Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Posts Tagged ‘IRC’

State Department bows to pressure to rescind plan to resettle refugees in Athens

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 15, 2014

brakeThe U.S. State Department has decided to put on indefinite hold the plan this fiscal year to begin resettling refugees to Athens, Georgia after local and state government opposition. Both the mayor of Athens as well as the Governor and Georgia Human Services Commissioner have come out against the plan. Senior level officials from the State Department are planning a visit to Athens next month, apparently to try some diplomacy and to negotiate with local government officials. An article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explores the case:

The U.S. State Department has shelved a plan to resettle 150 refugees in Athens following objections from Mayor Nancy Denson and Gov. Nathan Deal’s administration.

The International Rescue Committee said it got an email last week from the federal agency saying it would consider the proposal “after additional planning and community consultation.”…

“There is always hope in the future and the good news is that senior level officials from the State Department are planning a visit to Athens next month to view the area in person for future consideration,” he wrote.

“During the visit we will be clarifying with them what additional planning and consultations they are requiring, showing them firsthand why Athens has already become a preferred destination for refugees seeking a new life, and discussing a concrete plan to resubmit a proposal to establish an official resettlement site.”…

In a letter sent to the U.S. State Department in August, Georgia Human Services Commissioner Keith Horton said he did not want the refugee resettlement plan to “go forward at this time.”

“The degree of cooperation, communication and consultation is not where I would like for it to be,” Horton wrote. “It is my hope that the community of Athens/Clarke County and the IRC will continue to work together to resolve the issues and concerns that have been raised.”

Horton’s letter followed one Denson sent Deal’s administration two days before. In her letter, the Democratic mayor complained the IRC did not reach out to enough people in her community early enough about its plans. She also raised concerns that the refugees could strain public resources in Athens-Clarke County, which is home to about 120,000 residents. Denson said she wanted the IRC to delay its efforts and to “present a formal refugee integration plan” to local elected officials and others. Read more here

Posted in IRC, PRM, State Department, unwelcoming communities | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Athens GA mayor opposes IRC resettlement office

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 25, 2014

opposeThe mayor of Athens, Georgia sent a letter last week to the state officials who control refugee resettlement in Georgia requesting that a plan by the Atlanta office of the International Rescue Committee to bring refugees to Athens be put on hold.  Athens-Clarke County Mayor Nancy Denson claims she is worried that the presence of refugees might strain Athens’ already burdened social services and school system.  She goes on to claim that Athens can only offer minimum wage jobs to refugees and that allowing the refugees to resettle would be “importing poverty”.  I guess my question is do local businesses want to fill those low wage jobs or not?  What plans does the mayor have for helping to increase wages for families?  An article in Athens Banner-Herald has more:

Athens-Clarke County Mayor Nancy Denson sent a letter last week to the state officials who control refugee resettlement in Georgia requesting that a plan by the Atlanta office of the International Rescue Committee to bring refugees to Athens be put on hold.

Denson worried that the presence of refugees might strain Athens’ already burdened social services and school system. Athens can offer very little outside of low-wage employment to the refugees, Denson said.

The mayor and other local leaders also expressed concern in recent interviews about adding to the area’s poverty level.

Upwards of 150 refugees, including men, women and children, were expected to resettle in Athens in 2015… Read more here

Posted in capacity, Georgia, IRC, schools, unwelcoming communities | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Resettlement services for asylees

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 28, 2014


A comment (see below) left under our link for the State Department’s Operational Guidance contract document for refugee resettlement agencies gives us a look at the IRC Phoenix office. They placed an asylee in an apartment with a non-working air conditioning in 100 degree heat and the case worker would do nothing to assist with the problem.

As it turns out asylees are not eligible for the State Department services that are associated with initial refugee resettlement program found in contract documents such as the Operational Guidance. Asylees are, however, eligible for programs funded by the ORR (Office of Refugee Resettlement). They may get up to five years of certain services including employment, immigration and case management services, and subsidized mental health services, and may also be eligible for other federal or state funded programs and services.

