Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Posts Tagged ‘Office of Refugee Resettlement’

Federal budget impasse led to 5% across board cuts to ORR

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 24, 2013

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The federal budget impasse brought on by Republican obstructionism led to a 5 percent, across-the-board spending cut by federal agencies beginning in March. The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR – in the US Dept. of Health & Human Services) then had to decide how it would apportion the cut. Apparently one of the ORR’s refugee resettlement programs they thought should be the first to cut is the Matching Grant Program. That is the program in which highly employable refugees receive extra services to help get them into jobs right away while staying off of public assistance. The program brings in a lot of federal money to the private resettlement contractors in return for plain little effort by those groups. Without it the refugees can still access employment services via ORR’s employment services program grants to the resettlement contractors. An article at KPBS Radio explains:

Across-the-board federal budget cuts are being felt…by resettlement agencies and the refugees they help.

…refugee service providers are beginning to feel the pinch of sequestration. The 5 percent, across-the-board spending cuts went into effect in March, slicing into federal spending by the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement.

…that means organizations that smooth the transition for refugees have less money to help them find work.

[In San Diego] Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Director Michael McKay said his organization has lost about $15,000 for a program that places refugees into jobs within four months of arrival. It matches federal dollars with local funds to cover caseworkers and programming that get refugees into the workforce, usually in San Diego’s hospitality industry.

McKay said the $15,000 would put about seven people through the program… Read more here

Posted in Catholic Charities of San Diego, funding, Matching Grant program, ORR, San Diego | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Unemployment, depression, lack of family ties & suicide among Bhutanese refugees

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 14, 2013

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At least 25 Bhutanese refugees have committed suicide in the U.S. since the group began to resettle here in 2008. This blog reported on the problem when a few reports began to show up in the media and covered the stories as they occurred (see cases in Pittsburgh, Nashville, Buffalo and Phoenix). Refugee resettlement agencies have been for the most part silent about the phenomena. Risk factors include depression, not being the family’s provider, feelings of limited social support, having family conflict after resettlement, and having been resettled here less than a year ago. An article in The Atlantic magazine now shines a brighter light on this issue:

…Mitra Mishra killed himself. Subedi, a case manager for Bhutanese refugees at Interfaith Works Center for New Americans in Syracuse, NY, was with the 20-year-old Mishra at Schiller Park the evening of July 3, 2010.

“We played soccer just the previous day until 6 p.m. and he was totally fine,” Subedi said of Mishra, who was not a client of the center. “He played with me and I drove him back to his home. There wasn’t any indication. Nothing was wrong.”

On Independence Day, early morning walkers found Mishra’s body hanging from a tree at the soccer field.

…Mishra’s death is part of a troubling pattern among Bhutanese refugees resettled in the U.S. In August of 2010, about a month after Mishra’s death, Dan Maya Gurung committed suicide in Buffalo, according to the Bhutan News Service. Gurung was in her late 30s and had been in the country just two weeks. The next month, Nirmala Niroula, 35, also living in Buffalo, hung herself in her apartment. Niroula had moved to the U.S. three months earlier. That December, 20-year-old Menuka Poudel was found dead in her Phoenix apartment, hanging from a noose fashioned from the shawl Bhutanese women wear with their traditional clothing. She had been in the States just two months.

The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) began to notice a pattern. Ultimately, 16 suicides were confirmed among U.S. resident Bhutanese refugees as of February 2012…

…The rate of depression among the Bhutanese surveyed was 21 percent, nearly three times that of the general U.S. population (6.7 percent). In addition to depression, risk factors for suicide included not being the family’s provider, feelings of limited social support, and having family conflict after resettlement. Most of the suicides were within a year of resettlement to the U.S. and, in all cases, the victims hanged themselves…

…the problem is not over just because the study period has ended. Nine more suicides have been reported to ORR since. The numbers may actually be higher, says Som Nath Subedi, the Portland caseworker. He says the community is reluctant to discuss suicides out of fear of how the news might affect resettlement, which continues today… Read more here

Posted in alienation-isolation, CDC, Hindu, mental health, Nepali Bhutanese, ORR, suicide | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

International Center in Bowling Green

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 6, 2012

Using a FOIA request I just found another government inspection report for the International Center in Bowling Green. Refugees have reported problems with this agency and a Matching Grant program inspection report uncovered more problems.

