Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Posts Tagged ‘catholic charities’

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 »

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 »

Refugees out-achieve U.S.-born neighbors

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 28, 2013

 out-achieve

A study commissioned by refugee resettlement groups in Cleveland finds that refugees in Cleveland are more likely to hold a job than native-born residents, more likely to send their children to college, and less likely to be on public assistance — after two years in Cleveland only 8 percent of refugee households are still receiving public assistance. Refugees are also more likely than U.S.-born citizens to start a business and to create a business that succeeds. They founded at least 38 businesses here in the last decade. An article in the Plains Dealer explains:

…A new study reveals that refugees — the world’s most desperate immigrants — tend to do well in Cleveland and often out-achieve their U.S.-born neighbors over time.

Eye-opening revelations include the fact that refugees are more likely to hold a job than native-born residents and more likely to send their children to college. After two years in Cleveland, researchers found, only 8 percent of refugee households are still receiving public assistance, a level of self-sufficiency that beats national norms.

The study by Chmura Economics & Analytics, which is being released Monday, challenges stereotypes and may illuminate a new economic development strategy. Far from burdening a community, refugees tend to assimilate quickly, find work, buy houses and often start businesses.

“Basically, we are business minded. That’s our caste,” Nar Pradhan explained in a soft Himalayan accent. “Cleveland is perfect for us. All of our family is here. All of us are employed.”

The study’s lead author, economist Daniel Meges, cautions the refugee community is minute — numbering fewer than 20,000 people in Greater Cleveland — and its economic impact would not match, say, a major new manufacturing plant.

Still, he said, he was surprised by the scale of economic activity generated by a little-known class of immigrants and concluded a depopulated city would be wise to welcome more of them.

“For a rather small investment, most of which is federal dollars, you bring in people who quickly find jobs and spend money,” Meges said. “These are people who would not be coming here otherwise and who tend to stay. By and a large, our refugees do OK.”…

In Greater Cleveland, the resettlement efforts fall to Catholic Charities, the International Services Center and US Together, an affiliate of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

Recently, those three groups teamed up with several nonprofit and faith-based groups to form the Refugee Services Collaborative of Greater Cleveland.

With a grant from the Cleveland Foundation, the collaborative commissioned a study of the refugee community to gauge how it was faring and to plan how they could best help.

Researchers limited their survey to the 4,500 refugees who arrived since 2000 and to Cuyahoga County, where most of them live. From the study emerged unexpected discoveries.

  • Seventy-five percent of the county’s refugees over age 16 are employed, compared to 57 percent of the general population.

 

  • Most refugee families have more than one wage earner, allowing a decent standard of living even at minimum wage jobs. Nearly 250 refugees have bought houses.

 

  • Refugees are more likely than U.S.-born citizens to start a business and to create a business that succeeds. They founded at least 38 businesses here in the last decade.

 

  • Refugee households and refuge businesses combined contributed $45 million to the regional economy in 2012.

“Our hunch was this was true,” said Brian Upton, the assistant director of Building Hope in the City, a church-based group that works with refugees and that is part of the collaborative. “They are not takers. They are not a drain on our community. They are very entrepreneurial.”…

Tom Mrosko…directs the Office of Migration and Refugee Services of Cleveland Catholic Charities, the region’s busiest resettlement agency.

Cleveland-area refugees may do better than most because they arrive in modest numbers, Mrosko said. In a region that attracts few immigrants overall, refugee families get more attention from the schools, clinics and libraries that help assimilate new Americans… Read more here

 

Posted in Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services (Cleveland), employment/jobs for refugees, International Services Center (Cleveland), US Together | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

National restriction on refugee arrivals and travel moratorium may finally end October 28

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 19, 2013

Reopening 

Although the federal government shutdown has now ended, refugee resettlement won’t restart until at least Oct. 28. Complex approval, documentation and travel logistics will also delay many refugee arrivals for months. Some refugees may be required to reapply for medical approvals or security clearances that are good for a limited time, and depending on the country, refugees also may have to reapply for exit visas. An article in USAToday explains:

…roughly 4,500 refugees who had been cleared to come to the United States in October — including 73 heading for Kentucky — but now face delays that resettlement officials say may take months for some to resolve…

Now more than 2 weeks old, the shutdown forced the U.S. State Department to suspend most refugee arrivals and enact a travel moratorium, partly because the financial, medical and federal benefits or services aren’t available in some areas to help newcomers from Somalia, Iraq, Myanmar, Bhutan and a host of other countries, officials said.

