Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Posts Tagged ‘resettlement’

Syrian refugee in Houston – Cockroaches seem to pour from the walls

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 21, 2015

contract

Apparently YMCA International remains in violation of the State Department refugee resettlement contract and no one seems to care. In 2008 during a State Department inspection monitors noted “…All refugee homes inspected had significant roach and/or mice infestation.” Now, a newspaper article reports that a Syrian refugee family resettled in Houston by this resettlement agency is living in an apartment practically overrun by cockroaches. The State Department contract explicitly states that resettlement “Housing should be safe, sanitary, and in good repair.” I don’t think insect infestation would qualify as sanitary. An article in the Houston Chronicle explains:

The sparse two-bedroom apartment in southwest Houston is a far cry from the sprawling home Chujaa Masre owned in Homs. Cockroaches seem to pour out of the walls, appearing to him almost as resistant to defeat as the Syrian army in his war-torn country.

His wife, horrified, at first declared they were going home, never mind the bombs and airstrikes that have ravaged their nation, killing what human rights groups estimate to be about 220,000 people in four years. Ever since fleeing Homs at the beginning of the military’s siege in 2011…

Masre, who was paired with the YMCA, said his assistance runs out in February…

By now, Masre has finessed his skill for eradicating pests. He’s learned to block up holes and fill in cracks to keep out mice and discovered the array of commercial options killing cockroaches. They take up an entire rack in his kitchen.

“But still they come,” he sighed… Read more here

Posted in housing, Houston, rats and roaches, State Department, YMCA International | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Call for Ideas: Help Shape Refugee Integration Strategy

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 17, 2015

Task ForceAs part of an inter-agency Task Force on new Americans on improving our immigration system President Obama is calling for public input of ideas on how to improve our system. This includes the refugee resettlement program. Comments are due by February 9, 2015.

In November 2014, President Obama announced a series of executive actions to fix our broken immigration system. As part of these actions, the President created a White House Task Force on New Americans. We are proud to serve as the co-chairs of this federal interagency Task Force, which will focus on the civic, economic and linguistic integration of new Americans and creating welcoming communities for all residents.

As the President’s memorandum states:

“…Civic integration provides security in rights and liberties. Economic integration empowers      self-sufficiency and allows new Americans to give back to their communities and contribute to economic growth. English language acquisition allows employment and career advancement along with active civic participation.”

We are, and will continue to be, a nation of immigrants. On average, the United States welcomes approximately 1 million lawful permanent residents and more than 700,000 newly naturalized citizens each year. These new Americans contribute significantly to our economy. In fact, while foreign-born residents make up 13 percent of the population, they represent over 16 percent of the labor force and start 28 percent of all new businesses creating jobs for millions of Americans.

The goal of the Task Force is to develop a federal immigrant integration strategy that allows new Americans to contribute to society to their fullest potential and bring new Americans together with their receiving communities to strengthen communities.

By March 2015, the Task Force will submit a plan to the President that includes recommendations for federal actions to promote the integration of new Americans. In developing this plan, we need to hear from you. You know best what is working to support immigrant integration in your community. Send us input on promising practices and examples of model programs that help immigrants and refugees to contribute to your communities and our economy.

We also need your input to ensure that federal programs and policies continue to reflect our ongoing commitment to welcoming and integrating newcomers into the fabric of our country.

Please send your ideas and examples to NewAmericans@who.eop.gov by February 9, 2015.

Cecilia Muñoz is Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. León Rodríguez is Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
…Read here

Posted in Obama administration, reform | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Resources for Helping Low-Income, Low-Skilled Workers

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 7, 2015

employment _assistanceThere are some online resources that look useful for helping refugees with employment issues, poverty and education. The Center for Law & Social Policy (CLASP) features different resources aimed at improving services to low-income youth and adults:

In July 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)—passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in Congress—was signed into law by President Obama. WIOA is the first update to the nation’s core workforce training programs  since the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) 16 years ago. But a lot has changed since 1998—and our workforce system hasn’t kept up. Low-income, lower-skilled workers face more barriers than ever to securing an education and getting a good job.

