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Indiana argues that singling out all Syrian refugees not based on national origin

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 18, 2016

illogical

This is a head scratcher. Although the state of Indiana lost the court case over Gov. Mike Pence’s attempt to withhold benefits from Syrian refugees based on nebulous “security concerns”, it is now trying to appeal the case before the 7th District U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago with the argument that singling out “Syrian” refugees has nothing to do with “country of national origin.” (???) A lower court ruled that the narrow focus on Syria was  unconstitutional; clearly discriminating against refugees from that country.  Soon after the Paris attacks last year, Pence cited a Syrian passport found next to one of the terrorists— now believed to be fake — as part of his supposed rationale to discourage any other desperate Syrian refugees from resettling in Indiana by denying benefits to Syrian refugees already in the state.  Think Progress has an interesting article explaining the oral arguments being made by Indiana (note: the two out of three judges questioning the lawyers in this article were both appointed to the court by President Reagan):

In a tense exchange with attorneys defending Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s order to prevent Syrian refugees from resettling in his state, two federal judges sharply criticized the legal rationale behind the effort.

During oral arguments on Wednesday in Exodus Refugee International v. Pence — a court battle focusing on whether the state may prohibit the resettlement of Syrians on the grounds that they could be terrorist threats — Judges Richard Posner and Frank Easterbrook objected to Indiana’s attempt to refuse assistance to people based on their nationality and country of origin.

“Honestly, you are so out of it,” Posner said. “You don’t think there are dangers from other countries?”

In a previous ruling, a lower court said the narrow focus on Syria “clearly discriminates” against refugees from that country, a perspective that Posner and Easterbrook appeared to endorse.

“When a state makes an argument that’s saying, ‘we’re differentiating based on whether someone is from Syria, but that has nothing to do with national origin,’ all it produces is a broad smile,” Easterbrook told Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher on Wednesday…

“Are Syrians the only Muslims Indiana fears?” Posner asked…

Soon after the Paris attacks, Pence cited a Syrian passport found next to one of the terrorists— now believed to be fake — as part of his rationale to stem the flow of Syrian refugees from entering the United States… Read more here

Posted in ACLU, court, discrimination, Exodus Refugee Immigration, Exodus Refugee Immigration, funding, Indiana, Muslim, security/terrorism, Syrian, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Crowdfunded resettlement as complement to government funding program

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 23, 2016

crowdfunded

Prior to World War Two refugees arriving in the US where entirely sponsored by private groups.  In order to assist the large numbers of refugees from the war the US federal government joined in to assist when the war ended. Private funding enjoyed a limited private sponsorship program from 1987 to 1993 (President Reagan’s “private sector initiative”) that complemented the government funded program.  Relaunching a new private funding program could help reduce need for government funding since sponsors have personal and financial incentives to help refugees succeed.  If refugees get back on their feet more quickly, private funders can actually save money by helping refugees become self-sufficient faster, whereas there are no similar incentives for the government-run program.  An article from the Cato Institute blog explains the details:

…The old model of refugee resettlement relies entirely on the government. The president proposes a target sometime in the middle of the year for the next fiscal year and submits a budget to Congress requesting funds to implement the plan. Congress then holds hearings and passes appropriations bills to fund it. Finally, sometime in September, the president releases the final target. It is a top-down, inflexible process, unsuited for our age, where factors can change in seconds based on news 10,000 miles away.

Private refugee sponsorship can fill the defects in the current refugee program. Private sponsorship as it is used in Canada allows groups of individuals or philanthropic organizations to “sponsor” refugees for resettlement in the country, using private funds and private housing to cover the costs. The system is dynamic and provides an outlet for surges in public interest during humanitarian crises…

The government-controlled refugee system needs competition. The United States used to have a limited private sponsorship program from 1987 to 1993. It resettled 16,000 refugees from communism—8,000 Cubans and 8,000 Jews from the Soviet Union. The State Department called the initiative “highly successful.” The program was discontinued by the Clinton administration, citing a lack of need, but now is the perfect time for a relaunch…

Sponsors have personal and financial incentives to help refugees succeed whereas government bureaucrats do not. If refugees become self-sufficient, philanthropists can actually save money by getting refugees on their feet faster. There are no similar incentives for the government-run program… Read more here

Posted in Canadian refugee resettlement pgrm, employment/jobs for refugees, funding, volunteers | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Financial dealings merky between feds and private prison companies detaining Central American asylum seekers

