Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

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Federal judge tosses out Alabama anti-refugee lawsuit

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 30, 2016


A judge dismissed Alabama’s lawsuit against the federal government over refugee placement. U.S. Magistrate Judge John Ott on Friday rejected with prejudice Alabama’s claim that federal officials are not consulting with states on refugee placement. A month ago a judge dismissed a similar Texas lawsuit.  An article at WTVN ABC-9 has the details:

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) – A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit, filed in January by the State of Alabama, that alleged the federal government had failed to comply with the Refugee Act of 1980.

Chief United States Magistrate Judge John E. Ott dismissed the state’s case with prejudice on Friday, meaning it cannot be refiled.

Naomi Tsu, deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, released this statement:

“We are pleased the court dismissed this baseless lawsuit, which has already wasted too much taxpayer money. It has been clear from the beginning that Governor Bentley’s attempt to use the courts to keep Syrian refugees out of Alabama was nothing more than a political stunt.

“This lawsuit – and others like it – only stoke Islamophobia in the United States. Welcoming immigrants in desperate need of sanctuary is an American value we must uphold”  … Read more here

Posted in Alabama, court, right-wing, Southern Poverty Law Center, Syrian | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

False Facebook posting about refugees followed by death threats

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 27, 2016

deaththreat A false posting on Facebook showing a photo of a four-plex apartment near Corvallis, Montana with a note saying it was “rumored” the building would be used to house refugees led to death threats against the local contractor who built the apartments.  The man targeted said that threats against his life, business and family began to pour in from around the country and Canada.  He left his house in the morning two weeks ago and found a doll made of newspaper with a noose around its neck hanging from his mailbox. Then, last week someone parked in front of his house shortly after 2 a.m., fired several rounds into the air then drove off.  An article in The Missoulian has the story:

When John King picked up the phone in his office last week and saw a call from a number in Oklahoma, he thought it was related to the heavy haul trucks that are part of his Corvallis-based business, J&J Excavating and Trucking. Instead, the caller started the same diatribe King says he’s heard hundreds of times over the past three months.

He said the threatening calls and emails started in late April after one of his employees alerted him to a Facebook post showing a photo of a four-plex apartment his firm built near Corvallis, with a note saying it was “rumored” the building would be used to house refugees.

While the post was taken down within days, King said the “damage was already done.” It had gone viral and King said threats against his life, business and family began to pour in from around the country and Canada… Read more here

Posted in right-wing, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism, Montana | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Fact Check: Is there any way to screen Syrian refugees?

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 23, 2016


Despite the extensive security screening that refugees must go through before entering the US, Republican politicians and candidates continue to spout the untruth that there is no way to screen Syrian refugees. Actually, Syrian refugees are subjected to an extra level of screening.  Top security experts support resettling Syrian refugees. An article at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has the facts:

…While criticizing Hillary Clinton’s support for admitting more Syrian refugees to the U.S., Trump said that “there’s no way to screen” those refugees to determine “who they are or where they come from.” That’s false. All refugees admitted to the U.S. go through an extensive vetting process that involves multiple federal agencies and can take up to 24 months to complete.

The Obama administration pledged to admit up to 10,000 Syrian refugees in fiscal year 2016 (ending Sept. 30), and Clinton has said that the U.S. should increase that number to 65,000. However, Clinton said the U.S. should increase the number of Syrian refugees admitted “only if we have as careful a screening and vetting process as we can imagine.”

The current process for admitting a refugee to the U.S. is very lengthy. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or sometimes a U.S. embassy, refers a qualified refugee for resettlement in the U.S. After that, there’s an initial multistep security clearance, including the collection of the refugee’s personal data and background information. That is followed by an in-person interview abroad with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which has to approve the application. The security clearance involves checking the refugee’s name and fingerprints against several government databases. That’s followed by a medical screening and a pairing with one of the voluntary agencies in the U.S. that sponsors refugees. And, finally, there’s another security clearance to check for any new information. That completes the process.

According to the State Department, the total process from the UNHCR referral to finally being admitted into the U.S. takes 18 to 24 months on average.

And while it may be the case that some Syrian refugees lack the documentation necessary to identify them, that is not the case for everyone. At an October 2015 Senate subcommittee hearing on refugee resettlement, Barbara Strack, chief of the refugee affairs division of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said that Syrian refugees tend to have “many, many documents”… Read more here

Posted in right-wing, security/terrorism, Syrian | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

College Station community unites after Mosque shooting

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 22, 2016


The College Station community in Texas has come out in strong support of a local mosque that was found with five bullet holes following gunfire last Friday — no doubt a gift from the political right-wing. The outpouring of support has lifted the spirits of many in the Islamic community. An article and news report at KBTX CBS-3 has the story:

COLLEGE STATION – The community came together Friday to show support for the Islamic Community of Bryan-College Station following gunfire at the mosque early Thursday.

Nimrah Riaz and Shumila Zaidi have grown up at their local mosque. The five bullet holes they found in the building Friday left them shaken.