The writer indicates that the asylee is in the Matching Grant Program. Extra items such as cell phone service may be purchased with the $200 per month cash assitance. See Matching Grant info below:

Is the Matching Grant Program all its cracked up to be?

FY2014 Matching Grant Guidelines

pjslife said

June 23, 2014 at 2:02 am

Thanks for this information; it is not easy to find. I am friends with someone that was granted asylum 3-4 weeks ago and is receiving ‘resettlement’ services from a VOLAG. I haven’t been able to find out if he is entitled to the same services as refugees or if his are different because he came here as an asylum seeker. He was placed in a studio apartment with non-working air conditioning in 100 degree heat. After one week of me supporting him talking to his caseworker, I went with him to the leasing office and we were able to move him that day. He was given a twin bed with no sheets. No other furniture or lamps. He had some kitchen items but not much. I don’t think he’s received any clothing from them. He kept asking his caseworker about furniture for his apartment and was told he “might” get a table and chairs. We provided him with sheets, a nightstand, 2 lamps, a can opener, and 2 pieces of wall art. He was told he can’t receive cell phone assistance because he is in the “Match Grant” program. He has not been able to find out exactly what services he should be receiving, or what items they are required to give him. If it hadn’t been for me, he’d be sleeping on a bare mattress in a hot, dark apartment with only a kitchen or bathroom light providing light. To me it seems he has slipped through the cracks. Read more here

Posted in asylees, housing, housing, substandard, IRC, Matching Grant program, ORR, Phoenix, State Department | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

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

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 19, 2013


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 »

A closer look at refugee resettlement in Georgia

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 29, 2013



The U.S. State Department has not responded to many questions posed by a media outlet in Athens, Georgia which has looked at the refugee resettlement program, though a recent article by the newspaper is pro-resettlement. The state government claims refugees are undue burden on limited state resources. Resettlement agencies claim refugees pay taxes, buy homes, and support education, and invest in their communities. They also claim that fewer refugees allowed to resettle in the state this year has resulted in a reduction in services to refugees already here. In the meantime resettlement agencies have also been making a late attempt to spread refugees out to other parts of metro-Atlanta and the state so as not to overburden local resettlement sites. An article in the Athens Banner-Herald discusses these and other related issues:

Resettlement agencies prefer to place new refugees close to family or existing ethnic communities to ease the transition to life in the U.S. Family ties and communities are often bundled around resources – agency offices, English language classes, jobs – necessary to acclimation.

the Georgia Department of Human Services to ask for a reduction of refugees coming to the state in 2013, citing school district budget shortfalls, and health and safety concerns. The U.S. Department of State would not confirm if other states had made similar requests.

We regularly receive feedback from stakeholders involved in the refugee resettlement process and take those into account as we finalize the placement plan for the upcoming year,” wrote state department spokesperson Laura Seal in an email.

The department declined to say how regularly these adjustments are made.

Georgia is home to the seventh largest refugee population in the country. Media reports have not listed other states as requesting reductions.

Georgia’s rationale for the cuts doesn’t hold water, according to the agencies that support resettlement. Problems allegedly caused by refugees often are bottled in DeKalb and Fulton counties. But the impact of the cuts has impacted services to refugees throughout the state, refugee advocates said, and has strained the state and agency relationship supposed to benefit refugees…

In August, just after refugee agencies submitted their annual capacity proposal to the U.S. State Department, a number it uses to determine refugee placement in Georgia, DHS sent a letter to the federal agency requesting a 50 percent reduction in refugee resettlings in the state.