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 22, 2016

 

prison

The number of undocumented people in this country is currently dropping and has dropped for the last few years, yet you wouldn’t know that from the rhetoric spewing from the political right.  Much of the general public’s understanding of unauthorized immigration is also clouded in unknowns. The financial dealings between the federal government and private prison companies with contracts to detain unauthorized immigrants are an aspect of immigration that doesn’t see much scrutiny. As numbers of unauthorized immigrants surged in 2014, the Obama administration skipped the standard public bidding process and agreed to a $1 billion a year deal that offered generous terms to Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest prison company.  Under the deal, CCA was responsible for building and maintaining a large immigrant detention facility for women and children in South Texas; in an unusual arrangement, CCA is guaranteed payment for being at capacity regardless of how full the facility actually is. (For a comparison of spending, however, know that Americans’ annual spending on other things — 2012 figures — includes: Perfume: $4.2 billion, Coffee: $11 billion, Romance Novels: $10 billion, Tattoos: $2.3 billion, Golf balls & Twinkies: Approximately $500 million each.)  An article at ProPublica explains:

Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it would phase out its use of private prisons. While significant, the move will not put an end to the booming immigrant detention industry…

Even though private prison companies play a central role in the government’s immigration strategy, the financial dealings between the two are often opaque. In his piece for the Washington Post, reporter Chico Harlan sheds light on one of these secretive arrangements, detailing a $1 billion deal between the Obama Administration and Corrections Corporation of America, also known as CCA, the largest private prison company in the country.

Under the deal, CCA was responsible for building and maintaining a large immigrant detention facility for women and children in South Texas; in an unusual arrangement, CCA is guaranteed payment for being at capacity regardless of how full the facility actually is….

The public debate around immigration contrasts with what is actually happening on the ground.

Harlan: I think immigration is an irresistible subject, even though I’m somewhat new to it. As you look into it, I don’t think there’s anything in America that is more discussed, that brings out more opinion, but where the gulf between what’s actually happening and what people believe is happening is different. Just the most glaring example is the fact that the number of undocumented people in this country is dropping and has been dropping for the last few years. This is after decades of increase. You would never think that based on the rhetoric. Read more here

The original article is found in the Washington Post.

…[Central American] asylum seekers, until two years ago, had rarely been held in detention. They instead settled in whatever town they chose, told to eventually appear in court. The Obama administration’s decision to transform that policy — pushed by lawmakers assailing the porous state of the nation’s border — shows how the frenzy of America’s immigration politics can also bolster a private sector that benefits from a get-tough stance.

Before Dilley, CCA’s revenue and profit had been flat for five years. The United States’ population of undocumented immigrants had begun to fall, reversing a decades-long trend, and the White House was looking to show greater leniency toward illegal immigrants already in the country. But under pressure to demonstrate that it still took border issues seriously, the administration took a tougher stance toward newly arriving Central Americans…

For the first years of the Obama administration, the United States maintained fewer than 100 beds for family detention. But by the end of 2014, the administration had plans for more than 3,000 beds, and immigration advocates said the ramp-up had broken with America’s tradition of welcoming those seeking a haven from violence…

…[Yet] CCA had pitched Washington on the idea that it could be an antidote to big government spending…

In forging [the] deal, CCA and ICE faced one major hurdle: the requirement for a public bidding process — one that threatened to significantly delay construction [for a new facility]. So CCA found a workaround…

Mark Fleming, an attorney at the National Immigrant Justice Center, who has reviewed hundreds of federal ICE contracts, said the deal was “singularly unique” and was designed to “avoid transparency”…

Several other experts on federal procurement said that while the government can avoid bidding laws in urgent or national security cases, they had never before seen a facility in one state created with the help of a recycled contract from another.

“This is the arrangement of a no-bid contract by twisting and distorting the procurement process past recognition,” said Charles Tiefer, a University of Baltimore law school professor, former solicitor and deputy general counsel of the House of Representatives…

Critics say ICE could have chosen much more cost-effective alternatives. Ankle monitors, which could track asylum seekers as they await court dates, for example, cost several dollars per day…

Border-crossing among asylum-seeking women and children has changed little from two years ago. Over the previous 12 months, according to government statistics, 66,000 “family units” — mostly women and children — have been apprehended at the border, compared with 61,000 in the same period two years earlier.

