Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Posts Tagged ‘refugees’

Exodus Refugee Immigration files suit against Indiana Governor Pence

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 24, 2015


The refugee resettlement agency Exodus Refugee Immigration with the assistance of the ACLU has filed suit against Indiana Governor Mike Pence and the Family and Social Services Administration, claiming the state government violated the US Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in denying support for Syrian refugees. The lawsuit seeks an injunction to stop the governor from taking any actions to suspend, block or withhold aid from refugees or from Exodus. The governor joined 30 other governors last week in an attempt to illegally block Syrian refugees from resettling in their states; immigration be exclusively the province of the federal government. The lawsuit claims the Indiana state government has also violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of national origin in programs receiving federal government financial assistance. An article at ABC News has the story:

A lawsuit challenging the Indiana governor’s decision to stop state agencies from helping resettle Syrian refugees alleges that the action wrongly targets the refugees based on their nationality and violates the U.S. Constitution and federal law.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the federal lawsuit Monday night on behalf of Indianapolis-based nonprofit Exodus Refugee Immigration. It accuses Gov. Mike Pence of violating the U.S.

Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act by accepting refugees to Indiana from other countries but not from Syria.

The first-term Republican governor objected to plans for refugees to arrive in Indiana following the deadly attacks in Paris. Five days after the Nov. 13 attacks, a family that had fled war-torn Syria was diverted from Indianapolis to Connecticut when Pence ordered state agencies to halt resettlement activities… Read more here

Posted in ACLU, CWS, Exodus Refugee Immigration, Indiana, Syrian, Uncategorized, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Government Has Taken Serious Steps to Reduce Security Risks in Refugee Screening

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 23, 2015

magnifying glass and thumb print on white background. CRIME DETECTIVE THUMBPRINT MAGNIFYING GLASS FINGERPRINT FOTOLIA

Deputy State Department Spokesman Mark Toner recently called the refugee security screening process, “the most stringent security process for anyone entering the United States.” In fact, the refugee program is the toughest way for any foreigner to enter the US Legally. Applicants go though a laborious process that includes investigations by the National Counterterrorism Center, the Terrorist Screening Center, the Department of Defense, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. These agencies use biographical and biometric information about applicants to conduct a background check, including fingerprinting and retina scans (and matched against criminal databases), photographs taken, identification of family trees, and other background information over a period that lasts on average 18-24 months (and up to three years). Biographical information such as past visa applications are scrutinized to make sure the applicant’s story coheres. Some have DNA tests. A Department of Homeland Security officer with training in this screening process as well as specialized training for Syrian and Iraqi refugee cases interviews each applicant. The applicant also goes through in-depth interviews by a DHS officer with training in the process as well as specialized training for Syrian and Iraqi refugee cases. Refugees from Syria also go through another layer of screening, called the Syria Enhanced Review process, a process built on years of experience in vetting Iraqi refugee applicants. Military combatants are weeded out. Additionally, the lengthy security checks are done in cooperation with international and national police agencies like Interpol and Scotland Yard. Biometric data and personal information are vetted at every step of the application process.  The security process is part of a 13-step process necessary for resettlement (as outlined in a USCRI chart). The refugee screening process is also constantly refined. An article at CNN describes part of the rigorous security screening process:

Much attention has been focused on the security vetting refugees must go through before they come to the United States, particularly after it was revealed that one of the terrorists in the Paris attacks entered Europe through a refugee processing center.

Several federal agencies, including the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Department, the National Counterterrorism Center and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, are involved in the process, which Deputy State Department Spokesman Mark Toner recently called, “the most stringent security process for anyone entering the United States.”

These agencies use biographical and biometric information about applicants to conduct a background check and make sure applicants really are who they say they are… Read more here

Posted in Dept of Homeland Security, Iraqi, FBI, Department of Defense, security/terrorism, Syrian | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

FL mayor rebukes governor, will accept refugees

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 23, 2015


Several Democrat mayors across the nation are defying some of 30 Republican state governors and saying that they will ahead with plans to welcome refugee families to their cities. The governors have attacked the Syrian refugees in trying to stoke fears for political advantage knowing full well that the federal government has 18-24 month – and up to three years – rigorous security checks before allowing refugees in. The mayors of New York City, Phoenix, Sante Fe, New Orleans, Dallas and now Tallahassee are pushing back against the demagoguery. The Chicago City Council also voted Wednesday to reaffirm the city as a safe place for refugees . A video and article at WBBH-TV in Fort Myers has more:

Republican Gov. Rick Scott said Florida is not willing to accept Syrian refugees, but Andrew Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee, Florida’s capital, told CNN Wednesday his city will continue to be a safe place for refugees.