The reduction, in effect, ended up closer to 20 percent, though an examination of arrivals in the first two quarters of 2013 shows no sign of abatement. The reduction lowered the maximum amount of refugees coming to the state, potentially with little impact on overall arrivals, but directly impacted the budgets of aid agencies, which receive federal funding based on the number of expected resettlements…

[state officials have complained that refugees have incurred costs the state can’t handle, yet] Repeated requests for detailed information on costs incurred by refugees went unfilled by the Georgia DHS. A February article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted a state official estimating the cost at $6.7 million, an amount that included education costs… Read more here

Posted in capacity, funding, Georgia, moratorium / restriction / reduction, Office of Admissions, openess and transparency in government, Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Services of Atlanta (RRISA), Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Services of Atlanta (RRISA) | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Accused translator for IRC refugees still has not been tried

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 6, 2013


In 2010 this blog reported on a case in Abilene, Texas in which a health district employee was accused of sexual assault of IRC refugee woman, then charged and jailed. Apparently after all this time the man has still not been tried in the matter. One of the constitutional rights we supposedly enjoy in this country is the right to a speedy trail, which is a potential concern in this case. Zane Travis in a letter to the Abilene Reporter-News expresses his own concern about the case:

I wish to alert Abilenians to a perceived injustice. You may have noticed recently that the trial for Aloys Nzeyimana was postponed for the 10th time.

Aloys was employed by the Abilene Health District as an interpreter for International Rescue Committee refugees and worked under my supervision and that of the official refugee nurse. For about five years. We watched him help refugees above and beyond expected duties, with kindness and humor. He was active in his church and at local organized refugee information meetings.

In December 2010, he was arrested in a parking lot as he was leaving the health department, apparently accused of sexually assaulting several refugee women. At the time of his arrest, he was held in the parking lot for 50 minutes until the newspaper could get there and take his picture, which was on the front page the next day. His office was quickly searched and contents removed.

His fellow employees (including me) were shocked at the charges. His bail was set at $450,000 — a heroic amount for no reported injuries. Nobody ever went to the E.R. claiming they had been raped or attacked. It is believed that the original charges may have been spurred by a disgruntled stepdaughter, who had been brought here from Africa at Aloys’ expense. Apparently there was a problem finding people who were allegedly hurt by him, since a notice was placed in Swahili on the front page of the paper asking for people to come forward who had been harmed by him… Read more here

Posted in Abilene, court, IRC, police, safety, women | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Last year U.S. State Department reduced refugees to Georgia by 20 to 25 percent

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 1, 2013


Last year the Republican led State of Georgia asked the federal government to cut the number of refugees resettling to the state by 50 percent. In response the U.S. State Department reduced the numbers by 20 to 25 percent. The number of refugees was from roughly 4,000 per year to about 2,500. In response, Georgia’s IRC office’s Executive Director J.D. McCrary points out that 80 percent of refugees resettled in the state are economic self-sufficient after six months, the highest in the country. The Republican-led state government, however, claims that refugees put a burden on local and state services. An article at CBS Atlanta has more:

ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) – The state wants fewer refugees to resettle in Georgia. Georgia has one of the highest numbers of refugee populations in the country. These are people who have fled their home country for fear of persecution. Last year the state asked the federal government to allow half the number, saying refugees put a burden on local and state services…

…”Refugees are enormously successful and are a cultural, social economic boom to the state, IRC Executive Director J.D. McCrary said.

McCrary said refugees in Georgia have an 80 percent self-suffiency rate after six months, the highest in the country.

“That means from the day a refugee lands at the airport, they actually have a job, they are paying their own way, they’re paying taxes, they’re paying their own rent, they’re giving back to the community,” McCrary said.

Last year, the state requested 50 percent fewer new arrivals. McCrary said the state department decided on a reduction of 20 to 25 percent. The number of refugees went from roughly 4,000 per year to about 2,500. 

“Fifty-percent. That’s an enormous request and in fact it’s an unreasonable request. We’re really not sure what the Governor’s or the states reservations are over the arrival of new refugees,” McCrary said… Read more here

Posted in Georgia, IRC, Office of Admissions, right-wing, State Department | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

At Threemile Canyon Farms 63 hour weeks at $10 an hour for tough, dirty, demanding jobs

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 16, 2012

Threemile Canyon Farms in Boardman, Oreg.