According to this December 2011 ORR inspection report a refugee couple from Myanmar who had arrived in Bowling Green two months earlier said that they had not received any job referral services or referral to other training. Their orientation – or lack of orientation – left them with no information on how to open a bank account, how to use medical insurance and other orientation issues. Another family from Myanmar reported receiving limited employment assistance from the International Center as well. The family also reported that they were unable to read letters sent from the school – indicating a lack of help with translation.

Tyson Food Company has hired refugees for jobs that start at an hourly rate of $9.45/hr. Refugees spend 14 hours a day in shift time, long-distance transportation and waiting for transportation after their shifts. Tyson reports that there is rarely follow-up from the International Center.

A stakeholders meeting revealed a “major communication gap” between the International Center and the local Owensboro health department and school district. The health department said that this resulted in arriving refugees only receiving a standard physical examination and not the full refugee health screening. Both the health department and the school district reported that the International Center had not given adequate warning of refugees arriving in the community. Both of these institutions, as well as stakeholders in Bowling Green, expressed surprise that the resettlement program is an eight month program with up to five years of services, apparently having been told that the program was a 90 day process (they apparently get the same standard line that the resettlement agencies give to the media).

Stakeholders in Bowling Green pointed out that the refugees were not fully utilizing mainstream programs such as Head Start and senior programs which offer transportation and meals for seniors. The local Chamber of Congress had to tell the International Center’s board to reach out to the community.

At a meeting with refugees in Bowling Green the refugees reported poor quality interpretation services at the International Center. They mentioned that transportation in Bowling Green is almost impossible by bus. They reported that the International Center strongly encouraged them to take jobs at Tyson and Perdue. Perdue is not a good place to work – the pay is low and there is no recourse to the treatment the refugees received there. The company gave terminations without cause and without due process.

The ORR monitoring team visit also revealed that the Kentucky Office for Refugees, under state refugee coordinator Becky Jordan, was not conducting adequate consultation in Owensboro or Bowling Green. ORR had to recommend that the Kentucky Office for Refugees provide the International Center with technical assistance for coordination with service providers that work with refugees.

Another recommendation was to help refugees find work locally to avoid the four-hour commutes and be able to spend more time with family, as well as be able to care for sick children if both parents are commuting to jobs at Tyson or Perdue. It’s not clear that the International Center has done anything to respond to this recommendation since the City of Bowling Green is now having to make its own effort to help refugees with finding local jobs (see today’s article at Bowling Green Daily News).

By the way, in the curious arrangement of contractors and government oversight agencies in the US refugee resettlement program, Becky Jordan is not only the Executive Director of Catholic Charities Refugee Services in Louisville, a refugee resettlement private contractor, and Kentucky’s state refugee coordinator, she is also part of ORR’s site visit teams that inspect other refugee resettlement contractors. For example, Ms. Jordan was part of ORR site visit team that inspected Louisiana’s refugee resettlement program in February 2011. Therefore, sometimes Ms. Jordan is inspecting her colleagues at resettlement contractors in other states and some day maybe one of them will be inspecting her agency.

Posted in Bowling Green, Burma/Myanmar, community/cultural orientation, employment abuses, employment services, International Center in Bowling Green (Western Kentucky Refugee Mutual Assistance Association), language interpretation/translation, lack of, late health screenings, local officials, failure to notify, meatpacking industry, ORR, public/private partnership, transportation, Wilson-Fish Program | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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?

Greetings,

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

Director

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 »

 
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