“When I first heard that, I was in shock,” said Nimrah Riaz. “I’m going to cry it was really sad. My dad was here and he is the most peaceful man in the world. He has given me so much wisdom,” said Shumila Zaidi.

Dan De Leon is a local pastor who coordinated a rally at the mosque in response to the shooting.

“Hatred and violence in the form of gun violence on this mosque is to inflict violence on our entire neighborhood,” said De Leon.

More than a hundred people stood side by side surrounding the mosque during afternoon prayers. Many of the participants were not Muslim but rather supporting their neighbors.

“This won’t be tolerated by this community,” said De Leon.

The outpouring of support has lifted the spirits of many in the Islamic community… Read more here

Posted in crime, hate crimes, Muslim, right-wing, safety, security/terrorism, Texas, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Canadian priest allegedly gambled away $500,000 of refugee aid

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 18, 2016


A Canadian Catholic priest has been charged with stealing over $500,000 intended for resettling Syrian refugees, and then gambling it away. An article in The Guardian has the details:

A Canadian priest has been charged over stealing more than $500,000 intended for the resettlement of Syrian refugees, and then gambling it away.

Amer Saka, 51, a clergyman of the Chaldean Catholic church – based in Baghdad – had allegedly collected the funds from more than 20 donors to support refugees arriving from the war-torn nation, according to local police… Read more here


Posted in Canadian refugee resettlement pgrm, Catholic, Syrian | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Tenn. top legal official won’t sue over refugee resettlement

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 7, 2016

"Scales of Justice" button (Gold)

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery has decided not to sue the federal government over its refugee resettlement program after being directed to do so by the state legislature.  Slatery points out that the issue has been dismissed in federal court. He also says the so-called “coerced spending issue” (that the federal government is “confiscating state resources” by “coercing” Tennessee to accept refugees) is an untested legal theory that is unlikely to succeed.  An AP article at WJHL has the details:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery won’t sue the federal government over its refugee resettlement program.

A General Assembly resolution passed earlier this year had demanded legal action. Gov. Bill Haslam allowed it to take effect without his signature in May.

“I have constitutional concerns about one branch of government telling another what to do,” Haslam wrote to lawmakers at the time.

In a Tuesday letter to the clerks of the state Senate and House of Representatives, Slatery outlined what he sees as lawmakers’ two concerns about refugee resettlement. One is that federal officials are not properly consulting with state and local officials, as required by law. The other is that the federal government is confiscating state resources by coercing Tennessee to accept refugees.

Slatery notes in the letter that the consulting issue already has been dismissed in federal court. He says the coerced spending issue is an untested legal theory that is unlikely to succeed… Read more here

Posted in court, legislation, right-wing, Tennessee | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Twin Falls police investigate threats over Fawnbrook assault

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 28, 2016


After failing at their disinformation campaign about a child who was sexually abused in Twin Falls last week (there was no gang rape, not at knife point, and not by Syrian refugees) right-wing activists have now turned to making threats against city officials.  Police and the FBI are looking into violent threats left at city offices.  An article in the Times-News explains:

TWIN FALLS — Police and the FBI are looking into violent threats left at city offices and made against city officials over the handling of a sexual assault on a 5-year-old girl.

Twin Falls Mayor Shawn Barigar and Vice Mayor Suzanne Hawkins have both forwarded threatening messages they received about the incident to police.

Three boys from Middle Eastern families, ages 7, 10 and 14, were involved in the sexual assault against the girl at the Fawnbrook Apartments on June 2, authorities have said.

Two of the boys are Sudanese, one Iraqi. The two older boys are facing juvenile charges.

The story started to get national attention about a week ago after the two older boys were taken into custody. Several anti-Muslim and anti-refugee resettlement bloggers wrote about the case, with some incorrectly saying the boys were Syrian or containing details authorities have denied, including saying the assault was a gang-rape and that the boys held the girl at knife-point. Many of them accused law enforcement, city officials and local media of trying to cover up the incident.

“I’ve had my fair share of emails from folks this week sharing their concerns, and a fair amount of just outright lies and wrong information about this very tragic case that’s being handled,” Barigar said Friday.

Barigar said several of the emails and phone messages, “are what I would characterize as threatening personally to me and family”…

“I don’t believe it’s our local citizens doing it,” she said of the threats. Read more here

Posted in FBI, police, right-wing, Twin Falls, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

What it’s like to be an SIV immigrant

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 26, 2016


The U.S. Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, under which Iraqi and Afghan interpreters and others who worked for the United States during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are permitted to immigrate, has picked up speed somewhat after years of flowing at a trickle. Once SIV immigrants arrive, however, a number of problems in the program begin to become clear. An article in the Sacramento Bee has the story:

…the U.S. resettlement system [has] proved unprepared to handle [the] increased flow of Afghan refugees.