Although most expect Congress to reach an agreement to reopen the government, resettlement won’t restart until at least Oct. 28 — and even then, the shutdown’s cascading effect on complex approval, documentation and travel logistics will delay many arrivals for months.

Nowhere to go

…Some may be required to reapply for medical approvals or security clearances that are good for a limited time — and depending on the country, refugees also may have to reapply for exit visas, including Burmese leaving Thai refugee camps…

The shutdown came just as the government was set to begin admitting 70,000 refugees for the coming federal fiscal year, said Cindy Jensen, director of resettlement with the International Rescue Committee. The moratorium was first extended to Oct. 21, and then again to Oct. 28.

A State Department official said the move was meant to ensure refugees receive proper support when they arrive but acknowledged it had left thousands of people “sitting in limbo.”

The government is allowing those who are seen as being at high risk to continue to arrive, such as Iraqi refugees who helped the United States during the war.

Church World Service, one of a handful of federally approved resettlement agencies, reported that nearly half of the refugees under its authority, initially cleared for travel in October, will be delayed as long as three months…

…Kentucky Refugee Ministries, which operates on a tight budget, is having to use reserves to continue to pay caseworkers and provide services, partly because the shutdown has kept the agency from getting the federal reimbursement of $750 per arrival budgeted for October… Read more here

Posted in Catholic Charities of Louisville Inc., Congress, CWS, funding, IRC, Louisville, moratorium / restriction / reduction | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Refugee in Springfield, MA points to deficiencies in resettlement services

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 27, 2013

exploitation

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno is using a local refugee’s story about complaints he and others have with local refugee assistance agencies Jewish Family Services, Lutheran Social Services, and Catholic Charities – to illustrate his claim that the agencies have not been providing crucial refugee assistance services. The Somali refugee man claims that some refugees in Springfield go without heat in the winter, do not have stoves, do not know how to get to a hospital or how to get home from one. I find that the press conference was disturbingly exploitative of the refugee man since the Mayor’s message includes not only criticism of the refugee agencies’ failures but also the notion that the local American population is at risk (with no facts to back up such an assertion, which  makes it scare-mongering) and refugees putting an undue burden on the police, schools and other public services. Did the man know his participation in the press conference not only supported valid criticisms of the local refugee agencies but also carried an anti-refugee resettlement message? The resettlement agencies are essentially responding that Mayor’s message – which includes criticism of the agencies and their services – puts vulnerable refugees at risk. The groups are using the refugees as a shield – yet another form of exploitation. Another article in The Republican continues coverage of this story: 

SPRINGFIELD – Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, who has asked the federal government to stop sending refugee families to Springfield, sought to bolster his case Monday by presenting a Somali refugee who said his family has lacked adequate help and services from agencies since moving here last October.

Abdulahi Ibrahim, the Somali refugee, spoke of his family’s difficulties through a translator, Bedel Omar of the East African Cultural Center, during a press conference at City Hall arranged by Sarno. The event occurred just two days before Sarno’s scheduled meeting with local resettlement agencies on Wednesday.

Sarno has stated that…the information provided by Ibrahim and Omar reflect there are inadequate follow-up services from resettlement agencies and programs…

Ibrahim said he and his wife and five children resettled in Springfield on Wilbraham Road last October, aided by Lutheran Social Services of New England, after fleeing from Somalia to an Ethiopian refugee camp.

The family has struggled since with the new language, the colder climate, and challenges such as where to get heating fuel and how to pay for heat. There was not enough assistance from Lutheran Social Services after the initial welcome and funding for rent and some expenses, he said.

