Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Posts Tagged ‘refugees’

ORR releases $71.5M in refugee service funds withheld in June

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 19, 2014

unlocking moneyAn AP article indicates that the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) has decided to release the funds it withheld from resettlement agencies in June. The funds were withheld due to the competition for funds from the influx of non-refugee unaccompanied minors from Central America. The ORR claims that the number of minors turned out below projections, and spending on them was apparently manageable without using refugee funding – or so we’re led to believe. The new wave of minors expected in September and October apparently failed to arrive at projected levels. Florida’s The Daily Journal carries the AP article:

MIAMI — Groups that provide refugee services across the United States expressed relief Thursday after the federal government announced the release of $71.5 million it had reprogrammed in June to deal with the thousands of unaccompanied minors who crossed the border this year.

The Department of Health and Human Services told the states on Thursday that the money would be released because the flow of migrants had fallen.

Health and Human Services Spokesman Kenneth Wolfe said the funds were released on Sept. 15, adding there were no immediate plans to withhold funds in 2015. Originally HHS had said in June that more than $90 million would be withheld as the agency dealt with a crisis involving minors streaming over the border from Mexico. Unaccompanied children who migrate to the United States also fall under the auspices of the federal refugee office.

That number was slightly reduced later to $71.5 million, but groups across the country still scrambled to scale back programs such as English language classes, job counseling and tutoring… Read more here

Posted in ORR, Unaccompanied minors program | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Once again refugees “fall though cracks” – Congolese family of 13 homeless

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 16, 2014

cracksA Congolese refugee family of an unnamed resettlement agency in a small town outside Portland, Oregon found themselves homeless this past summer despite a father who is an experienced automotive mechanic. A newspaper article uses the typical refrain of resettlement agencies, claiming they merely fell through the cracks in the system. This seems to be a regular occurrence as illustrated on this blog. The article at KGW News explains:

LAFAYETTE, Ore. – A refugee family of 13 people has a home to rent in a small town after being homeless this past summer.

Oswald Mushombe and his wife Nakinga Mahinga have 11 children, ranging in age from 5 months old to nearly 16 years old. Some of them were born in a refugee camp in Africa, where the family lived for five years to escape violence and persecution in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Housing problems after they arrived in the United States 16 months ago led to the family bouncing around and eventually ending up living in a Portland park this past summer.
Mushombe said he tried everything to get help from a variety of agencies.

A week ago, they ended up in front of the McMinnville home of Monica Radke. She took them in, and has been spearheading a help campaign ever since.

The family is renting a Lafayette home thanks to a landlord who saw their story and wanted to offer them a place to live. …On Friday, Mushombe learned about some better job prospects. He is an experienced automotive mechanic.

A week after the campaign started, the family of 13 is moving into a home they can call their own. State and other agencies are offering assistance for the family that seemed to have fallen through the cracks of a refugee integration system… Read more here

Posted in Congolese, housing, neglect | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Not to worry – investigators did not personally see misconduct during inspections

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 12, 2014

whitewash

whitewash

Can you imagine being accused of misconduct in government work and then repeating that misconduct in front of inspectors who later arrive? The US Department of Homeland Security is relieved to announce that it is unable to substantiate advocates’ claims it abused child immigrants. One reason they make this claim is that its inspectors did not actually witness misconduct during inspections. Alleged misconduct includes inadequate food and water, denial of medical care, and physical abuse and psychological abuse. After looking at 116 complaints of abuse Homeland Security still must investigate 100 more, yet has made this (premature?) announcement of lack of abuse. An article at AP has the story (the AP report claims that the American Civil Liberties Union was not available for “immediate comment”. Why do reporters contact groups at the last minute before publication and then write that they are unavailable when they cannot immediately respond?):

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal investigation that included surprise inspections was unable to substantiate 16 accusations by advocacy groups that the government packed into frigid cells children caught crossing the border alone, made them sleep on hard floors and provided inadequate food or medical care. Other claims about treatment of the children are still under review, according to the Homeland Security Department.

Inspector General John Roth said in a memo made public Tuesday that immigrants alternately complain that detention facilities are too cold or too hot, but either way, there are cloth or disposable blankets. Likewise, Roth said food service has also improved since the American Civil Liberties Union and four other advocacy groups in June made 116 allegations of wrongdoing, mistreatment and abuses by border agents…

Roth told Johnson that the remaining 100 complaints are still being investigated by the Immigration Enforcement’s Office of Professional Responsibility, CBP’s Office of Internal Affairs and the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

In June, the ACLU and others complained of “systematic abuse” of immigrant children caught crossing the border alone. The groups said more than 80 percent of the immigrants complained that they received inadequate food and water, about half were denied medical care, and about one of every four was physically abused.