In Boardman, Oreg. refugees are working 63 hours each week at $10 an hour for tough, dirty, demanding dairy jobs at Threemile Canyon Farms. The International Rescue Committee is in partnership with the R.D. Offutt Company, the dairy’s operator and the largest producer of potatoes in the world, supplying the frozen french fries industry. While paying its workers $10 and hour, the company’s owner lives in affluent splendor. (An older article also examines the environmental hazards of growing irrigated potatoes.) An article in The Oregonian has the details about the refugees’ lives:

Expectations? The Africans have little in the way of expectations. They left those behind when they fled Eritrea, Congo or the Sudan, and the emotional baggage never caught up to them in the refugee camps of Ethiopia or Rwanda…

When they are finally pulled from the wasteland by the International Rescue Committee, when they are ticketed for resettlement in America, you can understand the dizzying temptation to dream big.

Most of us think we’re going to see a miracle,” Thierry Gasasu admits. “Paradise.

“And then we get to Boise.”

And Boardman.

The Wilson Road apartments.

And those 12-hour shifts — six days running — at Threemile Canyon Farms.

Given their memories and humility, it never occurs to these African refugees to complain…

…the word of the Lord has a far better chance of sustaining them than the workload and take-home pay at the Threemile Canyon dairy.

Wolday and Hailu are two of the stalwarts among the 30-some refugees who work at the dairy and bunk at the Maple Crest Apartments in Boardman. As Wolday prepared dinner in early October — beef, onions and peppers on Injera bread — Hailu framed the daily routine:

“We only have time,” he said, “to go to work and sleep.”

An Ethiopian video is playing on the TV in the living room. At least two dozen flies float through the small kitchen or cling to the ceiling tiles. The four refugees who share the apartment will be in bed by 9 p.m. and up again at 4 a.m., girding for another 12-hour run with the cows…

Threemile Canyon Farms is owned by the R.D. Offutt Company, based in Fargo, N.D. Parked on 93,000 acres in the Columbia River basin, the farm produces 200,000 tons of potatoes annually. Its dairy operation features 16,000 milking cows, or one-seventh of the cows in Oregon…

Almost no native-born Americans apply for these jobs,” Guterbock said. “It’s a tough, dirty, demanding job.”

Hailu and Wolday move through pens containing up to 900 cows, separating out the animals that are too sick to produce good milk.

And Hailu and Wolday have it relatively easy, compared, at least to Thierry Gasasu, an Eritrean who has been milking the suckers for the last eight months.

Or Katanga Janvier, who works “maternity.” In each 12-hour shift, he gets two breaks, totaling 50 minutes. The other 670 minutes, he’s in pregnant cows up to his elbows, delivering calves.

He’s paid $10 an hour, Janvier says, and not a dime of overtime, even though he’s on the clock an average of 63 hours each week…

…By federal law, agriculture workers are exempt from overtime pay provisions… Read more here

R.D. Offutt Company’s owner living in palatial comfort

Posted in Boardman, Boise, employment abuses, employment/jobs for refugees, Eritrean, IRC, secondary migration, refugee | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

‘Deplorable’ living conditions at Phoenix apartment complex

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 23, 2012

Refugees in Phoenix have been resettled to an apartment complex riddled with well over 300 violations per team of Phoenix inspection officials. The rundown eyesore of a complex has conditions including lack of running water and no air conditioning, flooding, dozens of dead animals, staircases in shambles, lofts with holes in the floor, rotted porches, and rat, bedbug, and roach infestations. Some of the buildings are fit to be condemned. The refugees were apparently resettled by Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest. An article at KTAR in Phoenix has the details:

PHOENIX — Residents of the Woodbridge Apartments near 19th and Glendale avenues in Phoenix are looking to the city for help.