In addition, he said there are families who do not know how to get to a hospital or clinic, and he knew of a pregnant refugee woman who did not know how to get home from the hospital. There are families who do not know how to get oil or other heat, and there are cases of apartments with no heat and no working stove, and refugees who do not know who to call for help, Ibrahim and Omar said… Read more here

 

 

Posted in Catholic Charities, health, Jewish Family Service of Western Masachusetts, Lutheran Social Services of New England -- Ascentria Care Alliance, moratorium / restriction / reduction, safety, Somali, Springfield | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Springfield, MA Mayor asks State Dept. to stop resettling refugees

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 15, 2013

springfield_ma

The Mayor of Springfield is asking the State Department to stop resettling refugees to his city citing refugees placed in substandard housing and the strain on local schools. He provided pages of reports from his Code Enforcement office listing some apartments that have housed refugees that had rampant insect and vermin infestations, the absence of any smoke detectors, illegal wiring, broken doors, and blocked exits. He claims that, “…local agencies are not employing people with the necessary qualifications to conduct adequate safety and habitability inspections for potential settlement units, and are not properly utilizing the funding being provided by the Federal Government.” Sarno’s sent a four-page letter to Barbara Day, chief of domestic resettlement, refuge admissions for the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. I’m not sure about the “safety to our citizens” part since that statement is implausible and is not backed up with any information. An article in The Republic explains the details:

SPRINGFIELD — Mayor Domenic J. Sarno on Tuesday urged federal officials to stop the flow of refugees into Springfield, saying the influx has become “a pressing issue of public safety.”

Sarno, in a letter to the U.S. State Department, said Springfield has “a long and successful history” of taking in refugees, but the growing numbers have led to his concern “for the safety of both our citizens and the refugees themselves.”

Many of the refugees are being placed in substandard housing, and are placing burdens on the Code Enforcement, Police and School departments, Sarno said.

The Police Department has reported an increase in fraud, robbery and property crimes committed against refugees, Sarno said. In addition, the refugees are placing a strain on the school system, coming from around the world, he said.

In his petition, Sarno said he has become aware of “some startling facts” from reports he has received from city departments. That has included housing with “significant life safety violations” of the state building and sanitary codes that have included “rampant insect and vermin infestations, the absence of any smoke detectors,” and illegal wiring, broken doors, and blocked exits, he said.

The fact that refugees are being placed into properties containing the reprehensible conditions, cited above, is compelling evidence that local agencies are not employing people with the necessary qualifications to conduct adequate safety and habitability inspections for potential settlement units, and are not properly utilizing the funding being provided by the Federal Government,” Sarno said.

Sarno’s four-page letter was sent to Barbara Day, chief of domestic resettlement, refuge admissions for the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration…

The mayor and some of his department heads met in July with organizations involved in the refugee resettlement efforts — Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services and the Jewish Family Services…

Sarno said in the interview he has learned that an additional 156 adult refugees are set to be placed in Springfield by Catholic Charities within the next couple of weeks. He provided pages of reports from his Code Enforcement office listing some apartments that have housed refugees that had numerous code violations or are condemned… Read more here

Posted in apartment building fires, Catholic Charities Springfield MA, crime, dangerous neighborhoods, housing, housing, substandard, Jewish Family Service of Western Masachusetts, Lutheran Social Services of New England -- Ascentria Care Alliance, moratorium / restriction / reduction, Office of Admissions, rats and roaches, safety, Somali Bantu | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Police changing procedures after refugees murdered at apartment complex in Phoenix

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 30, 2013

police_interpretation

In light of the communication problems after the murder of two Karenni refugees at apartment complex in Phoenix in April, the police will now have access to refugee community leaders and interpreters in the communities 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Officers can also carry a card that includes contact numbers for refugee agencies and questions to ask refugees to better identify appropriate resources. An article in The Arizona Republic explains:

…Two Burmese refugees were stabbed at the Serrano Village Apartments near 28th Avenue and Camelback Road, leaving fellow refugees stunned and afraid.

Ker Reh, 54, and Kay Reh, 24, who are not related, were attacked outside an apartment unit where they were attending a prayer service for a friend who had died of natural causes….

Thousands of Burmese refugees call Phoenix home, and the homicides highlighted the struggles the community faces. Community leaders and the police department are working to overcome some of those issues, such as language barriers and fear of the police…

More than 4,100 Burmese refugees have moved to Arizona since fiscal 1999 with a majority of them — 3,858 — concentrated in apartments around Phoenix…

The main stumbling block for the refugees is their lack of English skills, leaders said. Phoenix police had to call a translator on April 28 to the murder scene to help piece together what had happened.

