operation – but not only did things not change outside Tampa, they got worse. The next year the resettlement agency loaned out refugees as free labor, making them sign sheets of paper that were folded over so that the refugees could not see what they were signing. Rusch’s office did finally cut off the resettlement agency’s refugee resettlement contract but only after refugees were harmed for two more years.
I hope Ms. Rusch enjoys her retirement and her government pension, but refugees have had their lives permanently damaged by the sort of refugee resettlement services her office has managed over the years. Let’s hope that future leadership will have less interest in incessant Bureau staff meetings and office theatrical productions and more interest in responsible refugee resettlement, real listening, respect and gratitude of local communities, as well as the value of government transparency.
Posted in Chicago, neglect, North Dakota, openess and transparency in government, PRM, State Department, Sudanese, Tampa | Tagged: chicago refugees, fargo refugees, Kelly Gauger, Lost Boys of Sudan, Office of Admissions, Population Refugees and Migration, PRM, refugee resettlement, refugee resettlement agencies, refugee resettlement program, refugees, State Department, tampa refugees, Terry Rusch | Leave a Comment »