“I believe strongly that we cannot turn our backs on the refugee community in their time of greatest need,” he said. “The U.S. vetting process for refugees is extremely rigorous, extensive, and comprehensive, and allows us to aid those that pose no threat to our country. Gov. Scott’s stance is driven by divisive politics.”… Read more here

Posted in Dallas/Fort Worth, Louisiana, New Mexico, NYC, Phoenix, security/terrorism, Syrian, Tallahassee | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

First Governor to Urge Pause Unable to Point to Single Concern in Refugee Screening

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 21, 2015

refugee logo2

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder who was the first of more than 30 mostly Republican governors to attempt to block the resettlement of Syrian refugees, was unable to point to a single problem with the current refugee security checks system when asked by reporters.  The only thing he was able to come up with was the need for a nebulous “review.” Of course, a highly rigorous security system is already in place.  Also having problems explaining what concerns there may be about the current two-year screening process for refugees seeking to enter the U.S. was Governor Rick Scott of Florida.  This week while making the rounds on news outlets to explain his decision to block new Syrian refugees from coming to Florida, Scott criticized President Obama’s administration for not providing background information to Florida law enforcement agencies.  When asked what specific information his administration had asked for that it hadn’t received, Scott replied, “They don’t provide any information.”  When reporters repeatedly asked if the State had asked for any information that it had not received, Scott was unable to refer to any information his administration had requested.  New Jersey governor Chris Christie said his state will not take in any refugees – “not even orphans under the age of five”.  Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal said he has directed state police to “track” the Syrian refugees in his state, which Louisiana state police then quickly played down.  Articles at Think Progress and National Public Radio gives Governor Snyder’s responses:

Michigan’s Rick Snyder was the first governor to urge a pause in admitting Syrian refugees into the United States. He triggered a national debate about refugee resettlement, and insists now that he only wants answers…

If we get to the point where we can say that review has taken place and people are confident that we have a system to let in people who have had their lives shattered, and at the same time can keep out the bad guys, hopefully we can start the process again of accepting refugees

“I wouldn’t single out any specific problem I have with it” … Read more here

Posted in Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, right-wing, security/terrorism, Syrian, Uncategorized, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Scapegoating Refugees for the Terror They Flee

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 20, 2015

75 Million Visitors to the U.S. Each Year – Why No Calls to Pause Tourism?


After the vote in the US House today to restrict Syrian and Iraqi refugees from entering the US why have there been no calls to tighten the flow of foreign visitors to the country?  Total international visitors to the US are projected to be more than 75 million in 2015, following 75 million that visited in 2014. If security is of paramount security why would the US Congress have no concern about the millions of visitors who receive less rigorous background and security checks than any of the 70,000 refugees resettled to the US last year?  Refugees receive more scrutiny than other other class of visitor (there were also 819,644 international students at institutions of higher education in the United States in a recent academic year). The answer is that Congressional representatives don’t believe there is a security threat from Syrian and Iraqi refugees – the people fleeing terrorism.  If they did they would have voted for a “pause” in international tourist travel to the US.  The reality here is appealing to the public’s fears for political gain, with refugees — the people with the least amount of power and most vulnerable — used as the scapegoats.  Some Democrats (47) have joined 242 Republicans (only two Republicans voted nay) in this demagoguery, similar to the Democrats who joined in the vote for the disastrous 2003 war in Iraq in search of nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.  As a nation we will regret these actions as much as we now regret that war in Iraq, the rejection of Jewish refugees at the onset of the Holocaust, and the internment of Americans of Japanese descent during World  War II.  An article in The Guardian explains the House vote:

The House of Representatives has approved legislation that would make it even more difficult for refugees from Syria and Iraq to enter the United States, in a major rebuke to the Obama administration’s refugee policy.

The White House has already said the president will veto the legislation if it is also passed by the Senate. However, if today’s margin in the House was repeated in both chambers of Congress following a presidential veto, Congress could override such a veto. The measure is unlikely to receive a vote in the Senate because of the 60-vote super-majority needed to consider a bill under Senate rules… Read more here

Posted in Iraqi, legislation, right-wing, security/terrorism, Syrian, Uncategorized, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

France says it will take 30,000 Syrian refugees

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 19, 2015

Humanitarian measure undermines ISIS’ argument that the West is at odds with Muslims


With Republican politicians calling for their states to slam the door in the face of desperate Syrian refugees after the Islamic State attacks in Paris, France will instead be welcoming those fleeing the grips of the terrorist group. French President Francois Hollande has declared that his country will accept 30,000 Syrian refugees over the next two years.  Meanwhile in the US, in a moment reminiscent of our nation’s shameful round-up and internment of innocent Americans of Japanese descent during WWII, Tennessee House GOP Caucus Chairman Glen Casada said, in reference to the Syrian refugees escaping the Islamic State,”We need to activate the Tennessee National Guard and stop them from coming in to the state by whatever means we can.” An article in the Washington Post explains France’s plans:

In a move that puts the heated U.S. debate over taking in Syrian refugees in perspective, French President Francois Hollande declared on Wednesday that his country would accept 30,000 Syrian refugees over next two years. He announced this at a gathering of mayors from French cities, where he received a standing ovation.