“What is the root problem? I don’t believe it’s a pull factor so much as a push,” said John Sandweg, a former acting ICE director who left in early 2014, months before the immigration surge. “I do not believe that family detention has been a deterrent”… Read more here

Posted in asylees, funding, ICE, Obama administration, right-wing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

International Rescue Committee investigated for corruption

Posted by Christopher Coen on May 11, 2016

Allegations include bid-rigging and bribery

corruption

The United States is investigating the International Rescue Committee (IRC), which is one of three international groups to have had millions of dollars in funding withdrawn over alleged bid-rigging and bribery. Allegations relate to the organizations systematically overpaying for goods in Turkey. A senior USAID official said private Turkish companies had sold cut-rate blankets and other basic materials at vastly inflated prices and pocketed the difference. An article in The Telegraph has the story:

The United States is investigating an international aid group headed by David Miliband over allegations of corruption in projects intended to help Syrian civilians and refugees.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is one of three international groups to have had millions of pounds in funding withdrawn over alleged bid-rigging and bribery…

USAID’s Office of the Inspector General confirmed on Friday that 14 entities and individuals had been suspended as part of a “complex investigation into cross-border aid programs”…

Allegations relate to the organisations systematically overpaying for goods in Turkey. A senior USAID official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said private Turkish companies had sold cut-rate blankets and other basic materials at vastly inflated prices and pocketed the difference…

“What became clear in the course of this investigation was this was a pretty sophisticated operation,” the USAID official said.

The IRC, which has an annual budget of [over $500 million], relies heavily on government funding from Britain and the United States…

Two IRC staff members were dismissed in January after it was found that they had accepted money from suppliers in return for awarding them contracts… Read more here

Posted in funding, IRC | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Obama Asked to Withdraw Legal Memo That Allows Faith-based Charities to Discriminate

Posted by Christopher Coen on May 11, 2016

Allows religious charities with federal contracts to discriminate in hiring for federally funded programs

takeaway

A group of prominent constitutional lawyers is calling on the Obama White House to revoke the 2007 Justice Department legal memo from the Bush White House that allows religious charities with federal contracts to discriminate in hiring for federally funded programs. They argue that religious groups have used the memo to refuse to provide services, including emergency contraception for human trafficking victims, that conflict with their beliefs. They give examples in which some religious groups have expanded the scope of the 2007 memo, using it as a legal justification to cherry-pick what provisions of a federal grant to fulfill. For example, when the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) won a 2005 grant from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide assistance to human trafficking victims, the bishops refused to provide contraception or abortion to the women. An article at ProPublica explains:

The Obama administration has roundly criticized states such as North Carolina and Mississippi for passing laws that allow discrimination in the name of religious freedom. But at the same time, the administration has left in place a 2007 memo from the Bush White House that allows religious charities with federal contracts to discriminate in hiring for federally funded programs.

Now, as Obama prepares to leave office, a group of prominent constitutional lawyers is calling on the Obama White House to revoke the legal memo, which they argue has been used by religious groups to refuse to provide services, including emergency contraception for human trafficking victims, that conflict with their beliefs. Their arguments are detailed in a legal analysis published this morning by Columbia Law School’s Public Rights/Private Conscience Project, which includes contributions of scholars from George Washington, Emory and Brigham Young universities, among others.

The 16-page paper is, in part, an effort to put pressure on Obama to rescind the memo, an action that does not require Congress to act. As a presidential candidate in 2008, Obama criticized the Bush Justice Department for drafting it, but as president failed to follow through…
At the very least, the authors of the Columbia analysis hope the administration formally clarifies that the memo only applies to religious hiring — and no more… Read more here

Posted in discrimination, faith-based, funding, health, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Lutheran Children and Family Services of Pennsylvania is shutting down

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 20, 2016

agency_closure

I reported in February about the problems at Lutheran Children and Family Services of Pennsylvania (LCFS) in Philadelphia. In April 2014 State Department monitors evaluated the resettlement agency as only “partially compliant” with resettlement contract requirements. The agency, an affiliate of LIRS, had no structured training program for employees. Many core services were not delivered within the required time frames. The agency kept one family in transitional housing for two months. A refugee family said the affiliate did not help them enroll in an English language program. Another family did not have adequate clothing storage or working smoke detectors. Monitors reviewed 16 case files which showed numerous deficiencies with required refugee services. Refugees were also receiving late initial health assessments. Now, LCFS has announced that it is shutting down its refugee program by June 30th, due to “financial problems with the refugee program.” Oddly, the most recent tax year documents available show that LCFS programs (all programs, including those for seniors) spent only $707,278 of the $1,168,068 brought in). A 2007 monitoring report for LCFS in Lancaster shows that refugees were also receiving late initial health screenings, and three of four families had dead batteries in smoke alarms. The Anchor Relative Agreement was also overly prescriptive and did not offer refugee anchor relatives a choice to decline if they were unable to assist their family members with some of the resettlement items or activities. Airport reception and employment referrals were not documented, and three of four refugee cases interviewed did not remember receiving information during their orientation on immigration status or the need to tell DHS/CIS if they moved. An article at Newsworks explains about the shutdown:

[Lutheran Children and Family Services of Pennsylvania] started as a children’s welfare organization in Philadelphia in 1922 and evolved into the largest refugee resettlement agency in the state.