The rundown property is an eyesore and the living conditions are described as deplorable.

Resident Jerry Bradley claims that in a short period of time he’s had to deal with bedbugs, roaches and flooding.

Another resident, Thomas Mullins, said he can hear rats crawling in the walls and ceilings of his unit…

Earlier this week the City of Phoenix Neighborhood Services obtained an administrative search warrant. Police and teams of Phoenix officials spent hours inspecting the property located at 6635 N. 19th Avenue.

“They found well over 300 violations per team,” said Officer James Holmes.

Holmes said that after they documented the findings, which include lack of running water and no air conditioning, some of the buildings are fit to be condemned.

“It’s absolutely horrible that we’re back to the slumlord issues of a few years ago,” said Holmes.

“A lot of the tenants are actually refugees and so what makes it difficult for us, even under those conditions, they are still better, than the conditions they may have left,” he added.

Police officials said they hope this will empower these refugees to speak with their sponsors and hopefully start a conversation about their tenant rights in America… Read more here

An article at AZfamily has more details

PHOENIX — Tenants at the Woodbridge Apartment complex in Phoenix are outraged over what they call deplorable, dangerous and unhealthy living conditions…

Around the complex, there are dozens of dead animals, staircases in shambles, lofts with holes in the floor, flooding and rotted porches. Some tenants said they haven’t had air conditioning in about two weeks… Read more here


PHOENIX — The city of Phoenix is investigating whether property managers and owners of an apartment complex off of 19th Avenue are violating the Arizona Tenant Act.

People who live at the Terra Villa apartments complained of rats, mildew, mold, leaking roofs, lack of or intermittent, air conditioning, a pool full of algae, and bed bugs…

Several churches are putting elderly and very young tenants in shelters. Delight Diehn, an advocate from Lutheran Social Services went to the complex to educate tenants about their rights.

“Some of the conditions I observed may not be in line with the contract signed for the Arizona Landlord/Tenant Act,” she said… Read more here

Posted in bed bugs, housing, housing, substandard, Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest, Phoenix, rats and roaches | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

IRC office in Abilene branches out to Midland

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 6, 2012

The International Rescue Committee office in Abilene, Texas has opened a sub-office in Midland. The sub-office is currently providing language and acculturation assistance to between 400 and 600 Chin refugees from Myanmar. An article at the Midland Reporter-Telegram:

Lauren Baker admits she has a lot of goals for her clients. The biggest step for many, though, is learning to dream again.

Baker, 25, works with Burmese Chin refugees in Midland as program coordinator at International Rescue Committee’s recently opened satellite office. As students walk into her classroom each day to learn English and basic life skills, she can’t help but think of how far they’ve come to get here…

…Though she had no official estimate for the current number of Burmese refugees in Midland, Baker said she has heard anywhere between 400 and 600 from others who work with the population. Economic opportunity seems to be what brought the first refugees to the area about a half decade ago, she said, and the population continues to grow as incoming refugees connect with family and friends in the area. The growing needs of the Chin in the Permian Basin is what led IRC’s regional office in Abilene to launch a satellite program in Midland…

…Baker drove to Midland in February before the new satellite office was established, focusing on outreach and an overall assessment of the refugee community’s needs. Though Baker was hoping to find a donated space to open the office, she joined the waiting list for Coventry Pointe Apartment Homes, where several Chin families live, and opened the office in a one-bedroom unit at the end of April.

The living room-turned-classroom is almost bare except for four plastic card tables and learning tools hanging on the walls. A closet holds donations in the form of bedding and basic hygiene products…

…Baker hopes to start acquiring professional clothing for job interviews through community donations. Though almost all Chin in the area are employed, Baker said, she hopes to discuss the idea of career planning and goal setting as their improvements in English open more doors for better job opportunities… Read more here

Posted in Abilene, Chin, cultural adjustment, cultural/community orientation, post arrival, ESL & ELL, IRC, language, meatpacking industry, Midland | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


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