The complaints included a 13-year-old boy who said he was threatened by an official with a metal rod and was later sexually molested while in custody, a 14-year-old girl who reported her asthma inhaler was confiscated, and a 14-year-old boy who said he was unable to sleep for five days because the lights were always on. A 16-year-old boy said an official told him, “You are in my country now, and we are going to bury you in a hole.”…

Roth said investigators from his office also made three unannounced visits to a family detention center in Artesia, New Mexico, where more than 600 immigrant women and their children have been held since late June. He said investigators did not see any misconduct during any of the site visits. Read more here

Posted in abuse, children, Dept of Homeland Security, el salvadorian, guatamalan, guatamalian, honduran | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Unaccompanied minors arriving from Central America pose little risk of spreading infectious diseases

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 5, 2014

stethoscope-sstock

[Editor's note: The following group of minors is not an official part of the US refugee resettlement program, but rather a separate immigrant group that the US Congress has charged the Office of refugee Resettlement (ORR) with managing.  These youth are arriving without official sanction, as opposed to refugees in the national program who have been invited to resettle in the US].

According to a recent news article the Arkansas Department of Health, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has concluded that unaccompanied minors who have arrived in the state from Central America pose little risk of spreading infectious diseases to the public. The minors are screened for infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and vaccinated for a host of others. The article is found at The Courier:

LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Department of Health, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has concluded that unaccompanied children who have arrived in the state from Central America pose little risk of spreading infectious diseases to the public…

Children arriving to the U.S. from Central America receive multiple vaccines before they are released from the U.S. Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement’s-funded program into a community. These vaccines protect against: tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, meningococcal disease, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, flu, pneumonia, polio, and hepatitis A and B. Furthermore, any child who enrolls in an Arkansas school also must meet state vaccination requirements.

In addition, the Office of Refugee Resettlement screens all children for tuberculosis. Children found to have TB disease are sent to shelters that have the capacity to care for them. Only those children who are no longer infectious are placed with a sponsor… Read more here

Posted in Arkansas, children, health, office of refugee resettlement, teenagers | 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 »

Poor policing of private contractors

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 17, 2014

outsourcing_america_exposed_mapCase managers failing to file accurate reports about their visits with clients. Poorly designed contracts and unwillingness to pull the plug on contractors with poor performance. A lack of quality assurance mechanisms. Inquiries done after contract money already has been spent. Contractors who perform poorly often not sanctioned. Millions of dollars wasted. Sound familiar?

People often ask me what changes I would like to see in the refugee program to make it more effective. Most of my answers from my own observations over the past thirteen years involve the federal oversight of the refugee program, and include such things as adding teeth to the refugee contracts – consequences for the refugee contractors who violate the program contract requirement. A detailed examination of this serious problem, albeit regarding state oversight of contractors (nevertheless applicable to the federal refugee contracts), is found in a recent posting at The Pew Charitable Trusts website:

…Case managers for people with developmental disabilities failed to file accurate reports about their visits with clients…

…officials did a poor job overseeing state contracts with outside firms.
The review, which examined [procurement and monitoring of contracts], determined that oversight failures not only wasted taxpayers’ money but put some of its most vulnerable residents at risk…

…“The state engages in oversight by audit and exposé. It’s a ‘gotcha’ way to do it,” said Janice Fine, an associate professor at Rutgers’ School of Management and Labor Relations who co-authored the study. “I was shocked by how little oversight was happening in real time, as opposed to after the fact.”

Many states have struggled to adequately oversee billions of dollars in contracts with companies — both for-profit and not-for-profit. Too often, states rush to tighten contracting laws or regulations only after a public controversy erupts or they’ve been slammed by auditors. By that time, millions of dollars may have been wasted.

“Lots of states are facing this oversight problem,” said Barbara S. Romzek, dean of American University’s School of Public Affairs. “State agencies might write good contracts but they don’t execute them. And contract oversight is important because it’s getting what you pay for. Public money should not be spent poorly. The services should be high quality and taxpayers should be getting their money’s worth.

…other obstacles to quality contracting are poorly designed contracts and unwillingness to pull the plug on a contractor with poor performance, Romzek added.