On March 17, Luanne Fisher, the CEO of parent company Liberty Lutheran, sent an email to staff.

“To continue as responsible stewards of organizational resources, we must channel our strength where we can make the most impact,” she wrote. “We have decided that the best use of our expertise and resources is to continue to build upon the significant footprint we have made in senior services.”

Two days before that, the board had voted to end all programs offered by LCFS — except two aimed at seniors — by June 30.

Fisher cited financial problems with the refugee program as precipitating the shutdown. “There’s never been enough” in the way of funding from the federal government, she said.

In 2014, the most recent year tax documents are available, LCFS programs spent only $707,278 of the $1,168,068 it brought in… Read more here

Posted in community/cultural orientation, employment services, funding, furnishings, lack of, immigration assistance, Lancaster, late health screenings, LIRS, Lutheran Children and Family Service (Philadelphia), meeting refugees at the airport, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, R&P | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Relatively conservative state of Iowa seeks to help refugees integrate

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 5, 2016

Iowa

Iowa

The Iowa state legislature is looking to pass a bill to expand aid for helping refugees find jobs and learn English. The bill would create a program called RefugeeRISE (Rebuild, Integrate, Serve, Empower) that would be a partnership between AmeriCorps and Iowan refugee groups. The majority of refugees — 75 percent — find work within six months. Research shows that those who have access to services are more likely to become self-sufficient sooner. An article at Think Progress has the details:

Over the past five years, Iowa has resettled 10,000 refugees, mostly from Burma. Now the state legislature is looking to pass a bill that would provide the necessary funding to expand aid to resettled refugees in the state through a partnership between AmeriCorps and Iowan refugee groups.

The partnership is called RefugeeRISE (Rebuild, Integrate, Serve, Empower) and looks to provide refugees with the proper skills to resettle and thrive in their new surroundings. Many of the Burmese refugees in Iowa — a relatively conservative state — have integrated into the local workforce and helped stimulate the state’s economy after finding work at meatpacking and food processing plants…

“This is a huge population who are willing to work hard, raise families, build homes and set down roots in Iowa,” Amy Doyle, a supervisor for the program in Des Moines, told the Register. “Why would we not want to give them the assistance they need?”

The Register reported that, “[t]he vast majority [of refugees] — 75 percent — find work within six months. Research shows that those who have access to services are more likely to become self-sufficient sooner”… Read more here

Posted in Burma/Myanmar, employment/jobs for refugees, funding, Iowa, legislation, meatpacking industry | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Missouri bills would prevent refugees from learning English

Posted by Christopher Coen on March 7, 2016

no englishMissouri state Republican legislators including Rep. Mike Moon have filed three bills that take aim at refugee resettlement in Missouri. The first would cut all funding to teach English to immigrants and refugees (ironic since the Republican base never misses a chance to criticize refugees for struggling with English). The second bill would block any state or local funding from being used to help resettle refugees (is that singling out these people based on nationality? That is unconstitutional). The third bill would make resettlement agencies that aid refugees in Missouri liable for any damages resulting from crimes committed by those refugees (similar to the South Carolina bill, it would be like holding good Samaritan responsible for what a person they helped did years later). Rep. Moon has also called for stopping “the potential Islamization of Missouri”, without explaining exactly how that could occur (does he think Islam is so highly desirable to Missourians that a few Syrian refugees would help to spearhead a sudden mass conversion?) An article in The Kansas City Star has the story:

JEFFERSON CITY When Gov. Jay Nixon last year refused to take steps to block Syrian refugees from being resettled in Missouri, Rep. Mike Moon called for a special legislative session “to tie the governor’s hands” and stop “the potential Islamization of Missouri.”

But his special session never came to fruition.

This past week the Ash Grove Republican took up the cause again, filing three bills that take aim at refugee resettlement in Missouri.

The first would eliminate funding for public school districts, community-based organizations and nonprofit agencies to teach English to immigrants and refugees.