Hollande said that “30,000 refugees will be welcomed over the next two years. Our country has the duty to respect this commitment…

Hollande observed that “some people say the tragic events of the last few days have sown doubts in their minds,” referring to the cloud of suspicion that has fallen on the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees who arrived at Europe’s borders this year. Despite speculation, not one of the Paris attackers has so far been identified as a Syrian national.

Hollande said it was France’s “humanitarian duty” to honor its commitments to refugees…

The message flies in the face of recent statements by American Republican presidential hopefuls and governors, who have all cited the security concerns surrounding the terror attacks as reasons to halt resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States… Read more here

Posted in right-wing, security/terrorism, Syrian, Uncategorized, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Break Between Christians and GOP Over Refugees

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 18, 2015


It looks like a break may be occurring between Christians and the GOP over the issue of helping Syrian refugees. In light of about 30 Republican governors’ and some Republican presidential candidates’ calls to discriminate against Syrian refugees – based on where they’re born and what their religion is – Christian groups involved in resettlement say this stance is opposed to what they’re hearing from their constituencies.  Faith-based voters tend to be attentive and sensitive to helping those in need.  An article in Politico explains:

Faith-based groups, who play a key role in resettling refugees to the United States, say they are dismayed by the wave of anti-refugee fervor set off by the Paris terrorist attacks and are urging supporters to contact elected officials on behalf of victims of the Syrian civil war..

A push by Republican presidential candidates to ban Syrian refugees “does not reflect what we’ve been hearing from our constituencies, which are evangelical churches across the country,” said Jenny Yang, vice president for advocacy at World Relief, an evangelical organization that helps resettle refugees..

Some advocates were particularly shocked when Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie, New Jersey’s governor, said that the U.S. should bar Syrian orphaned toddlers if necessary.

“That was offensive. That was mean-spirited,” said one advocate with a Christian group that resettles refugees. He added: “it’s disappointing because there have been Republican senators and presidents who have strongly supported this program over the years. There’s a proud tradition in the Republican Party of welcoming those who are fleeing persecution, and this takes the party in a negative direction. It’s easy to pick on vulnerable refugees who have no voice.

…faith-based groups have also stepped up their advocacy efforts for refugees. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement expressing distress over calls by elected officials to halt the resettlement program.“These refugees are fleeing terror themselves — violence like we have witnessed in Paris,” said the statement by Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, chairman of the conference’s committee on migration. “Instead of using this tragedy to scapegoat all refugees, I call upon our public officials to work together to end the Syrian conflict peacefully…

The Anti-Defamation League also has spoken out in favor of helping the Syrian refugees, noting that U.S. wariness to accept Jewish refugees during World War II is an example that must not be repeated… Read more here

See also

U.S. Religious Leaders Make Forceful Appeal to Admit Refugees (AP-YahooNews)

Ten Reasons to Ignore All Those Governors (Baptist Standard)

Episcopal bishop asks Michigan to be a ‘good neighbor’ (Mlive)

Leaders in local religious community oppose governor’s stance (KATV ABC 7 in Little Rock)

Don’t turn Middle East refugees away, says this evangelical Christian (PRI)

Cardinal O’Malley decries calls to bar Syrian refugees (Boston Globe)

Churches step up support for Syrian refugees (Idaho State Journal)

Posted in right-wing, Syrian, World Relief, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Conservatives Pounce on Paris Attacks to Pursue Anti-immigration Agenda

