Friends of Refugees

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Archive for the ‘Christian’ Category

Tennessee Governor No Longer Opposes Resettlement In State

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 15, 2016

changeofmind

Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee said today that he’s had a change of heart and no longer opposes resettling Syrian refugees or any other refugees in the state.  Haslam was one of the thirty republican and one democrat governors who announced opposition to resettlement of Syrian refugees last November after the Paris terrorist attacks, which were not known to have been committed by refugees or Syrians.  Tennessee’s state attorney issued an opinion saying the state had no authority to ban Syrian refugees, and the Tennessee Department of Homeland Security announced that the background check process for refugees is extremely rigorous.  Haslam also did not oppose a piece of Tennessee state legislation requiring the state attorney to sue the federal government, though the proposed lawsuit had no legal basis.  The state attorney general then declined to sue the federal government, pointing out that the issue had been dismissed in federal court and that the supposed basis for the lawsuit (“coerced spending issue”; the notion that the federal government was “confiscating state resources” by “coercing” Tennessee to accept refugees) was an untested legal theory and unlikely to succeed. Gov. Slater says that he now knows that the federal government security vets refugees before their entry into the country and that he confident in the process. An article from USA TODAY NETWORK in The Tennessean has the story:

WASHINGTON — With the Obama administration poised to welcome thousands more Syrian refugees into the country, Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday he’s had a change of heart and no longer opposes resettling them in Tennessee.

Haslam told the USA TODAY NETWORK he no longer objects to Syrian refugees or others making a new home in Tennessee after fleeing a war zone.

…the governor said he met recently with State Department officials and Catholic Charities and is convinced “they’re doing a good job” vetting refugees coming to Tennessee…

His shift in perspective comes just four months after he agreed to let the state sue the federal government over refugee settlement, and just one day after the Obama administration announced it plans to sharply increase the number of refugees accepted by the United States to 110,000 in fiscal 2017…

Resettlement has proved controversial in many states, including Tennessee, where the legislature voted earlier this year to instruct Attorney General Herbert Slatery to sue the federal government for noncompliance with the Refugee Act of 1980…

Haslam allowed the resolution calling for the lawsuit to take effect without his signature. Slatery, however, declined to file the suit, saying the state was unlikely to succeed… Read more here

Posted in Catholic, Catholic Charities, Catholic Charities of Tennessee, ceiling limit, refugee annual, security/terrorism, Syrian, Tennessee | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Where would Christianity be if Jesus had refused to participate “out of safety concerns”?

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 4, 2016

burningthebook

That is the question posed by pastor at Highlands Presbyterian Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  After a group of people in Gillette set fire to a Quran to publicize their goal to “ban Islam from Wyoming”, most of the more liberally minded churches in town did not respond to a concerned Gillette resident who organized a counter protest. Only three responded. They refused to take part “out of safety concerns.”  Though the counter protestors eventually outnumbered the holy book desecraters, a silence came from the governor, the state’s congressional delegation, members of the state Legislature and other elected officials.  An article at the Wyoming Tribune Eagle has the story:

…the website “Stop Islam in Gillette,” [boasts] 391 members. Their goal, though inelegantly expressed, is to “stop the islam invasion sponsored by mat meade and barrack obama. remove the mosque and islam school from gillette”…

Gillette members of something called “Americans For A Secure Wyoming” took it another step backward last weekend. They set fire to a Quran to publicize their goal to “ban Islam from Wyoming”…

…[others however] participated in a counter protest. Those who lit the fires of hate to burn the Islamic holy book were outnumbered more than 40 to 10 that day in Gillette. People of integrity from throughout Wyoming traveled to Gillette and held signs saying, “No room for hate” and “Don’t hate what you don’t understand.”

Even so, the silence coming from the governor, our congressional delegation, members of the Legislature and other elected officials, with a single exception, is as deafening as it is troubling. Gillette Mayor Louise Carter-King was alone in her courage to speak against the haters.

The politicians weren’t the ones whose tongues were tied.

A concerned Gillette resident sought help from the “more liberally minded” churches in the northeast Wyoming town. Only three responded. They refused to participate “out of safety concerns.” Where would Christianity be if Jesus had refused to participate “out of safety concerns”?…

People seeking attention for their bigotry by desecrating the holy book of another faith should be met with loud, uniform public rejection.