CLASP features different resources aimed at improving services to low-income youth and adults under the WIOA. In addition, they highlight promising state and local strategies and models that align WIOA’s goals and help create pathways to postsecondary and economic success for low-skilled workers, youth, and adults… (Read more here)

Posted in economic self-sufficiency, employment services, employment/jobs for refugees, teenagers | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

World Food Program for now resumes food assistance to Syrian refugees

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 3, 2015

government-helping-citizen-water-food-stock-supplyAlthough this blog mainly covers the US domestic refugee resettlement program, we occasionally cover related issues. Of extreme urgency in recent months has been food aid to Syrian refugees. In December the World Food Programme (WFP) was forced to cut all food assistance to 1.7 million Syrian refugees due to a shortage of funds. After a 72-hour fund raising campaign involving an unprecedented social media campaign the WFP was able to resume assistance about a week later. Top donors included: Qatar (US$2 million), Saudi Arabia (US$52 million), Belgium (US$138,000),  European Union (US$6.2 million), Germany (US$5.4 million), Ireland (US$1.1 million), Netherlands (US$7.5 million), Norway (US$10.2 million), and Switzerland (US$2.1 million), plus US$1.8 million from individuals and private sector donors. Anyone wishing to donate can use the link on the WFP Syria Emergency web page. The funds were said to cover the month of December, so ongoing donations are desperately needed. They need US$1.5 billion in 2015 to feed over 6.5 million Syrians displaced inside their country and sheltering in neighboring countries. About 3 million Syrian refugees are now registered in neighboring countries (Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey), with the WFP assisting more than 2.5 million Syrian refugees in these countries. Inside Syria WFP is also managing to provide food assistance to around 4 million people every month.

Posted in Syrian, UNHCR | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Amarillo TX resettlement agencies oblivious to local conditions

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 28, 2014

obliviousNancy Koons, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle (CFS), has an op-ed piece in the local newspaper in Amarillo claiming that her organization’s attempt to cut resettlement in response to an overwhelmed local community and government agencies was undermined by increased refugee resettlement by Refugee Services of Texas, Amarillo office (RST). The picture she presents is of resettlement agencies seemingly disconnected from each other and from the impact of resettlement on the local host community. If the details are correct, then looking beyond blaming the other resettlement agency in town to defend her own agency, one has to admire her for her honesty. I think its only by facing the truth that problems may be corrected, and honesty promotes community trust. Although Koons took over as head of CFS in 2011 neither her predecessor nor anyone else at her agency apparently passed on to her the facts about the local community being overwhelmed with resettlement numbers (were they oblivious too?), and despite having lived in the community herself for six years Koons claims not have known anything until local government units came to her to complain. She claims to have then invited resettlement leaders to town to meet with local resettlement partners (something alternatively that Representative Mac Thornberry, Republican of Clarendon took credit for). Koons says she then reduced CFS’ projected refugee arrivals for 2012, but that RST, also claiming to be completely unaware of overwhelmed local government units, then increased their projected 2012 arrivals. The story paints a picture of resettlement agencies completely out of touch with their local community. The op-ed piece is found online at Amarillo Globe-News:

Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle, formerly Catholic Family Service Inc. [CFS], has provided social services in the Texas Panhandle since 1932, including a refugee resettlement program that began in the mid-1970s, following the fall of Saigon…

The refugee program was in response to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops [USCCB] which, with other national organizations, assisted the U.S. State Department with resettlement nationwide. With the goal of helping refugees achieve self-sufficiency, one consideration for establishment of a resettlement site was availability of employment. The meat-packing industry became a primary source…

…Until 2007-2008, USCCB was the only volunteer agency (volag) that facilitated resettlement in Amarillo, doing so through CFS.

In 2007-08, two more national volags began facilitating resettlement in Amarillo — Lutheran Immigration Services and Church World Services…These two additional volags facilitate refugee resettlement through Refugee Services of Texas, Amarillo office [RST].