…many refugees don’t call 911 for help because they can’t speak English.

The 911 ask many questions so people are scared to call,” said Ray, who taught himself English when he arrived to this country. He spent 20 years in a Thai refugee camp.

Phary Reh, 35, said many of the older refugees also fear the police because of their experiences with them in Thailand and Burma.

When they are driving and see police, they are scared,” he said. “In their heart, it reminds them of the police in Thailand.”…

Police spokesman Steve Martos said the department also is enhancing its ability to serve the Myanmar refugees.

This incident helped us address a deficiency as it relates to language barriers,” he said. “We have since worked with the refugee community to find ways we can have access to their community leaders and someone to translate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”…

Now, officers can carry a card that includes contact numbers for refugee agencies and questions to ask refugees to better identify appropriate resources… Read more here

Posted in Catholic Charities Phoenix, crime, dangerous neighborhoods, gangs, hate crimes, Karenni, language, Phoenix, police, safety | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

State Department Director of refugee admissions to visit Fort Wayne this week

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 16, 2013

director

Larry Bartlett, director of refugee admissions for the U.S. State Department will visit Fort Wayne on Thursday. He will also visit local refugee resettlement efforts in Indianapolis and Detroit next week. As usual, the State Department will only meet with “stakeholders” – resettlement agencies, service providers, advocates, Mayor Tom Henry and refugees themselves. The only refugees that State visits are those chosen by the refugee resettlement contractor(s). Although “advocates” are newly listed as stakeholders, as a refugee advocate myself I can tell you that State has never, that I know of, responded to independent advocates with dissenting views or invited them to attend these meetings. Accepting criticism were due is not a skill modeled or practiced by the federal refugee resettlement oversight agencies or their contractors. An article in the Journal-Gazette has more:

FORT WAYNE – Officials for the U.S. State Department and the United Nations will visit Fort Wayne this week to learn more about refugee resettlement efforts.

Larry Bartlett, director of refugee admissions for State, and Shelly Pitterman, regional director of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, plan to meet Thursday with those described by Bartlett as “stakeholders” – resettlement agencies, service providers, advocates, Mayor Tom Henry and refugees themselves.

We try to go to communities on a regular basis to really try to understand where the nuances are, how communities are coping and how we might, if we can, adjust some of the programs,” Bartlett said from his Washington, D.C., office in a telephone interview last week.

The last time a State Department official came to Fort Wayne to evaluate refugee resettlement services was in 2009. Bartlett also will visit refugee communities in Indianapolis and Detroit next week.

Part of the responsibility we have is not just to see how our programs are faring but to see how the community is supporting refugees, to see where there are issues, challenges, weaknesses in the programs that we can be helpful with,” Bartlett said.

We really do see this as a partnership with the community,” he said…

…Eric Schwartz, then an assistant secretary of the State Department, discovered what he called “heartening and dismaying” conditions for newly arriving refugees of various nationalities when he visited Fort Wayne…in 2009…

…Schwartz ended his dispatch by saying the State Department would increase its resettlement grants from $900 to $1,800 for each new refugee, an amount that has since grown to $1,875. Roughly half the money goes for administrative costs of resettlement agencies, Bartlett said, and half pays for rent, food and other necessities for the refugee…

…The State Department has a nationwide ceiling of 18,000 refugee arrivals from East Asia in fiscal 2013, which ends Sept. 30. It expects 17,500 of them to be ethnic minority Burmese who have been living in refugee camps in Malaysia and Thailand.

The department has approved Catholic Charities for 170 refugee resettlements in fiscal 2013. Read more here

We read that the State Department per head refugee resettlement grant had increased, from $1,800 in 2010 to the current $1,875 as it turns out, but this is the first mention I’ve seen in the media. The grant only covers initial resettlement efforts in the U.S. – the first 30-90 days – which the State Department claims they intend as “seed money” for the private resettlement contractors to use for resettlement, with significant private resources supposedly added in. I suppose allowing the contractors to use 50 percent of it for overhead though somewhat defeats the purpose of the “see money” policy, although it may be necessary in instances where they are unable to find private resources to add. Otherwise, wouldn’t you expect that they would use the private funding for overhead and transferring the $1,875 directly to the refugees in goods and services?

