Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Archive for the ‘funding’ Category

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Rescue Committee (IRC), which is one of three international groups to have had millions of dollars in funding withdrawn over alleged bid-rigging and bribery.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International Rescue Committee (IRC) is one of three international groups to have had millions of pounds in funding withdrawn over alleged bid-rigging and bribery…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

Reviving Reagan administration’s “Private Sector Initiative”

Posted by Christopher Coen on March 1, 2016

private-fundingAt this time of record-breaking numbers of refugees around the world some are advocating creating a privately funded refugee resettlement account that would save lives without requiring new congressional appropriations. The government would open an account into which people and charities could channel donations. Once a certain donation threshold is met, new refugee slots would open up automatically. This would be similar to the Reagan administration’s “Private Sector Initiative” that empowered ethnic charities to collect contributions, and resettled nearly 16,000 refugees in addition to the government-sponsored cap. This type of program has also been used in Canada where over 225,000 refugees have been privately resettled since 1979. An article in The Hill explains:

Secretary of State John Kerry recently announced that the U.S. will work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to create new refugee processing centers in Central America. The plan will bring much needed safety and stability to refugees fleeing countries with some of the highest murder rates in the world. But more can be done.

The Obama administration can further alleviate humanitarian crisis by launching a privately-funded refugee resettlement program, empowering U.S. philanthropists to cover the costs of refugees in their first year. This public-private partnership would save lives without requiring new congressional appropriations…

Private sponsorship works. The Reagan administration’s “Private Sector Initiative” empowered ethnic charities to collect contributions that would go towards increasing the overall number of refugees admitted. Five organizations were involved and resettled nearly 16,000 refugees in addition to the government-sponsored cap… Read more here

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

ORR reverses course and takes contract away from USCRI

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 28, 2016

reverse2

The Office of Refugee Resettlement has reversed its decision to award a contract to provide legal services for unaccompanied Central American minors to USCRI’s.  It has now awarded the contact to VERA — the organization that for more than a decade had subcontracted with Americans for Immigrant Justice to provide legal services to unaccompanied minors in South Florida shelters.  An article in The Miami Herald explains:

A contract dispute that had threatened to disrupt efforts in Miami to provide legal services to unaccompanied Central American children has been resolved.

The federal government contract was awarded to an organization that will subcontract the work to two veteran nonprofit groups: Americans for Immigrant Justice and Catholic Legal Services (CLS).

This means the work of the two groups will continue as before, and there will be no change.

Previously, the contract was temporarily awarded to [the USCRI] that intended to subcontract it to a group that had no prior experience in delivering legal services to migrant minors [the USCRI affiliate Youth Co-op, Inc]…

In September, the Office of Refugee Resettlement awarded the contract to USCRI — a decision that stunned people who monitor unaccompanied children cases because the organization that USCRI picked to assist the children was a group that had no immigration attorneys on its staff.

In October, Vera filed a bid protest of the September decision, and HHS subsequently released a new bid request.

That bid went to Vera, instead of USCRI… Read more here

Posted in children, funding, Guatemalan, Honduran, immigration services, Miami, ORR, Salvadoran, teenagers, Uncategorized, USCRI | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Attempt to help hundred’s of unaccompanied minors avert deportation threatened

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 11, 2016

scam-beware

A dispute over an Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) contract for legal representation for 800 Central American unaccompanied minors seeking US asylum could mean the children will end up on deportation flights if the issue is not resolved. Unaccompanied minors who appear before a judge without an attorney are more likely to be ordered deported than those who have a lawyer. Two respected nonprofits, Americans for Immigrant Justice and Catholic Legal Services, that have provided legal services for thousands of Central American unaccompanied children for years recently had their ORR grant cut off. Together these two groups had 20 attorneys and eight paralegals working to help the children. In September, ORR awarded the contract to national resettlement agency USCRI and its Miami affiliate Youth Co-Op, Inc. The decision shocked people because Youth Co-Op had no immigration attorneys on its staff and has never provided legal services to immigrant children. The president and chief executive officer of USCRI, Lavinia Limón, once served as ORR director and USCRI’s senior vice president for global engagement, Eskinder Negash, is an immediate past director of ORR. After complaints about the contract reward ORR released a new request, with proposals due Dec. 23. A decision on a new contract is expected sometime this month. An article in The Miami Herald covers the story:

A contract dispute is threatening to disrupt efforts in Miami to provide legal representation to unaccompanied Central American children seeking U.S. asylum.

If not resolved, hundreds of children in immigration court proceedings could be forced to board deportation flights to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

The situation has sparked alarm among immigrant rights advocates, non-profit groups that assist the children and religious leaders including Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski… Read more here

Posted in children, court, funding, Guatemalan, Honduran, immigration services, Miami, Salvadoran, teens, USCRI, Youth Co-op, Inc. | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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