Resettlement peaked in 2010 when CFS resettled 448 individuals and RST-Amarillo resettled 251 individuals. In total, 699 refugees were resettled in Amarillo in 2010. Refugees also came to Amarillo from other areas of the country, having already resettled through agencies in other cities. This is referred to as secondary migration…

In August 2011, I began in my role as executive director at CFS. Residing out of the Amarillo area for six years, I was unaware of the dramatic increase in refugee resettlement, languages and cultures, and consequently the impact on the community — particularly the schools. It wasn’t long before I heard from numerous concerned residents and staff from the Amarillo Independent School District. It was clear that the increasing rate of resettlement needed to slow down significantly to allow the community to catch up with challenges brought about by dramatic demographic changes. I invited officials from USCCB in Washington D.C., and the state refugee coordinator from Austin to meet with representatives from AISD to hear their challenges. At this meeting, AISD representatives graciously articulated extraordinary challenges in the schools. They begged USCCB and the state refugee coordinator to slow down the rate of resettlement to give AISD and the community the opportunity to “catch up,” and enable them to better serve all of the student population.

At CFS, I immediately reduced our projected arrivals for fiscal year 2012 by 50 percent, the projection of 400 was reduced to 200. RST-Amarillo had projected 200 arrivals for fiscal year 2012.

I learned soon after that our agency’s reduction was picked up by RST-Amarillo — they increased their projected 2012 arrivals to 400. Unfortunately, the community did not experience the reduction we had intended. In the following months, the local director of RST-Amarillo said he was unaware of problems at the schools. To his defense, complaints came to CFS because the community was, and still is, largely unaware of a second resettlement agency in Amarillo.

Frustrated that our effort to reduce was wasted, I researched arrival data from the State Department and compared it to Census data. Clearly, Amarillo had one of the highest resettlement rates per-capita in the state, if not the U.S.

In July 2012, I shared this information with Mayor Paul Harpole. Dialogue continues on the local and national levels to address critical refugee issues in our community. Compared to fiscal year 2010, Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle anticipates 160 arrivals, a 64 percent reduction from 2010. RST-Amarillo anticipates 282 arrivals, a 12 percent increase from 2010… Read more here

Posted in Amarillo, Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle, police, refugee, Refugee Services of Texas, school for refugee children, schools, secondary migration, Texas | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Dover/Tri-Cities NH officials oppose nonexistent plans for resettlement

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 27, 2014

Dover_NHDover/Tri-Cities New Hampshire officials are breathing a sigh of relief after discovering there are no plans to resettle “African immigrants” in the Tri-Cities. No mention has been made of other immigrants such as good Nepali-Bhutanese refugees or “evil” Muslim refugees. The Manchester-based Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success, or ORIS, apparently had merely to mention possible future refugee resettlement to Dover officials and the Mayor, as well as mayors of surrounding communities, went on a diatribe of complaints about lack of local community involvement in resettlement. Does anyone see the irony of complaining about lack of consultation after being consulted about future possibilities for resettlement? An article covering the issue is found at Foster’s Daily Democrat:

DOVER — There are no plans to resettle African immigrants in the Tri-Cities, according to state officials and two refugee relocation groups.

The refugee issue emerged last summer when representatives from the Manchester-based Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success, or ORIS, approached Dover officials about becoming a resettlement community. The group appeared to back away from the plan amid concern from residents and local officials.

Barbara Seebart, the state refugee coordinator for the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services, said she’s not aware of any plans for refugee resettlement in the Tri-Cities.

Meanwhile, both N.H.-based resettlement organizations confirmed they are not considering Dover or surrounding communities…

Even so, some city officials remain concerned about the issue.

Mayor Karen Weston doesn’t oppose refugee resettlement but believes host communities should have more control in determining how many can arrive each year. She also believes the federal government should offer funding to offset the effects on city and school budgets.

“There are no plans today, but it can happen any day,” Weston said. “That is why we want to be proactive and (pursue) possible legislation with the federal government.”
She hopes to arrange a conference call with Rochester Mayor T.J. Jean, Somersworth Mayor Dana Hilliard and members of the state’s congressional issue to address those immigration law changes. Weston expects that call won’t happen until next year….

Cities and towns cannot block refugee resettlement, the same way they cannot restrict people of any race or ethnic group from moving in. [Edit. – although apparently would like to]

Regardless, refugees don’t just show up in host cities overnight. There is a well-established federal system for refugee resettlement that includes extensive collaboration with local communities, Seebart said.

Marchildon agrees. Her agency undertakes a lengthy process when considering possible partner cities.

“If a new resettlement site is being nurtured,” she said, “there would be a long process of engaging city government and community social support services and the community.” Read more here

Posted in New Hampshire | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Top Posts of All Time

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 24, 2014

17 TOP HITSBelow is a list of the Top 17 Posts by number of viewers during the past five years.

1. Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program a bureaucratic failure
2. Refugees mugged in Oakland, again – this time IRC Nepali-Bhutanese refugees
3. The Refugee Syndrome: Exploring the psychology of Bhutanese refugees in NYC‏
4. Suicide prevention efforts needed in refugee resettlement program
5. State Department lifts restrictions on refugee resettlement to Detroit-area
6. Refugee Clients of Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of San Antonio, Inc. in Desperation
7. Preventing suicide in this multicultural society
8. Fargo Nepali-Bhutanese Refugees Face Unemployment, Eviction and Medical Bills
9. 15-year-old Eritrean refugee boy shot to death in St. Louis – International Institute says refugees had incorrect “perception” of safety
10. Refugees resettled to Buffalo’s West Side told to lock doors, not to wear gang colors, and to avoid violent confrontations
11. Upset Texas Pilgrim’s Pride employees complain about Burmese refugee workers
12. Perdue Farms Chicken Processing Plant Recruits Refugees From Greensboro NC
13. Nepali-Bhutanese refugee killed at abortion clinic in Philadelphia
14. German security guards caught abusing refugees
15. Karenni refugee children sent to vacation Bible school as part of their resettlement
16. World Relief Setting Up Operations in Oshkosh
17. USCRI’s Bowling Green International Center claims they do a great job, refugees disagree

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

ORR issues zero tolerance policy to protect unaccompanied children immigrants from sexual abuse

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 23, 2014

Bewerbungsbilder, bewerber, arbeiter, mitarbeiter,The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) has issued new standards intended to prevent, detect and respond to the sexual abuse of unaccompanied children living in government facilities. We wrote about this issue back in September when the policy was awaiting White House approval. An article in The Hill from December 19th announces the new policy:

The Obama administration is rolling out long-awaited rules to protect unaccompanied children immigrants from sexual abuse.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Friday issued new standards intended to prevent, detect and respond to the sexual abuse of unaccompanied children living in government facilities.

The new rules come in response to the tens of thousands of Central American children who are crossing the southwest U.S. boarder without their parents.

The unaccompanied minors are housed in government-run facilities like shelters, group homes and residential therapeutic centers as they await their immigration proceedings, where they may be vulnerable to sexual abuse.

In response to what critics say is a growing crisis, HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) issued a “zero tolerance policy” Friday that it says will weed out sexual abuse from the system.

“Sexual violence and abuse are an assault on human dignity and have devastating, lifelong mental and physical effects on an individual,” HHS wrote in the Federal Register.

The rules follow recommendations made by the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. They go into effect June 24. Read here

Posted in abuse, children, Obama administration, ORR, teenagers, unaccompanied minors | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

ORR oversight of unaccompanied minors shelter questioned

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 21, 2014

citationsAn ORR shelter in Texas for traumatized unaccompanied minors has been cited for overly using restraints. State records show children at Shiloh have made allegations of physical abuses and painful restraints. The state has cited the company that runs the facility 21 times for violating restraint guidelines. The local prosecutor has urged ORR officials to increase monitoring and lower the number of placements to “reduce the risks.” (one has to wonder if cases like this lead to the resignation of ORR’s director – its easier to cut and run when failing to answer questions no longer works). An AP article at the Star-Telegram has the details:

MANVEL, Texas   A shelter for traumatized immigrant children near Houston that has received $13 million in federal funds and been cited for overly using restraints says staff members deeply care about the well-being of residents, a newspaper reported Sunday.

The Shiloh Treatment Center in rural Manvel is among a network of shelters that Congress says needs greater oversight from the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement, which has been overwhelmed by a record number of children from Central America.

The shelter network overseen by the agency, known as ORR, has jumped from 50 to 125 facilities since the federal government began contracting with Shiloh in 2009, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Facilities such as Shiloh take among the most challenging immigrant cases, including children who arrive traumatized by their journeys or violence back home. State records show children at Shiloh have made allegations of physical abuses and painful restraints, and a local prosecutor wrote to federal authorities in 2011 with concerns…
U.S. Rep. Pete Olson said that when he called ORR with questions about Shiloh this summer, it only sent him a letter with basic information.

