Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Posts Tagged ‘Office of Refugee Resettlement’

State Department Assistant Secretary of the PRM Bureau schmoozes with federal contractor friends

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 20, 2012

The Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, Anne C. Richard, has just released her remarks from the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s 2012 National Consultation. Aside from referring to the federal contractors in attendance as “friends”, a moniker that demonstrates a lack of oversight authority that the refugees and taxpayers would benefit from (one doesn’t really criticize friends after all), Richard ticked off State Department achievements of recent years. The doubling of the amount of money the State Department provides to help with the initial reception and placement of refugees was cited as the first achievement. This increase in funds, in part to the federal refugee contractors, was accompanied with not a single increase in the contractor’s responsibilities. Also mentioned is that the State Department will now guarantee refugee contractors a minimum amount of funding (this shows the power of the federal refugee contractors since the State Department refugee office has ignored our every request for additional assistance to refugees, such as requiring contractors to provide refugees with such additional minimum items as umbrellas, hangers, phones, dictionaries, and stamps & envelopes). Richard also mentions that the State Department has championed more consultation at the local level to make sure that they listen to local communities. Except, it was the State of Tennessee that championed this issue by passing a state law to require this. Richard’s remarks are found at the State Department website:

Thank you and good morning. It is an honor to be here and a pleasure to be among so many friends…

In traveling around the United States, I’ve heard from city and municipal leaders, employers, school officials and most importantly, from refugees themselves about their successes and concerns for the program…

I do want to quickly tick off some of the recent improvements made in the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration to the resettlement program.

· In 2010, under my predecessor Eric Schwartz, and I think most of you know this by now, we doubled the amount of money we provide to help with the initial reception and placement of refugees.

· We’ve given partner agencies a guaranteed minimum amount of funding – what we call it floor funding – so that resettlement agencies can manage their workforce and provide quality reception and placement services to arriving refugees – even if a lower than expected number of refugees are admitted or if there are unavoidable delays in arrivals…

· At the local level, we’ve championed more consultation. We want to make sure that we listen to local communities that welcome refugees and provide the services needed for successful resettlement… Read more here

Posted in Ann Richard, Assistant Secretary of the PRM, funding, local officials, failure to notify, ORR, PRM, public/private partnership | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Secondary migration putting fiscal pressure on schools in Lynn, MA

Posted by Christopher Coen on May 5, 2012

The mayor of Lynn, MA is putting out alerts about the fiscal pressure experienced by schools in her city, apparently due to refugee secondary migration. Secondary migration is refugees leaving the city they were initially settled in and, under their own volition, going elsewhere due to a whole number of reasons, e.g. to be near friends and relatives, to find a place that has more or higher paying jobs, to seek a less alien climate, to move to a place with a larger community of people from their ethnic group and/or group of national of origin, etc. The main problem here I think is that federal funds are insufficient to help schools impacted by refugee arrivals – the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s grant, known as the Refugee School Impact Program, doesn’t come close to meeting needs.

An article in The Daily News explains some basic details of the problem in Lynn, although it also shows that the mayor is taking a winding and confused course through government channels, even going to the UNHCR, and gets facts wrong about several of the federal agencies:

…[Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy's Chief of Staff, Jamie Cerulli] said after getting bounced from office to office she finally spoke to Barbara Day with the state department’s office of Refugee Resettlement Administration for Children and Families.

She said for Fiscal Year 2011 they approved 25 refugees to come to the Lynn area,” Cerulli said. “She also said in 2012 it looks like there is approval for 28 … but that’s such a small number. If they’re not coming from there then where are they coming from?”

Cerulli said Day noted that if immigrants already have family in the area they are more likely to gravitate to the same area. Day was not available Thursday for comment and calls to the U.S. State Department of Health and Human Services were not immediately returned.

Cerulli said she plans to keep digging at the federal and state level to try and determine if Lynn has been officially deemed a haven city while also trying to determine exactly what drives immigrants to Lynn.

Kennedy has always emphasized her administration has gone the extra step to celebrate the ethnic diversity and welcome immigrants to the city and she said she would never deny a child or its family services… Read more here

Posted in Boston, capacity, children, funding, language, Office of Admissions, ORR, school for refugee children, schools, secondary migration, refugee, UN (United Nations) | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Matching Grant monitoring findings – Heartland Alliance in Chicago

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 30, 2012

The said purpose of the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s (ORR’s) Matching Grant Program (MG) is to place refugee clients in jobs which will enable their household units to meet self-sufficiency within 120 to 180 days (in this case “self-sufficiency” is defined as not accessing public cash assistance, although the household units may use other forms of welfare, e.g. SNAP/food stamps, Section 8 housing assistance, etc.). The MG supposedly works to speed up the process of self-sufficiency by offering programs, support, and incentives to refugees, making the transition to self-sufficiency faster and easier. Its called “Matching Grant” because participating agencies (private contractors) agree to match the ORR grant with cash and in-kind contributions (goods and services) from the “community”. The ORR awards $2 for every $1 raised by the refugee resettlement agency from non-federal sources – including state and local support, United Way contributions, and in-kind support from other local and volunteer organizations – up to a maximum of $2,200 in federal funds per refugee. So, self-sufficiency is the goal, but what are the results?

The Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights refugee resettlement agency in Chicago is one of the contractors that the ORR monitored to assess how well resettlement agencies are helping refugees using the Matching Grant money. In the past Heartland Alliance’ use of US Department of State refugee grant money, as well as a human trafficking grant from the US Department of Justice, left much to be desired. Now, it seems that a ORR MG Program Analyst noted deficiencies in Heartland Alliance’s use of the MG program grant as well, according to a newly released 2005 inspection of the agency:

Case Notes – …The reviewer found little detail of services being provided, particularly in cases where clients did not become self-sufficient…

Asylee Payments – Some asylee cases were found to be missing required monthly payments…

Housing Provision – ORR observed a number of cases [where] full rental payments were not provided for the required time period, although needed. This forced clients to supplement the rent payments with their MG cash…

Job Development – The reviewer found little evidence of true job developments on the part of [Heartland Alliance]. The program employment outcomes appear to be the result of fairly intense case management coupled with relatively independent clients who find their own jobs. In cases where clients have a family or a strong community base to assist in the employment search, this system seems adequate in assisting clients to become self-sufficient. However, few to no modifications to that procedure were evident in dealing with free cases [refugees with no local family or ethnic community support] that do not have a strong community base to assist, or other instances where such assistance is necessary. Such sub-par employment services were particularly evident in low English level refugee clients. The [Heartland Alliance] employment rate for CY2004 was 50%. USCRI national average for CY2004 was 85%; the national MG average was 72%… Read more here

This last figure seems to point to a problem at Heartland Alliance and not MG Program weaknesses. Yet, it also shows how dependent government inspectors are on contractors’ own written records in assessing compliance with government grants. Aside from the problems noted, what comes to mind is to what degree the contractor’s written records match refugee clients’ reports about services received, however, the inspection report shows no comments from the clients (as opposed to the State Department’s reviews of refugee resettlement grantees).

Nevertheless, though the national average for refugee employment in the MG program was 82% that year, Heartland Alliance’s refugee clients in MG only achieved a 50% employment rate. Much of that 50% appears to have been refugees finding employment on their own or with the help of family or community.

Posted in asylees, Chicago, economic self-sufficiency, employment services, employment/jobs for refugees, Heartland Alliance, Matching Grant program, ORR | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Sensationalism Surrounds Story On Galveston Shelter For Unaccompanied Minors

Posted by Christopher Coen on March 4, 2012

A flashy car, sex, guns and a shooting take center stage in a newspaper article about a Galveston shelter that houses unaccompanied youth – The Children’s Center, Inc. Unfortunately the article seems to raise more questions than it answers. The reporter claims that the federal government “imported” unaccompanied alien minors into Galveston and then “dumped” them on an underfunded local social-services network, while complaining about a program (the federal HHS Transitional Living Program?) specifically intended to get  youth on their feet and independent so that they won’t be dumped on the community. An allegation is also made that the shelter terminated a supposed whistle-blower employee after she contacted the organization’s board of directors.

Innuendo is also made about how one 18-year-old youth would have had the “money” to use a cell phone and be “driving a car” when its tires were shot out by an angry father who tried to entice the youth into coming to a park to have sexual relations with the man’s daughter. It seems as if no one realizes that youth tend to borrow cell phones, and even cars, from each other. I also wonder why the reporter didn’t just take the license plate number from the police report of the incident and check on the car’s ownership, and not speculating about the youth owning the vehicle. He also implies that the youth being robbed at gunpoint somehow brings into question why he was robbed, while not referring to any items that were actually stolen. Again, the police report would probably have indicated that.

