Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Archive for the ‘Iraqi’ Category

Catholic Charities San Bernardino out of compliance

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 8, 2016

graphic - refugee security clearance

A 2014 inspection report for Catholic Charities San Bernardino reveals that the resettlement agency violated many requirements of their State Department resettlement contracts. The State Department rated the agency as only “partially compliant” with requirements. Staff had poor understanding of the Cooperative Agreement, refugees had not received vaccinations or health screenings, and none of the refugees was employed. The affiliate did not help refugees enroll in English Language programs nor employment services, nor register with Selective Service. Read more below:

Monitors found Catholic Charities San Bernardino (CCSB) partially compliant with Reception and Placement Program (R&P) requirements…

Monitors interviewed the resettlement director and the part-time case manager. Although the resettlement director has supervised R&P activities for ten years, she had only a basic understanding of Cooperative Agreement requirements and reported limited oversight of R&P activities. The case manager, who has worked with the affiliate for six months, was not familiar with the Cooperative Agreement, and has limited understanding of R&P requirements…

Monitors visited four refugee families who arrived between August and November 2013…

Three out of four families had not received vaccinations or completed their health screenings. No members of the families visited were employed, and all families reported they were not receiving assistance with an employment search from the county Department of Social Services. Monitors visited two families with children under the age of five years of age and one was not receiving WIC benefits. Refugees visited who did not speak English told monitors that affiliate staff did not assist them to enroll in English language programs.

Monitors reviewed 20 case files…

None of the four case files pertaining to males between the ages of 18 and 26 documented registration with Selective Service within 30 days of arrival. None of the files reviewed documented assistance with enrollment in English language programs or employment services… Read more here

Posted in Afghan, Catholic Charities San Bernardino, Cooperative Agreement, employment services, employment/jobs for refugees, health, Iraqi, late health screenings, men, San Bernardino, USCCB | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Catholic Charities of Orange County broke almost every rule in the book

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 6, 2016

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Perusing a batch of US Department of State inspection reports recently received through a FOIA request it appears that Catholic Charities of Orange County (CCOC) violated most of the requirements of their refugee resettlement contract. The State Department rated the agency [in 2014] as “mostly non-compliant” with requirements. CCOC left refugees with urgent medical issues on their own to find expedited medical care.  Children were not enrolled in school.  A refugee family was in an apartment that was unsafe and unsanitary. CCOC had refugees sign blank service plans; apparently to be filled in later. Staff did not understand the basics of the refugee grant requirements, and expected refugees’ ties [friends or family members that refugees have been resettled to live near] to provide basic services. A case manager did not even know of the existence of the Cooperative Agreement. CCOC did not have any volunteers to help assist refugees. Read below excepts from the report:

Monitors found Catholic Charities of Orange County (CCOC) mostly non-compliant with Reception and Placement Program (R&P) requirements…

The affiliate does not use any volunteers…

…monitors visited one family whose children were not yet enrolled in school after over two months; another family who did not receive any assistance from the affiliate to make expedited medical appointments despite a child with epilepsy and a parent with heart disease (they complained to monitors that the affiliate showed little concern for their well-being); and a third family who described the apartment the affiliate secured for them as unsafe and unsanitary. Refugees visited did not recall receiving any [cultural] orientation and staff did not demonstrate a basic understanding of Cooperative Agreement requirements, and implied basic needs support and core service delivery was the responsibility of the US tie…

One refugee family [mentioned above] told monitors that they felt unsafe in the apartment the affiliate found for them after their US tie could no longer provide any assistance. They said homeless people often loitered on the front steps and neighbors often acted loud and drunk; consequently the father did not feel safe leaving his wife and young children alone during the day to look for work. The apartment had a clogged drain in the kitchen sink, a flickering overhead fluorescent light, and a purported insect infestation; all had been reported to the landlord [apparently to no effect]. The couple and their baby and toddler shared one small bedroom that scarcely fit a full size bed and a crib…the family have arrived close to three months before the monitors’ visit and was not enrolled in the Women’s, Infants, and Children (WIC) program…

Monitors reviewed 20 case files…case files did not contain evidence beyond a referral that the affiliate assisted refugees with enrollment in English language programs or employment services within ten working days of arrival. Eight files indicated that health assessments occurred beyond the required 30 days, and two files did not contain any evidence of a health screening…

Complete service plans were found in all but two files, which contained blank plans signed by the refugee… Read more here

Posted in beds, California, Catholic, Catholic Charities of Orange County, children, community/cultural orientation, Cooperative Agreement, dangerous neighborhoods, failure to enroll refugee children in school, furnishings, lack of, health, home visits, housing, housing, overcrowding, housing, substandard, Iranian, Iraqi, language interpretation/translation, lack of, late health screenings, medical care, rats and roaches, safety, Slumlords, volunteers | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Senate rejects House bill scapegoating refugees

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 21, 2016

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Yesterday the US Senate rejected the flimsy House-passed bill that would have gummed up the system for desperate Syrian and Iraqi refugees — the so-called “Pause” in the resettlement program. An article in The Hill explains:

Senate Democrats on Wednesday blocked legislation from the House that would crack down on the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the United States.