Sadly, many Wyoming political, business, academic and faith leaders meet the bigotry with a wink and a nod… Read more here

 

Posted in Christian, churches, Muslim, Wyoming, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Most refugees resettled in US in last decade are Christian

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 16, 2016

refugee-count-by-religionAccording to State Department Refugee Processing Center data about 46.5 percent of all refugees resettled into the United States from Jan. 1, 2006, until Dec. 31, 2015, are Christians.  While over 291,285 Christians were resettled, only 192,606 Muslims, 52,423 Hindus, 43,044 Buddhists, and small numbers of other religious groups were resettled during that same time span. In the case of Iraqis, 35 percent of the Iraqi refugees resettled in the US since 2007 have been Christians, a far larger percentage than their population in Iraq. In the case of Syria, however, although Christians represented about 10 percent of the Syrian population before the start of the conflict in 2011, Christians form less than 1 percent of the Syrian refugees being resettled in the United States.  There are several reasons for this, including that refugees currently being resettled are those who have been in line since the start of the war, when Sunni Muslims were the main casualties. Secondly, many Syrian Christian refugees have fled to Lebanon where the US did not have any refugee processing until recently, due to security concerns.  Right wing media outlets, nevertheless, are twisting the facts to make it appear that the US is favoring Muslim refugees. An article in the Christian Post explains the details:

The United States government has resettled more Christian refugees in the last decade than refugees of other religions, even though the nation continues to resettle fewer Syrian Christians than Syrian Muslims.

Much has been made about the low numbers of Syrian Christian refugees that have been resettled into the United States since the beginning of fiscal year 2016…

Although only a minuscule number of Syrian Christian refugees have been resettled in the U.S. over the last year, [Matthew Soerens, the U.S. director of church mobilization for the evangelical refugee resettlement organization World Relief] told CP that there are some “understandable reasons” why Syrian Christians have not yet been resettled into the United States.

…Soerens [said] that most Syrian refugees who have come into the U.S. this year actually fled from their homes years ago when the Syrian civil war began.

“When the war began, it was the Assad government primarily targeting Sunni Muslims. The Assad government hasn’t targeted Christians in particular,” Soerens explained. “They have certainly killed a lot of Christians indiscriminately but in some ways the Assad government has sheltered Christians, which doesn’t mean it is a good government by any means.”

“What we are seeing with ISIS now, that didn’t exist in 2011,” he continued. “I would expect to see the number of Christians increase over time. But they are in this pipeline of vetting”…

Another reason for the disproportionate number of Syrian Christian refugees in the United States is many Syrian Christians have fled to Lebanon instead of Turkey or Jordan.

“For quite a long time, the U.S. government wasn’t resettling out of Lebanon for security reasons. That has actually resumed relatively recently. We have seen the number of Syrian refugees pick up in the last few months,” Soerens stated. “A lot of Christians go to Lebanon because it has a larger Christian minority than Turkey or Jordan. But likely for a long time, they weren’t likely to be processed for resettlement”…

…over the last decade, the State Department has resettled far more Christians than people of other religious groups.

According to State Department Refugee Processing Center data that was compiled by World Relief, about 46.5 percent of all refugees resettled into the United States from Jan. 1, 2006, until Dec. 31, 2015, are Christians.

While over 291,285 Christians were resettled into the United States during that time, only 192,606 Muslims, 52,423 Hindus, 43,044 Buddhists, and small numbers of other religious groups were resettled into the United States during that same time span… Read more here

Posted in Christian, Iraqi, Syrian, World Relief | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 18, 2016

theft

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 »

Southern Baptists vote to support refugee resettlement

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 16, 2016

vote-yes

The Southern Baptist Convention have voted to approve a resolution encouraging member churches and families to welcome refugees coming to the United States. An article at Christian Post has the vote results:

Amid calls to restrict Muslim immigration, the Southern Baptist Convention approved a resolution encouraging member churches and families to welcome refugees coming to the United States.

Messengers at the SBC’s annual meeting in St. Louis, Missouri approved Resolution 12, titled “On Refugee Ministry,” as part of a block vote taken Wednesday on the five remaining resolutions from Tuesday.

“That we affirm that refugees are people loved by God, made in His image, and that Christian love should be extended to them as special objects of God’s mercy in a world that has displaced them from their homelands,” reads Resolution 12.

“That we encourage Southern Baptist churches and families to welcome and adopt refugees into their churches and homes as a means to demonstrate to the nations that our God longs for every tribe, tongue, and nation to be welcomed at His Throne …” Read more here

Posted in Baptist, faith-based, Muslim | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Republicans at odds with evangelicals in South Carolina

Posted by Christopher Coen on March 31, 2016

Bill3

Evangelicals in South Carolina are decrying a bill passed in the state senate that would require refugees to be registered with the state police (simply for being refugees) and would hold accountable anyone who helped a refugee if that refugee committed “harmful actions” at anytime in the future (there is no proof nor has any been offered that refugees are any more likely than non-refugees to commit crimes). Conservatives are attempting to stigmatize refugees – people who have already suffered unimaginable horrors. Dropped from this craven piece of legislation was a requirement that the state withhold public benefits from needy refugees. Apparently they noticed that unconstitutional discrimination has already failed in the Indiana anti-refugee court case. An article at the Biblical Reporter has the details:

Evangelical advocates for religious liberty and refugee resettlement are dismayed by proposed legislation in South Carolina that could penalize churches that aid exiles from other countries.

The South Carolina Senate passed legislation March 23 to require a sponsoring organization to register a refugee with the state’s Department of Social Services within 30 days after he or she enters the state. In addition, the sponsor would be “strictly liable” in civil court if the refugee commits an act of terrorism or another violent crime…

Jenny Yang, World Relief’s vice president of advocacy and policy, expressed a similar sentiment. The legislation “creates a climate of fear” for people who help refugees, she said. World Relief is the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals.

“The language is so broad it could mean someone who teaches a refugee English or picks up a refugee for [a] church service acts as a ‘refugee sponsor’ who is then liable for any harmful actions that refugee commits later on,” Yang said in a March 29 email interview. “It’s punishing the Good Samaritan for acting out of good faith to help a neighbor in need for a harmful action that neighbor commits that is completely outside their control”…

While the bill would affect all refugee sponsors, the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and others expressed special concern for its potential impact on churches and religious adherents.

ERLC President Russell Moore called the bill “deeply misguided,” particularly in its threat of civil liability for those who serve refugees.

…at least two-thirds of the South Carolina churches that partner with World Relief are Southern Baptist congregations, said Jason Lee, state director of the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals…

All of the refugee-sponsoring organizations that have worked with World Relief in South Carolina are either churches or Christian groups. Last year, 84 percent of the refugees who were settled in South Carolina through World Relief identified as Christians…

World Relief hopes the House “will look to guard the religious liberty of our churches and try to help continue South Carolina being a welcoming place,” he said…

“Putting refugee info in a database to be potentially tracked, for no other reason than one’s having arrived legally through the U.S. refugee program, stigmatizes refugees and runs counter to our most basic humanitarian commitments and priorities to treat war victims, who want nothing more than to start a new life in safe and welcoming communities, as criminals,” she said… Read more here

Posted in Baptist, evangelical, legislation, Lutheran Family Services of the Carolinas, right-wing, South Carolina, World Relief, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Refugees in slumlord housing in Syracuse

Posted by Christopher Coen on March 27, 2016

slumlord

This is an odd story not because it involves refugees in slumlord housing, which is not unusual, but because a journalist tries instead to play it up as a “taxpayers” issue. It’s not that landlords are under-regulated (“regulation” being a word that he right-wing hates) and can get away with murder; it’s that “taxpayers” are paying you see (maybe section-8, although the article doesn’t give any details). A class-action lawsuit filed in February in Syracuse for more than 40 Somali refugees living at a north-side apartment complex due to a multitude of housing violations. There is no indication if Catholic Charities refugee resettlement agency placed the refugees in the housing or if the refugees moved there on their own. Living conditions include: a hole in a staircase, cockroaches scurrying across kitchens and bathrooms, leaky tubs, broken windows, bed bugs, boarded up, vacant apartments, and trespassers that hang out in the common area doing drugs, leaving behind drug paraphernalia on the ground. Refugees describe helplessness at getting problems fixed. The property management company that handles the apartment building is owned by a well-connected Syracuse man, John St. Denis, who is a donor to Catholic Charities. St. Denis made headlines last year for running a collection agency so bad he’s barred by the state attorney general from ever opening another debt collection business. The apartment complex isn’t St. Denis’ only problem property. There are a reported 21 cases of alleged substandard living conditions at St. Denis’s other properties, ranging from rats to sewage backups. Although obviously refugees are better here in horrible housing than being killed back where they came from, its inexcusable that resettlement agencies don’t monitor these problems and deal with them before they get out of control. (Syracuse is also where refugees have been frequent targets of street crime for six years now.) An article at Syracuse.com has the story:

Syracuse, NY — There’s no heat or water in the dead of winter. Urine and feces dirty the hallways. Children go to school scarred by bedbug bites. Drug dealers take refuge inside busted doors.

This is what America looks like for dozens of refugees, who fled war and persecution to find a North Side [Syracuse] apartment complex that is no refuge.

…[the] owners…haven’t consistently paid water bills, maintained the property or provided adequate security… Read more here

Posted in Catholic, Catholic Charities Diocese of Syracuse, housing, housing, substandard, Slumlords, Somali, Syracuse | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Church support increases significantly despite anti-Syrian fear rhetoric

Posted by Christopher Coen on March 10, 2016

churchDespite the nearly non-stop anti-refugee rhetoric that conservatives have spread around to play on people’s fears, churches have stepped up to help refugees in increasing numbers since the Syrian refugee crisis began last fall.  Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston is one of the agencies experiencing the increase giving.  An article in Baptist News has the story:

For some Americans, domestic and overseas terror attacks, plus a good dose of anti-Syrian political rhetoric, have made refugee resettlement something to be feared.

And a lot of the Americans who hold that view are churchgoers – including a lot of Baptists – LifeWay Research found in a new study…

“Pastors believe Scripture tells Christians to care for refugees and foreigners,” said Ed Stetzer, LifeWay’s executive director. “Yet many admit their church is not involved in such ministry”,,,

More than half of Baptist pastors surveyed said there is “a sense of fear” in their congregations about refugees resettling in the U.S., LifeWay found.

But the survey doesn’t square with the reality of some directly involved in refugee resettlement.

“My experience is completely the opposite,” said Ali Al Sudani, director of refugee services for Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston…

In fact, church support “increased significantly” after the Syrian refugee crisis began last fall and has stayed strong despite growing anti-Syrian rhetoric from American governors, presidential candidates and other politicians, he said… Read more here

Posted in Baptist, churches, faith-based, Houston, Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston, Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston, right-wing, security/terrorism, Syrian, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | 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 »

Lutheran Children & Family Service of Eastern Pennsylvania in the spotlight

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 25, 2016

report1State Department monitors visited Lutheran Children & Family Service of Eastern Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in April 2014. They 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 and the staff was unfamiliar with the updated requirements of the Cooperative Agreement. Many core services were not delivered within the required time frames. Monitors visited three refugee families and an SIV (Special Immigrant Visa) family. The agency had kept one family in transitional housing for two months. One family said the affiliate did not help them to enroll in an English language program. One family did not have adequate clothing storage or working smoking detectors. One family said they did not have or use a car seat for their infant child. This family also reported many problems with core service delivery which were documented differently in the case files or reported differently by the case manager. Monitors reviewed 16 case files which showed numerous deficiencies with required refugee services. The following are excerpts from the monitoring report (also see 2007 monitoring report):

“…the affiliate does not have a structured training plan. Many core services were not delivered within required time frames.

Monitors visited there refugee families and one SIV family who had all arrived in December, 2013 or January, 2014… One family was placed in transitional housing for two months… One family reported that it was not provided assistance with access to an English language program. One home did not have adequate clothing storage or working smoke detectors… One family reported that thy did not have or use a car seat for their infant child. The same family reported many issues related to core service delivery, which were documented differently in case files or reported differently by the case manager.

Monitors reviewed 16 case files…There was no documentation of refugee understanding of orientation topics… ..in many case files [the initial home visit as well as housing and personal safety orientation] did not occur the next calendar day after arrival as required. Seven files did not document the start date of public benefits and few files contained documentation of approval of benefits. In six files, assistance to access to employment services was beyond ten days after arrival and did not include a record of assistance. In five files case notes did not clearly document delivery of all core services. All four cases with school-aged children showed that school enrollment was delayed beyond thirty days after arrival. One child who arrive ten weeks prior to the monitor’s visit was still not enrolled in school. Four files did not contain service plans. Of the five files pertaining to males between the ages of 18 and 26, two did not document Selective Service enrollment. One 33-year-old male was registered for Selective Service, although he was ineligible due to his age… Two files did not document assistance with enrollment in English language programs. Two files failed to document acknowledgment by the refugee of receipt of all [State Department]…grant funds…” Read more here

Posted in children, community/cultural orientation, Congolese, Cooperative Agreement, employment services, employment/jobs for refugees, ESL & ELL, failure to enroll refugee children in school, furnishings, lack of, Iraqi, Lutheran, Lutheran Children and Family Service of Eastern PA, Nepali Bhutanese, Philadelphia, R&P, safety, SIV (Special Immigrant Visa) immigrants, State Department | Leave a Comment »