Finally the reporter tries to create sensation around an incident in which he implies that the 18-year-old had consensual sexual relations at the shelter with a younger teenager. Although this kind of consensual sex is an age-old phenomena, in this case it would no doubt have been illegal. It’s not clear, however, that the shelter did anything improper surrounding the incident in which police were called. What any of that has to do with our society’s humanitarian attempt to care for and help unaccompanied alien minors and youth is not made clear in the Galveston Daily News article:

GALVESTON — If the first 25 days of January are any indication, illicit sex and gunfire are common themes in the young life of a Honduran immigrant who came to Galveston under the auspices of an obscure federal program.

The man, 18, was shot at on two occasions and hit once during that time. He was accused once and suspected once again of having sex with underaged girls — one 15 and one 12. The suspicion arose at an island homeless shelter; the accusation sparked gunfire at an island park.

His hosts at the Children’s Center Inc. called the man “George” in interviews. And although he is named in several police incident reports, he has not been charged with a crime. And so he’s called “George” in this article, too, in keeping with the newspaper’s policy of not naming people who have not been charged with crimes.

As far as the public record and the police are concerned, George has been a victim of crime more often than a suspect. All the same, the situations he encountered, whether through bad luck or bad action, raise many questions about how he and other young men like him came to be here, why they remain here, who’s paying for their stay and who’s responsible for monitoring their behavior.

Events during those 25 days in January also raise questions about oversight in a federal program that imports illegal immigrants into communities like Galveston, serves them for a time, and then, apparently, just dumps them onto an underfunded local social-services network… Read more here

Posted in Galveston, housing, ORR, teenagers | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

ORR Finds Time to Revamp Website While 3 Years Behind On Annual Reports to Congress

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 22, 2012

Yesterday, the ORR put out a PR-like statement about the launch of its new website (see below). Last year at this time the ORR was three years behind on its annual report to congress. I wrote to my senator to ask how much longer the congress was going to tolerate this and his office said that they were promising to get one report out quite soon (the FY 2008 report came out in May 2011) and then a second one would be out some months after that (FY 2009 still not released). It seems like congressional offices are more than satisfied with these type of responses (a mere positive sounding answer somehow instills trust). Now, a year later the ORR is right back to where it was – three years behind on these reports, hence, this question: how did they find all the time to revamp the website, which now includes testimonials from happy refugee clients, when they are not fulfilling other basic responsibilities?


The Office of Refugee Resettlement is pleased to introduce you to…ORR’s new home page, where you will find the latest ORR news, stories of those who have participated in our programs and links to useful resources. From refugee assistance to anti-trafficking in persons, this new website features grantees and participants who are part of the growing ORR family, providing new populations with the opportunity to maximize their potential…

Thank you for your continued interest in the work of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Eskinder Negash


Posted in Annual Report to Congress, ORR | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Secondary migrant refugees stream into Waterloo, IA, federal refugee agencies remain absent

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 6, 2011

As secondary migrant refugees continue arriving in Waterloo – in search of jobs or to join their families – the federal refugee agencies remain incognito. In this vacuum the county public health agency has become the default lead agency involved with case coordinating all aspects of issues that refugees face. Hundreds of refugees need green cards –  to apply for permanent residency status after a year in the US – an issue the health agency has no experience with. Other refugees have fallen victim to assaults and robberies with the lack of guidance and orientation to the community and culture. An article in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier has more:

…The number of Burmese here has grown as members of the Burmese community refer friends and family, said Kaitlin Emrich, disease surveillance program manager. Before, the majority were recruited by Tyson Fresh Meats. The plant employs about 300 Burmese, including an interpreter to transport and interpret at appointments.

Now, some are seeking jobs elsewhere, while others are stay-at-home mothers, or have health problems and come to stay with family.

“They’re kind of coming in under the radar,” said Bruce Meisinger, director of public health for the county. “Before we were aware there were X number coming on a certain date.”

According to Emrich, Tyson continues to hire Burmese refugees, and the population is expected to continue growing quickly until winter. Several large families — with eight to 10 members each — will reportedly arrive soon, while many continue to wait for family to join them from Burma or other states.

“We are anticipating the first multigenerational family to arrive by the end of (October),” Emrich said…

…”Basically, we are still the lead agency involved with case coordinating all aspects of the issues the community is confronted with in terms of the Burmese resettling here,” Meisinger said. “There is no indication that the numbers are going to slow down in the foreseeable future.”

Emrich said close to two full-time-equivalent employees are now devoted to Burmese issues. The department is looking for a partner to handle non-health-related issues, and she has been in communication with a Des Moines agency about establishing a resettlement agency to serve the Cedar Valley.

She previously sought assistance from Catholic Charities, which declined because staffers have full loads and doesn’t have the means to hire additional workers.