…contract oversight problems uncovered were longstanding and occurred during both Democratic and Republican administrations…

…mandate real-time evaluation of contractors, require that contractors pay a sliding scale fee for monitoring costs…

“It just makes no sense to be doing this outsourcing unless we have some mechanism in place to make sure that taxpayers dollars are being spent effectively and that the goals of the contract are being achieved,” said [New Jersey Democratic state Sen. Bob Gordon], who chairs the House Oversight Committee. “There should be a monitoring or evaluation process built into every program so that you can see if it’s working and make a mid-course correction, if possible. In the business world, it’s called quality assurance.”…

…the responsibility lies with the state contract managers, who should be doing monitoring from the start. Instead, states rely on auditors, who launch their inquiries after the money already has been spent.

“It’s the old pay and chase model,” [Kinney Poynter, executive director of the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers] said. “You pay the vendors and then you have to chase them. But afterwards, it’s too late. The best internal controls are those in place up front and continuously enforced.”

Elliott Sclar, an economist and professor of urban planning at Columbia University, agrees that states tend to regulate contracts “ex post facto – after the fact.”

“Often, it’s the auditors who come in and find some abuse,” Sclar said. “And at that point everyone is scrambling around, but you didn’t get what you paid for, and it’s too late.”

Another problem is that contractors who perform poorly often aren’t sanctioned, said Amanda Girth, an assistant professor at Ohio State University’s John Glenn School of Public Affairs.

Girth said that the process often can be onerous because states know that they could wind up in court, either suing a contractor or being sued by one if they cancel the contract.

“Those barriers are just too high. Even though there are penalty clauses, they don’t execute them because it’s just too much trouble,” she said. “It’s a very real and serious problem.”…Read more here

Posted in New Jersey, ORR, public/private partnership, reform, State Department, States | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

ORR Scam Alert – scheme to rob refugees of personal data

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 15, 2014

 scam_alert

The following is a current scam alert put out by the ORR (Office of Refugee Resettlement) in regard to a new fraud scheme to rob refugees of personal data, which can be used to commit identity theft. Criminals have so far targeted refugees from Myanmar in Iowa.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) would like to warn you of a new fraud scheme to rob refugees of personal data, which can be used to commit identity theft. 

Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center (EMBARC), an ORR grantee from Iowa, reports that last week some of their clients were visited by two men claiming to  be cell phone company representatives.  These men went door to door asking refugee families for their social security numbers, Medicaid numbers, and dates of birth, promising them free cell phones in return.  

ORR urges you to be aware that there are several criminals seeking to take advantage of newly arrived refugees who may not realize the need to protect their personal information from thieves and other criminals.  

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is following scam attempts such as these, and encourages anyone contacted with similar scams to report them through the FTC website. Their recently published Consumer Alert provides valuable tips on how to avoid being victimized, and what to do in case you are contacted.  They have also set up a new web page, Avoiding Scams Against Immigrants, with information and materials in several languages. 

Unfortunately, people are getting hurt by this scam: some refugees are losing thousands of dollars. How can you avoid scams like this?

Do not give important personal information – or money – to someone you don’t know or to someone who contacts you unexpectedly.

Do not give your personal or financial information to unknown persons who seek payment or solicits charitable contributions: providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.

Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming e-mails, including clicking links contained within those messages.

Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as officials asking for payments or donations, door-to-door, via phone, mail, e-mail or social networking sites.

If you are a refugee and get a call like this, talk to the case manager at your resettlement agency immediately. Then report it to the Federal Trade Commission online or at 1-877-FTC-HELP

Information courtesy of the Federal Trade Commission, FTC Consumer Alert

Resettled refugees are once again advised to consult with their local resettlement agencies if someone claiming to represent the government contacts them, especially if there are promises of cash or prizes.  If these scammers come to your home, report the incident to your local police. 

Please help the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) spread the warning about these scams, and stop others from being victimized by these criminals.

Thank you,

ORR

 

Posted in Burma/Myanmar, Iowa, ORR, scams, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

ORR now reneges on cutting refugee funding

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 12, 2014

YippeeeeAfter dire warnings from refugee resettlement contractor non-profits that local economies would suffer if the agencies lost funding for refugees due to the federal government refugee agency ORR shifting funds to the Central-American immigrants coming in across the southern border, the ORR has just as quickly restored the funds. The agency apparently suddenly noticed what others had already suspected and asked the ORR about – that the number of Central American minors had slowed in recent months – and ORR had jumped the gun. An article in the Inlander explains the funding restoration:

We wrote this week about a pot of federal funding that’s meant to help refugees…but is being stretched thin by the growing number of unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S./Mexico border..When the federal government decided to withhold this funding recently in order to redirect it to the border, local agencies worried they’d have to cut staff or start charging refugees for services.