An extreme example of that lack of readiness is the story of what happened to Ajmal Faqiri, who translated for U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. “We actually found him homeless after he arrived in San Francisco airport on Dec. 13, 2013,” Zeller said. “He picked up his four bags, with his wife, 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter and found an airport policeman and asked, ‘What do I do now? The guy pointed north and said the homeless shelters are that way. So they walked up Highway 101.

“We found them homeless, wandering the streets of San Francisco after an Afghan guy noticed them and helped them contact my interpreter through Facebook”…

The State Department gives each resettlement agency $2,025 per person – $900 to spend on case management and $1,125 to cover rent, furniture, dishware, food and pocket money. But this $1,125 – dubbed “welcome money” by the refugee agencies – doesn’t go far. The agencies can reassign $200 of it to the needs of other refugees, meaning it doesn’t have to go to the family for which it was paid by the government.

Much of the remaining $925 per person is often spent on rent, used furnishings or housewares – without the knowledge or consent of the refugees themselves. One new arrival, former translator Yalda Kabiri, said she received just $45 in spending money when she arrived in 2013.

Many told The Sacramento Bee they would rather have all the cash to pay for phones, used cars, gas and their own furnishings…

Some common themes have emerged among special visa holders in Sacramento. Upon arrival, they are settled in one of a number of apartment complexes in Sacramento County. These units are often infested with roaches and bedbugs, and located in neighborhoods with relatively high crime rates. But the rent has been prepaid for several months, making it hard to move.

The furniture provided is often used and worn, and in their view not worth the money the refugee assistance agencies often spend on it… Read more here

Posted in Afghan, bed bugs, housing, substandard, Iraqi, late health screenings, meeting refugees at the airport, Muslim, rats and roaches, Sacramento, SIV (Special Immigrant Visa) immigrants | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The positive economic impact of refugees

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 23, 2016


A new study from a researcher at UC Davis shows that refugees receiving aid—especially in the form of cash—can can give their host country’s economy a major boost.  The study showed that economic benefits much exceeded the amount of donated aid.  Cash aid to refugees had a greater positive impact on the host nation’s economy than did in-kind food aid.  An article at R&D Mag has the details:

Refugees are often considered an economic burden for the countries that take them in, but a new study conducted by UC Davis with the United Nations World Food Program indicates that refugees receiving aid—especially in the form of cash—can can give their host country’s economy a substantial boost.United Nations World Food Program

The researchers found that these economic benefits significantly exceeded the amount of the donated aid.

The findings come as refugee numbers around the world are growing. In 2015, an estimated 15.1 million people were displaced from Syria and other locations around the world due to civil conflict or natural disaster, reaching a 20-year high, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

The new study, to be published in the June 20 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, examined the economic impact of three camps in Rwanda, housing refugees from the Congo. In two of the camps, refugees received aid from the United Nations World Food Program in the form of cash, while in the third camp the refugees received the same value of aid but in donated food.

The researchers used economic modeling methods, based on local surveys, to simulate the impact of the refugees on the host-country economy within a 10-km radius of the three refugee camps. They found that cash aid to the refugees had a greater positive impact on the host nation’s economy than did in-kind food aid.

“The findings of this study run contrary to the popular perception that refugees are helpless and dependent on food aid,” said J. Edward Taylor, the study’s lead author and a UC Davis professor of agricultural and resource economics.

“Our data support recent studies suggesting that although refugees have undergone forced migration and are often living in destitute conditions, they still are productive and can interact with their host country’s economy in positive ways,” Taylor said… Read more here

Posted in Congolese, UN, UN (United Nations) | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

65 million worldwide displaced from their homes this World Refugee Day

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 20, 2016


A record 65.3 million people are displaced worldwide this World Refugee Day 2016.  An article at Voice of America News has the story:

It’s not just that the doors of Europe are closing to refugees; for those who have survived sniper fire, minefields, swift-moving rivers and roadside bombs, just trying to get into overflowing refugee camps in their home countries is proving impossible.

They are among the record 65.3 million people worldwide displaced from their homes, according to the U.N. refugee agency, the UNHCR — a 10 percent increase over last year. Half of them are children.

“Twenty-four people are displaced every minute,” said UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi. “Two-thirds of the forcibly displaced are internally displaced. Ninety percent of the forcibly displaced are displaced in poor or middle-income countries, not in the rich world.”

Close to 10 million of the world’s refugees are Syrian. Three million have fled to neighboring countries; the rest are internally displaced within Syria.

While Syria remains the largest forcibly displaced crisis in the world, neighboring Iraq has been overwhelmed by people fleeing Islamic State-held territory.

“They’ve been eating rotting, expired dates and drinking from the river, which is unfit for drinking, and now they are finding themselves out there and we are unable to cope and help everyone,” said Karl Schembri, a spokesman for the Norwegian Refugee Council in Baghdad.

For those who have found haven in the camps, an atmosphere of despair is descending. Like many others, the Harsham refugee camp in northern Iraq is taking on an air of permanence. Camp manager Ahmed Abdo says the residents have lost hope of returning home… Read more here

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


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