“They’re used to working about 32 cases a year,” Emrich said. “We’re seeing about 32 cases every two or three weeks.”

Tyson has worked with the U.S. State Department to bring refugees to Waterloo from refugee camps in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Texas. Their resettlement here is considered secondary migration. Financial help is attached to primary refugees, Emrich said...

…According to Emrich, the Burmese live in rental housing with one primary landlord “who understands their unique needs as newcomers to our country.” However, some have fallen victim to assaults and robberies, especially in neighborhoods with high crime rates, she said… Read more here

Posted in Burma/Myanmar, Catholic Charities Diocese of Des Moines, community/cultural orientation, dangerous neighborhoods, economic self-sufficiency, immigration services, meatpacking industry, safety, secondary migration, refugee, Waterloo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

ORR claims not to know about California budget cuts, with refugees unable to take English classes

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 2, 2011

The wait for refugees in San Diego needing to take english as a
second language (ESL) classes has increased by nearly 14-times.
The head of the US Department of HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (that would be Eskinder Negash) claims he “was caught off guard by the size of the problem”, and did not offer any immediate solutions. Yet, the California state government has been in deep financial troubles for two years now. An article in Fronteras has more:

SAN DIEGO — On a recent Friday morning, students of Iraqi descent practiced phrases they might need for a job interview in the language lab at Cuyamaca College…

…English as a Second Language, or ESL, courses, are in high demand at Cuyamaca, which is located in San Diego’s East County.

“We had enough students on the wait list to double the program,” said Alicia Muñoz, Cuyamaca’s ESL coordinator. In fact, over the past two years, the wait list for ESL classes has increased by nearly 14-times.

Most of the demand comes from recently arrived Iraqi refugees. More than 13,000 Iraqis have relocated to San Diego County since 2005, making it one of the largest refugee communities in the country…

…But budget cuts – affecting community colleges across the state – have forced schools to cancel classes in many subjects, including ESL. At the same time, the demand for these classes has skyrocketed. And it’s not just community colleges that are feeling the strain.

County Supervisor Dianne Jacob has gotten an earful of concerns from elementary schools, hospitals and other public institutions in her district. They all say that they don’t have the funds to address refugee needs, especially on shrinking budgets.

“There have not been adequate resources available to serve this population,” Jacob said.

The supervisor recently hosted a meeting of refugee resettlement officials and service providers to discuss the problem…

After the meeting, the head of the federal office of refugee resettlement admitted he was caught off guard by the size of the problem. He didn’t offer any immediate solutions, but conversations between Jacob’s office and service providers are ongoingRead more here

A year-and-a-half ago we wrote to the ORR about a refugee who was unable to use medical health care in Sacramento – that too, explained a California state official, was related to budget problems. If the ORR had investigated the case – or even talked to anyone in California – wouldn’t they have discovered the budget problems by now, and the effects on refugees? How do they manage to be completely out of touch with the problems that refugees in San Diego (the largest resettlement site in the US) are experiencing?

Another issue we put in a complaint to the ORR about is the issue of discrimination in hiring by faith-based refugee resettlement agencies (World Relief and Catholic Charities). World Relief claimed they could not hire a Muslim former refugee in Washington state because “he might not feel comfortable while they prayed at staff meetings.” Yet, federal regulations prohibit worship on the public dime. The ORR claimed it was investigating, yet has stonewalled since we placed the complaint in April 2010. We wrote once again in April 2011 to find out what progress they were making, Mr. Negash’s Deputy Director, Ken Tota, did not even bother to respond.

Posted in Chaldean, discrimination in hiring, ESL & ELL, evangelical, funding, Iraqi, language, ORR, Sacramento, San Diego, World Relief | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Catholic Charities Houston won’t answer several key questions on refugee child sexual assaults

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 3, 2011

The case involving repeated sexual assaults of an 8-year-old refugee boy at a Catholic Charities Galveston-Houston shelter – and the agency’s subsequent cover-up of the case – continues to unfold. The agency won’t answer further questions on the cover-up, including whether the 8-year-old was separated from the two older boys after the assault, how many other children reported witnessing the abuse, what kind of treatment was provided for them and when. Its also seems that government oversight agencies have only been able to slowly dredge out details of the case from Catholic Charities, and that the faith-based agency continues to withhold many key details. It’s also now clear that a Texas state oversight agency did not have a mere “technical glitch” causing closure of the case without investigation, but had a series of failures – putting children at great ongoing risk. Another article in the Houston Chronicle reveals more details of the case.