Today, a rare happy update to a story about budget cuts: The federal agency that had decided to redirect this funding has changed its mind.

“Although Congress has not approved the additional funding that President Obama requested, there has been a decrease in the rate of [unaccompanied minors] arrivals,” Tom Medina wrote the Inlander in an email late Thursday afternoon. Medina oversees the [Washington] state office that distributes the federal funds to local groups like World Relief. “During the conference call, [the Office of Refugee Resettlement] reported the year-to-date total of UAC’s in the U.S. stood at 54,000 through the end of July. ORR is projecting that the total by September 30 will be around 60,000, which is what they had originally budgeted for.”

“This,” Medina wrote, “means that we will be able to restore the RRA and Mental Health contracts that we had to terminate last month.” Read more here

Posted in children, funding, Guatemalan, ORR, teenagers, unaccompanied minors, World Relief | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Republican governors go on attack in states receiving fewest Central American immigrant children

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 10, 2014

blitz

It seems that the states with the fewest immigrant children and young adults of the 30,000 that have arrived since January are the ones making the biggest racket over their placement by the ORR. Republican governors of these states have gone on a media blitz complaining about everything from the speculative diseases these immigrants have to claims of so-called potential increases in crime. An article at The Daily Reflector covers North Carolina’s governor Pat McCrory:

Gov. Pat McCrory has been on a media blitz lately, with four news conferences in the last few days, one to fear-monger about refugee children…

McCrory said that the children relocated to North Carolina after fleeing dangerous and abuse situations in Central American countries did not receive health screenings and may be a threat to North Carolina children. He sounded ominous warnings about the lack of background checks of the sponsors providing the children their new home. But the children do undergo health screenings and the sponsors do undergo background checks. McCrory could have found that out by simply visiting the website of the office of Federal Office of Refugee Resettlement.

When confronted with the information that background checks are done on the sponsors of the children, McCrory said they were not the kind of background checks that need to be done. He didn’t provide any clarification and seemed caught off guard by pointed questions about the remarks he made about the immigrant children the day before… Read here

Posted in asylees, children, Guatemalan, health, North Carolina, ORR, right-wing, schools, teenagers, teens, unaccompanied minors, young adults | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Conservative websites spread misinformation on influx of immigrant children

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 3, 2014

SpreadingMisinformation

The now long ongoing influx of immigrant children across the US southern border – and highly publicized due to an increase in recent months – is now being met by a wave of misinformation spearheaded by conservative websites. The US agency responsible for apprehending the immigrants (ICE and here) and handing them over to the ORR advertised in January for contractors to aid with the transfer following ICE taking these illegal immigrants into custody. Conservative websites have locked on the issue to spread misinformation by falsely claiming that ICE is instead requesting services to transport these immigrants across the border to the US. They also claim that ICE, therefore the Obama administration, had anticipated the influx in January. Instead, the influx has actually been going on for several years with a more recent surge due to drug and gang related violence in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. An article in the Reno Gazette-Journal looks at this issue:

…The recent wave of publicity concerning the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America being apprehended at the southwest border has unleashed a flood of emails from readers. Many refer, directly or indirectly, to a request for information submitted Jan. 29 by the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement on the Federal Business Opportunities website titled “Escort Services for Unaccompanied Alien Children.”

Some have asked if Homeland Security is paying to bring foreign children across the border illegally, based on some conservative websites that misinterpreted the request for information. Infowars, for example, claimed that the Obama administration is using “taxpayer money to escort illegal minors into the United States.”
Other readers asked if the Obama administration placed the advertisement “back in January” and wonder how the administration knew months ago there would be a crisis at the border.

First of all, ICE did not solicit bids for vendors to bring children across the border, as Infowars claimed. The request for information was referring to children who illegally crossed the border and were apprehended by Border Patrol agents. The private escorts would transfer “approximately 65,000″ unaccompanied foreign children from Border Patrol facilities to Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement shelters… Read more here

Posted in children, gangs, Guatemalan, ICE, ORR, right-wing, teens, Texas, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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