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 17, 2015


Political football

After the Paris attacks, and in line with conservatives’ opposition to immigration reform, 30 republican and one democrat governors have announced opposition to resettlement of Syrian refugees and/or called for a “review” of security procedures for vetting refugees. In another sign of politically-motivated machinations not one of the governors has any authority to reject refugees, with immigration being a function of the federal government, and refugees admitted to the US as permanent residents free to live in any state they choose. With no credible threats from Syrian refugees – the very people running from ISIS and Syrian dictator Assad waging war on the Syrian civilian population – Republicans have nevertheless rushed to use the Paris attacks to opportunistically attack the humanitarian refugee program. Its worth noting that of the three million refugees the US has resettled since 1975 not one has ever committed a terrorist act here. Not deterred by mere facts Michigan’s governor Rick Snyder, who made statements welcoming Syrian refugees in just the past two weeks, has now issued an announcement outright refusing to allow Syrian refugees into Michigan. His office only later clarified that he did not generally oppose the resettlement of new Syrian refugees to Michigan, but that the state government’s efforts in the process would be suspended until further assurances from the Department of Homeland Security; although not before his first statement helped contribute to a politically hostile climate against refugees and encouraging other Republican governors to join in. All of this of course ignores that security procedures already involve a laborious  13-step, on average 18-24 month (up to three years) process of security and background checks that include investigations by the National Counterterrorism Center, the Terrorist Screening Center, the Department of Defense, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to the State Department.  Governor Snyder and the other Republican governors’ knee-jerk reactions play into the terrorists’ plan – to create fear and divisions.  An article at The Guardian succinctly expresses the conundrum:

The 26 US states that have refused to accept Syrian refugees in the wake of the Paris attacks are playing political football – immigrants and immigration reform has already been a hot topic thrown back and forth between 2016 presidential hopefuls to demonstrate hardline positions on crime, terrorism and economic issues.

But the reversal of Michigan, where we are immigration attorneys, from trying to speed up the resettlement process to refusing refugees altogether is shocking and sends a very bleak message to the state’s residents – including the second-largest Arab American community in the country, which was looking forward to hosting them.

Republican governor Rick Snyder, a self-proclaimed “pro-immigration governor”, said Sunday that the state would not be accepting any Syrian refugees until the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) fully reviewed its procedures. “Our first priority is protecting the safety of our residents,” he added…  Read more here

Posted in Dept of Homeland Security, Michigan, right-wing, security/terrorism, Syrian, Uncategorized, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Social Worker Extorts Families of Refugee Children

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 13, 2015


A social worker in Miami whose job it was to reunite unaccompanied Central American refugee children with their parents or legal guardians in the United States, was extorting the children’s families for extra payments, ranging from $200 to $1,500 each. The agency she worked with, HHCS in Miami, works under contract with the Office of Refugee Resettlement, of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. When one mother tried to complain about the abuse the social worker told her she would label her an unfit mother and take her daughters back. An article in the Miami Herald has more:

As a newly hired employee for a Miami social service agency, Leslie Rubero Padilla’s job was to reunite unaccompanied refugee children with their parents or legal guardians in the United States.

She was supposed to charge the families only for transportation, such as airfare. But authorities say Rubero shook down more than a dozen of them by insisting they had to send her additional money or the reunification with their children would be delayed — or, worse, they would be deported back to their native country in Central America…

Rubero was hired as a social worker with HHCS in Miami in November 2014. The agency worked under contract with the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services…

Rubero…was assigned these duties, including contacting the parents or guardians in the United States and requiring them to pay for transportation as well as an escort if a child was under 14.

“The parent or legal guardian is not required to make any other payments to the social services agencies that contract with the ORR [Office of Refugee Resettlement],” according to a statement signed by Rubero with her plea agreement.

But between November of last year and March of this year, Rubero squeezed the children’s families for extra payments beyond transportation or escort costs, ranging from $200 to $1,500 each.

“The defendant told the parents or legal guardians that they needed to send this money to her or the UAC [Unaccompanied Alien Children] would be placed in a different process and that in this process it might take longer for the UAC to be reunited with the parent or guardian,” Rubero’s statement said… Read more here

Posted in children, el salvadoran, Miami, scams, unaccompanied minors | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Delivering the Basics in the US Resettlement Program – St. Cloud, Minnesota

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 12, 2015

report_An Office of Admissions (US Department of State) inspection report received through a Freedom of Information Act request for Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota (LSS-MN) shows problems refugees in St. Cloud have had trying to access the fairly minimal minimum-required services and items of the resettlement program.  In summer of 2012 office of Admissions monitors found, from a sample of just four refugee cases, that the resettlement agency had not given refugees a variety of items the refugees needed for starting a new life: clothes, beds, towels, and cleaning supplies. Refugees reported that they had trouble getting interpretation and that LSS-MN had not shown them how to use the bus system.  Casefiles showed that second home visits had in four cases occurred beyond the 30-day timeframe.  Monitors also discovered that while case files recorded that LSS-MN had given refugees required items such as a table and clothing storage items when they first arrived 2-4 months earlier, in fact, the agency had delivered the items to the refugees in the days just before the inspection (fabrication of written records – contract fraud):

“Three refugee families visited had received additional required clothing storage in the days preceding the monitors’ visit, and one refugee had also received a table during that time. Supply checklists in the files indicated the items were provided upon arrival…” Read more here

Posted in beds, clothes, furnishings, lack of, language interpretation/translation, lack of, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, Office of Admissions, St. Cloud | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


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