Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Archive for August 18th, 2010

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota branches out to St. Cloud

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 18, 2010

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (LSSMN) is expanding it’s satellite office in St Cloud and will now resettle refugees directly to the city. They expect to resettle 100 refugees this coming fiscal year, mostly Somalis and a few Iraqis.

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota has worked with refugees in St. Cloud since 2002, when it opened a refugee employment office. This year, the agency ratcheted up its efforts by establishing a refugee resettlement office in St. Cloud.

The office has contracted to resettle 100 refugees — mostly Somalis and a few Iraqis — in the St. Cloud area this year and in each of the next two years.

Jennifer Jimenez-Wheatley heads the new office, helping refugees find places to live, work, shop and worship. She helps them learn to speak and write English. She coordinates the resettlement process with local school, government and nonprofit agencies. here

Jimenez-Wheatley claims that local partners decided to resettle Iraqi refugees.

Somalis have established a presence in St. Cloud, but the handful of Iraqis she’s helping settle here won’t be joining such a large community from their home country. Jimenez-Wheatley says St. Cloud’s refugee advisory committee — composed of city, school district and nonprofit officials — decided resettling Iraqis here made sense in part because they share the Muslim faith with the Somali community.

But that can’t be true because LSSMN’s national partner, Lutheran Immigration and Refugees Service (LIRS) is the agency that attends meetings each week in Arlington, VA at the State Department’s RPC (Refugee Processing Center), and decides which refugees it’s affiliates such as LSSMN will take. Or is Jimenez-Wheatley implying that local partners put in requests to LIRS about what type of refugees they want, and in this case they wanted Muslim refugees? I find that bizarre.

In any event, I just read an interesting article about what its like for refugees to deal with our system when they arrive here. One Somali refugee family in St Cloud was beside themselves when they could not find a mentally ill adult daughter for two years because Stearns county would not tell them where she was. here

*UPDATE: Minnesota Public Radio had this to say:

While the refugee resettlement program has received positive feedback from some leaders and community members in St. Cloud, another challenge new refugees may face include religious and cultural misunderstandings. The St. Cloud area has been the recent spotlight of racial, religious, and cultural tensions: from anti-Islamic cartoons to broken windows at the mosque to graffiti on a Somali-owned business that read, “GO HOME.” here

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