“The one thing that comes out over and over is the lack of transparency,” Olson said…

Jeri Yenne, Brazoria County’s Republican district attorney, said she firmly believes that Shiloh’s staff is made up of well-intentioned people. But she sent a letter to federal officials after the state had documented abuse allegations at Shiloh and another treatment center founded by Hill, according to the newspaper.

Yenne said she urged officials to increase monitoring and lower the number of placements to “reduce the risks.” An agency spokesman said federal staff are assigned to monitor every facility…

The newspaper reported that the agency has not responded to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Houston Chronicle in January for monitoring reports and other communication with Shiloh. Read more here

Posted in abuse, asylees, children, ORR, PTSD, teenagers, Texas, unaccompanied minors | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Director of Office of Refugee Resettlement Resigns

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 20, 2014

-i-quitIn a letter released December 9, 2014 (see excerpts below) the Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) resigned. He writes that he has no particular idea what he will do next but has many ideas. In other words there was nothing  in particular on the outside strongly pulling him. I must therefore conclude that there must have been something inside pushing him out, and he refers to not being a “political man”. Apparently the old anti-immigration politics, now morphed — in part — into the new “anti-unaccompanied alien children” politics, has produced some pressure on the director which he prefers to run away from rather than stand and face. I have to question the leadership abilities of any government agency (political unit) director who claims not to handle politics well.

What the Director also fails to discuss in his goodbye letter was the continuing 3 years late (on average) release of ORR Reports to Congress; these are reports to the American public. Timely release of the reports is mandated and the years delayed releases meant that the public didn’t know what was going on. Also, not discussed was the Director’s stonewalling and then ultimate silence on the issue of resettlement contractors using federal funds in conjunction with worship. The Director claims to have put “refugees first” in all matters, but in that matter a refugee was not hired as an interpreter because the contractor decided fort he refugee that the refugee might not feel comfortable with Christian staff praying on the job. The Director was “contractor friend first” and refugee second, and supported violation of the law. I also have yet to see any official ORR explanation for the lack of adequate security at the Heartland Alliance facility outside Chicago from which two unaccompanied children escaped in October. I suppose it’s easier to resign and complain about “politics” rather than stay and step up to the line and explain why the ORR and it contractor friend failed in their responsibilities. By the way, the ORR already knew that Heartland Alliance could not be trusted. During his tenor the Director also never explained why his office places refugees in the Matching Grant program  who are the most employable, and then describe the program as successful due to an ensuing high employment rate for those refugees. If the only argument for success is that it kept these refugees off public assistance then that must be compared to the donated junk (often times) that the resettlement agencies are allowed to match in return for thousands of dollars of public funds the ORR distributes as part of that program. And the list goes on.

Dear colleagues and friends,

Happy Holidays and best wishes for a healthy and wonderful 2015!

After careful and extensive consideration, I have made the difficult decision to resign from my position as Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), effective January 31, 2015…

For those of you who have known me a long time, you know that I am not a political man…we managed to keep the refugees first in just about every conversation—even when they were being overshadowed by…the influx of unaccompanied children…one thing did change: my own personal definition of “refugee” expanded to include all the vulnerable populations of concern to ORR, as we strove to keep everyone at the center of the conversation and decision-making, and remain true to the humanitarian imperative of this office.

Since I came to ORR in 2009, we have served more than 400,000 refugees, 150,000 asylees, 125,000 Cuban and Haitian Entrants, nearly 21,000 Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa holders, 3,200 Victims of Trafficking, over 32,000 U.S. repatriates, and almost 116,000 unaccompanied children…

While the road is yet unclear for the unaccompanied children we have served, I am honored to be part of an entity responsible for reunifying more that 95% of them with their family members after long separation and a truly horrendous journey in between.

As Director, I dedicated my service on behalf of refugees, many of whom have languished for decades in desolate refugee camps without hope or vision for the future, and for the many unaccompanied children lost on the long, treacherous trail in search of their loved ones. I took this job on their behalf, and I assure you that I worked tirelessly with humility and gratitude to restore hope and dignity to all ORR clients regardless of their origin…

You may be wondering what I intend to do next.  I have many ideas…

Eskinder Negash

Director

Office of Refugee Resettlement

Posted in office of refugee resettlement, ORR, unaccompanied minors | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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