The second would block any state or local funding from being used to help resettle refugees.

The third would make resettlement agencies that assist refugees in Missouri liable for any damages resulting from crimes committed by those refugees… Read more here

Posted in discrimination, funding, language, Missouri, Muslim, right-wing, Syrian, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Kansas state Republicans propose $700k expansion of state government

Posted by Christopher Coen on March 5, 2016

cashThe Kansas legislature now has a Republican bill before it that would allow a one-year moratorium on refugee resettlement (this is a federal power and cannot be dictated by states). At a cost of $700,000 it would also create a new state office for refugees and authorize Republican Gov. Sam Brownback to appoint a refugee coordinator for the state. This follows two previous unenforceable executive orders from Brownback that banned the state of Kansas from assisting in refugee resettlement — which again is only a federal power, and would be illegal discrimination based on people’s national origin. An article at Opposing Views explains:

A new Kansas bill that places a moratorium on refugee resettlements puts on full display the stunning cynicism and cognitive dissonance of many legislators claiming to be for “small government.”

On March 3, a Kansas House Committee voted 12-10 to approve a bill that allows a one-year moratorium on refugee resettlements, creates a new state office for refugees and authorizes Republican Gov. Sam Brownback to appoint a refugee coordinator for the state, The Kansas City Star reports.

…[this] follows two previous executive orders from Brownback that banned the state of Kansas from assisting in refugee resettlement…

Opponents have assailed the bill for being both un-Christian and unrealistically expensive, given Kansas’ current budget woes.  And they are completely correct; the legislation expands the power and scope of the state government on the backs of Kansas’ taxpayers… Read more here

Posted in discrimination, funding, Kansas, legislation, right-wing | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Resettlement agencies do not respond to repeated requests for comment

Posted by Christopher Coen on March 3, 2016

Closed-door

Audits, financial filings and internal government reports show that a significant number of government-funded charities contracted to help refugees are misspending money.  Promised services are delayed or never delivered.  Little-examined audits show that one out of five charities has financial red flags, including questionable spending and significant operational problems.  The Government Accounting Office also found more than a year ago that the State Department did a poor job tracking spending – including grants given to nonprofits for resettling refugees – and reported that problems have not yet been fixed.  Independent auditors found the Department could have spent its funding better agency wide – including $209 million in “questioned costs”[Lawrence Bartlett], the director of the State Department’s Office of Refugee Admissions, when asked for comment about these issues, said he does not see any major problems with the U.S. resettlement programAn article at NYCity News Services has all the details (I was also quoted in the article):

The federal government oversees a complex program to help refugees come to this country. But the effort does not always live up to all its promises, potentially making the path more difficult for refugees striving to adapt to their new homeland.

Audits, financial filings and internal government reports indicate that a significant number of government-funded charities contracted to help the newcomers are misspending money, an NYCity News Service examination of hundreds of documents found. Promised services are delayed or never delivered, medical care is often postponed beyond guidelines and program oversight can lag, the documents show…

…little-examined audits reveal that one out of five charities has financial red flags, including questionable spending and significant operational problems…

Auditors uncovered financial problems at the State Department as well as the nonprofits that receive federal dollars for working with refugees.

The Government Accounting Office, for instance, found more than a year ago that the State Department did a poor job tracking spending – including grants given to nonprofits for resettling refugees – and reported that problems have not yet been fixed.

Government grants were deemed “at risk” – meaning the GAO found signs of financial mismanagement, poor performance and insufficient monitoring. Even when the State Department’s grant officials spotted troubled nonprofits, they did little to ensure money was spent properly, according to the GAO, which found the “State [Department] cannot be certain that its oversight is adequate.” The State Department says it has improved its oversight of refugee grants, according to the GAO.

The State Department’s own inspector general found in 2013 that the agency did a poor job closing out its grants – including those tied to its refugee operations – leaving more than $21 million unused.

Still, in its most recent audit, independent auditors found the Department could have spent its funding better agency wide – including $209 million in “questioned costs”…

[Catholic Charities in San Antonio, Texas] …declined a request for comment….

[Catholic Charities of Rockford, Ill.] …did not respond to repeated requests for comment…

USCCB could not be reached for comment by time of publication… Read more here

Posted in Catholic, Catholic Charities Archdiocese of San Antonio Inc., Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Rockford, funding, Government Accountibility Office (GAO), housing, substandard, late health screenings, local officials, failure to notify, neglect, rats and roaches, State Department | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »