Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Refugee Resettlement Resumes In Fredericksburg, VA

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 3, 2010

The Catholic Diocese of Arlington’s Office of Migration and Refugee Services is resuming refugee resettlement at their sub-office in Fredericksburg, Virginia, just seven months after local church leaders asked that resettlement stop due to mismanagement of the program by the agency and neglect of refugees, here and here. The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star gives more information:

As many as 100 refugees could come to the Fredericksburg area in the next year.

Officials with the Catholic Diocese of Arlington’s Office of Migration and Refugee Services announced the expected arrivals seven months after area church leaders asked the federal government to stop the flow of refugees here.

But refugee services officials also announced different leadership and more staff in the local resettlement office.

And area volunteers hope that this time around, refugees will be resettled successfully, thanks to the shakeup in the refugee services office.

“I believe we can do this in a much better way than we experienced last March,” said the Rev. Ted Snow, pastor of Regester United Methodist Church in Stafford County. Snow said he is “a staunch supporter” of resettlement, but in March he joined area local leaders criticizing the local process.

Over the past five years, more than 500 refugees have resettled in the Fredericksburg area.

In their home countries they faced torture, death or persecution. The State Department invites the refugees, who are resettled locally through the Office of Migration and Refugee Services.

In the past three years, local officials have criticized the resettlement process, saying it seemed that the federal government invited the refugees in, dropped them into the area and promptly forgot about them.

They also complained that the local resettlement office was understaffed and failed to communicate with groups offering to help refugees get on their feet here.

Tensions rose as church leaders, social workers, educators and volunteers struggled to meet the demands of an often needy population. They provided transportation, English classes, summer camps, jobs and financial help…Read more here

Church leaders say that after they made their official complaint last March they didn’t hear anything from the Catholic Diocese of Arlington until September.

…In March, about 20 volunteers, clergy, social workers and educators met with resettlement leaders and state and federal government officials.

That meeting did little to smooth tensions, but the refugees services officials promised to communicate more with the community.

And church leaders said that was the last time they heard from the resettlement office until September.

Now resettlement officials have reached out to the community, and a meeting is planned for tomorrow.

Catholic Charities of Arlington, which oversees the Office of Migration and Refugee Services, has a new president. And the Fredericksburg resettlement center now has a manager…

Some church leaders say they have their hands full with the refugees that the Catholic Diocese of Arlington already resettled to the area,and they will not help bring in more refugees.

…Some who have helped with resettlement efforts in the pastt have said they won’t attend the meeting. They plan to concentrate on helping the refugees who are already here.

The Rev. Larry Haun, one of the most vocal leaders calling for a halt in local resettlements, will not attend. His congregation, Fredericksburg Baptist Church, still helps dozens of newcomer families with transportation, money, tutoring, school supplies, clothes and more.

“I wish them well. I hope it goes well, but we’ve got more than we can do with what we have now,” Haun said…

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