The article somewhat confuses the issue of who Burmese are by referring to “ethnic minority Burmese”. The Burmese are actually the ethnic majority group in Myanmar, with minority ethnic groups being the Arakan (aka Rakhine), Chin, Kachin, Karen, Karenni, Mon, Rohingyas, Shan, Zomi and others. At this blog we now refer to refugees from the country as Myanmar refugees. The Burmese were the group allied with the Japanese in World War II, while the U.S., the U.K. and others allied with the ethnic minority groups.

Posted in Burma/Myanmar, Catholic Charities of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese, democracy, Detroit area, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Office of Admissions, openess and transparency in government, State Department, UN (United Nations) | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Teachers filling in for resettlement agencies?

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 22, 2012

Teachers in the Omaha school district’s English as a Second Language Teen Literacy Center have their hands full trying to teach refugee teens lessons in the alphabet, vowels and consonants, and figurative and literal meaning. They also have to teach skills such as completing homework, accepting the word “no” and dealing with embarrassment. They also teach them to take notes and write five-paragraph essays with main and supporting ideas. Then there is adding and subtracting by 20s, multiply and divide by 12s, science and constitutional amendments. But, lessons in personal hygiene and dental health? Driving students to the hospital for immunizations? Visiting students’ homes to tell families the difference between the stove and refrigerator and that canned goods go in the pantry, cheese in the fridge? It seems like teachers are having to fill in for work not done by resettlement workers. An article in the Omaha World Herald covers the topic:

The bulletin board in a classroom on the fourth floor of the [Omaha Public Schools] headquarters succinctly describes this tiny school for the district’s newest at-risk teenage students.

Vertical cutouts of student photographs — southeast Asian boys with punk rock haircuts or African girls in modest, colorful Muslim wear — form words proclaiming: “WE R THE TLC.”

That’s shorthand for English as a Second Language Teen Literacy Center.

This is ground zero in OPS for newcomer non-English speakers with little formal education who are 13 to 21. Younger students generally enter their schools’ ESL programs. The TLC serves as a crucial bridge for these older students...

The public has a stake in this. A government survey of refugees resettled between 2004 and 2008 showed a correlation: The better the refugees’ command of English, the better their employment and earning potential, and the less likely they were to rely on welfare.

It is critical that we do things right with the first generation so that we don’t have long-term societal problems,” said Susan Mayberger, who heads up the district’s $17 million program for ESL and migrant students, which includes about $370,000 for the school-year TLC...

Teaching the core subjects is a big enough challenge, but teachers can’t help but get pulled into other aspects of their students’ lives.

They need so much,” said Scurlock, who is in her ninth year at TLC. “They need academics … job skills … counseling.”

But the teachers aren’t trained social workers and are frustrated by how helpless they feel.

There is little time to call state welfare offices, navigate labyrinthine public assistance programs or deal with red tape. Yet how can they not step in?

Math teacher Diana Saunders drove a student to Douglas County Hospital for immunizations. Language teacher Jackie Leet drove two students and their parents to a summer jobs program and sat with them through all the training.

Scurlock was a birth coach when a former student, pregnant and divorced and alone, needed someone.

Rodricks, the reading teacher, bought students clothes at Target. Married to a chef, she helped get one student a restaurant job as a cook.

Teachers keep bins of used clothes and shoes at the school to give away. The newest students usually have only one or two outfits, said Stratman, and are always in need of winter clothes.

They give spontaneous lessons in personal hygiene and dental health. They have to explain to every newcomer from Myanmar or Thailand that flip-flops won’t work in an Omaha winter. They visit students’ homes and tell families the difference between the stove and refrigerator and that canned goods go in the pantry, cheese in the fridge…

We’re like surrogate parents,” Leet said. “Our connection with them is really important.”… Read more here

Posted in Catholic Charities (Omaha), education, insufficient assistance with daily tasks, language, Lutheran Family Services (Omaha), Omaha, schools, Southern Sudan Community Association (Omaha), teenagers | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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