…In the hours and days after a staff member interrupted the July 1 assault in the upstairs room, the senior management of the Catholic Charities’ program failed to get the boy medical treatment, doctored incident reports and tried to minimize what had occurred in order to “protect the program,” according to a federal report.

But it was not just the boy’s caretakers who stumbled, state and local law enforcement records show. A worker for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services intake system for reports of potential abuse and neglect also made a mistake, accidentally delaying an outside investigation into what happened for nearly two weeks.

After the federal government brought that error to the state’s attention, the case was referred to the wrong agency, leaving it in limbo until it landed with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office in August.

In the end, children’s advocates say there is blame to go around, calling for accountability for the shelter program management, who are now part of a criminal investigation. They also called for a review of the state’s intake system to ensure that technical problems with law enforcement notification are quickly fixed.

“Certainly some fault has to go to St. Michael’s for what happened, but if … this reporting went awry and was misdirected in some sort of way, just imagine the hurt that might have been caused to a number of these kids by something not happening soon enough,” said Bob Sanborn, president and CEO of the Houston-based nonprofit Children at Risk.

“When it comes to kids, we need to take immediate action.”…

…The shelter management did not call the sheriff’s office, but they did call the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Statewide Intake Division roughly six hours after the incident, at 6:34 p.m……any report to that state hotline reporting potential abuse or neglect should have triggered a chain of events, including notification of the licensing division for DFPS and a fax or email notification to local law enforcement, said Patrick Crimmins, a DFPS spokesman.

But the worker at the state intake center was confused and couldn’t immediately find a state license for St. Michael’s, Crimmins said. The intake report was “mistakenly closed” without notifying the licensing division or law enforcement about any incident at St. Michael’s, he said…

…On July 13, ORR called the state to check on the status of its investigation, but state licensing officials still had no idea what happened at the shelter.

They re-opened the initial July 1 report and sent out a state monitor to investigate within 72 hours. But the automatic notification system again failed, this time referring the report to the wrong agency, the Houston Police Department. The shelter sits near the city-county line but is within the jurisdiction of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office…

…By mid-August, ORR was suspicious enough about what happened at the shelter that day to send a team of monitors to Houston. They issued a scathing report that documented a reporting delay, failure to seek medical care and the doctoring of incident reports, notifying Catholic Charities on Sept. 8 that they would remove all children from their care, at least temporarily…

…Catholic Charities still refuses to answer several key questions about the incident, including whether the 8-year-old was separated from the two older boys after the assault, how many other children reported witnessing the abuse and what kind of treatment was provided for them and when… Read more here

Catholic Charities Galveston-Houston is the agency which was the subject of complaints from gay Iraqi refugees in 2010, and allegations that one of its workers sexually assaulted an 11-year-old refugee boy in 2007.

Posted in Catholic, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, child protective services, faith-based, Houston, ORR, police, sexual abuse | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

ORR report — cover-up at Catholic Charities Houston, no medical care for refugee child assault victim

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 27, 2011

An incident at a Catholic Charities shelter in Houston that media outlets previously reported as “sexual activity” between three children is now being reported as a sexual assault.  An investigation by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) found that Catholic Charities did not report the July 1 sexual assault of a boy until four days later, nor did they seek medical treatment for the child. Catholic Charities management also did a cover-up, including doctoring of first reports. An article at UPI reports on the ORR investigation:

HOUSTON, Sept. 26 (UPI) — Federal officials were removing children and teens from three Houston shelters after learning the sexual assault of a child at one facility was covered up.

As of Friday, only five of 72 children and teens, mostly refugees, remained in the three Catholic Charities shelters, the Houston Chronicle reported.

An investigation by the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement found that Catholic Charities did not report the July 1 sexual assault of a young boy at a St. Michael’s shelter until July 5 and also failed to get the boy medical attention until the latter date.

“CCGH staff had knowledge that a [child] had been anally penetrated as the result of a sexual assault … and did not seek medical treatment,” a report by the office states. “Program staff should have observed that a sexual assault of a child is grounds for immediate medical attention.”

Federal investigators conducted an unannounced visit to the site of the sexual assault in August and found that initial reports of the attack had been doctored.

“The ORR monitors found significant concerns, including the fact that management had full knowledge of the extent of the assault and submitted erroneous … reports to this office, which deliberately misled ORR,” the agency’s director wrote in a Sept. 8 letter to the president of Catholic Charities… Read more here

An article in the Houston Chronicle reports that Catholic Charities management also pressured staffers to withhold details from investigators.

Posted in Catholic, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, child protective services, children, faith-based, health, Houston, medical care, ORR, sexual abuse | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


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