Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Taking a closer look at HIAS as it marks 130 years

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 3, 2011

Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society is celebrating its 130th anniversary, as outlined in a posting on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) website. The article expounds on the agency’s virtues. But what do the State Department’s PRM monitoring reports from those once in 8-13 years pre-announced inspections show us about HIAS’ track record?

According to reports, government monitors found the HIAS affiliate Jewish Family Service of Seattle had not visited nearly half of their refugee clients at home, as is supposedly required. Government monitors found one refugee that had to sleep on the living-room floor, thus violating requirements that resettlement agencies give all refugees a bed to sleep on. The refugee also had a kidney stone and felt he was not receiving adequate medical care, as the agency had not always provided an interpreter and he was not able to understand whether he needed surgery.

At the HIAS affiliate in San Francisco government monitors found that management staff indicated in a questionnaire that each refugee received $275 from refugee funds upon arrival, when in fact each refugee had actually received only $250. In addition, the affiliate’s caseworkers were conducting home visits in only about 25% of cases. The monitors found a refugee family of five living in a cramped one-bedroom apartment.

The HIAS affiliate in Chicago only allowed Jewish refugees to enroll in a beneficial program that offeres early employment bonuses (Matching Grant). The affiliate’s resettlement coordinator was also unable to give early employment statistics for the non-Jewish refugee caseload, yet reported that Jewish refugee employment as 5% at 90 days, and 40% at 6 months — extremely poor rates. A refugee family’s aunt sponsored them and reported that she had to take a loan from the agency to pay for the services the family received, which was suddenly increased by $400 when the affiliate decided that costs were going to be higher than anticipated. Another refugee said his caseworker told him that the affiliate only assisted Jewish refugees with employment services.

The HIAS affiliate in New York City charged sponsoring refugee relatives $500 per refugee to aid with resettlement services. In addition, staff only conducted home visits to between 17-18% of refugees. One refugee couple said the affiliate had not offered them any furniture (basic items required by the contract), and another refugee family with 3 young children reported that their caseworker had never visited them at home. Although the family had arrived in the U.S. nearly eight months earlier the parents were still not working. A third refugee family reported that their caseworker had never visited them at home either, and that they had not received any furniture as well.

The HIAS affiliate in Rockville, Maryland has also charged sponsoring relatives inappropriately large charges for resettlement services provided to refugees — $2000 per “employable” refugee and $500 for each “unemployable” refugee.

3 Responses to “Taking a closer look at HIAS as it marks 130 years”

  1. Mary said

    I don’t understand this charging refugees for resettlement services. How do they get away with this trick? I’ve sponsored two to my area and I do a better job than any VOLAG, which is due to their chronic neglect and incompetence.

  2. The resettlement agencies are encouraged to find cosponsors, so refugees’ relatives often act as cosponsors. “Cosponsor” makes it sound like the resettlement agency is the other sponsor. No, it’s the federal government that pays the balance.

  3. Arjun gautam said

    Please help me I am refugee from nepal with two child.i am looking job to eat & stay in ny city my wife is sick her right hend is not moving I am alone work night shift make $478 a week. I am not not able to pay my monthly bill & house rent please any one give me job to make 600-700 week. Please! Help me

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