The 55-43 vote came after Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) sought approval of a handful of amendments, including one on Donald Trump’s push to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the country.

Republicans ripped the attempt to link the bill to the GOP presidential candidate. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) called the effort “ridiculous” and said Democrats were trivializing the refugee issue “by bringing the circus to town on the floor of the Senate”… Read more here

Posted in Congress, Iraqi, Syrian | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Federal terrorism charges lodged against two Iraqi refugees in Texas and California

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 11, 2016

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Federal authorities have lodged terrorism charges against two Iraqi Palestinian men who came to the US as refugees, who were seeking to aid groups fighting the Syrian regime. There is no sign, however, that the men planned to commit acts of terrorism while in the US. Though conservatives will play up the case to the furthest extent possible, this type of case is extremely rare, and shows that US intelligence is fully capable of detecting any threats without abandoning hundreds of thousands of desperate refugees. In other words, terrorism has not won so far in its effort to drive a wedge between the US and Muslims. An article in USA Today has the story:

Federal terrorism charges lodged against two Iraqi refugees living in Texas and California added new fodder to a national debate over U.S. plans to accept thousands of refugees fleeing war-torn Syria and the violent Islamic State, which has sought to take its fight to Europe and much of the west…

U.S. officials granted [Omar Faraj Al Hardan, 24, in Houston] legal permanent residence status in 2011, two years after he entered the country as an Iraqi refugee…

[Aws Mohammed Younis al-Jayab, in Sacramento] came to the U.S. as an Iraqi refugee in October 2012. He was charged with lying to federal authorities about his travel to fight with various terror groups. There is no indication, however, that Al-Jayab planned to commit acts of terrorism while in the U.S.

According to court documents, he communicated with nearly a dozen others, both in Syria and elsewhere, about his intention to fight for terrorist organizations in the region against the Syrian regime…

Shireen Jasser, president of the Syrian American Council of Houston, said recent Arab refugees in the Houston area fear a backlash – from authorities and citizens – related to Al Hardan’s arrest.

“There’s so much hate already directed at Syrian refugees, so much xenophobia,” she said, referring to Abbott’s efforts last year to block Syrian refugees from entering Texas. “They’re worried about how [the arrest] will affect their future. They’re scared for their physical safety”… Read more here

Posted in California, Houston, Iraqi, Palestinian, Sacramento, security/terrorism, Syrian, Texas | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Pa. faith leaders ask politicians to oppose restrictions

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 8, 2015

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Faith leaders in Pennsylvania are asking the state’s politicians not to support discriminatory proposals, such as the bill to block refugees from Iraq and Syria that passed the US House of Representatives last month with the support of all 12 Pennsylvania Republicans in Congress. On the other hand, Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey (D) released a statement in support of the existing rigorous security screening process. One faith leaders points out that there are easier ways for terrorists to enter the country. An article at Newsworks explains:

In an effort to re-frame a political debate that pits welcoming refugees against security concerns, a coalition of faith advocates have called on Pennsylvania’s legislators not to support what they call “discriminatory” proposals…

Sister Dominica Lo Bianco from Our Lady of Angels Convent in Aston, Delaware County said restricting refugees in the name of security doesn’t make sense because there are other, easier ways for a terrorist to cross the U.S. Border… Read more here

Posted in CWS, Iraqi, legislation, Pennsylvania, religion, security/terrorism, Syrian | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Republicans just figured out they can’t defund USCIS

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 2, 2015

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The bill that passed in the House last week in an attempt to stymie resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees (many of the Iraqis who were friends to the US military) will be difficult to impossible to pass in the Senate. Undeterred, some conservatives want to use the upcoming omnibus spending bill to block funding for large parts of a refugee resettlement program, once again using the threat of a government shutdown. Key Republican leaders, however, are pushing back, calling the effort impractical because because U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that oversees the refugee program, is funded through fees and is not covered by the appropriations legislation. An article in the Washington Post has the details:

Key Republicans are pushing back against a proposal from conservatives to use the upcoming omnibus spending bill to block funding for large parts of a refugee resettlement program, calling it impractical…

[Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee], who is part of a group of committee chairmen crafting the party’s response to the attacks, said that approach will not work because U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that oversees the refugee program, is funded through fees and is not covered by the appropriations legislation.

“The problem is, you can’t defund USCIS,” McCaul said.
“We kind of fell into that false narrative before, that you could defund it,” he added, referring to an earlier attempt to prevent implementation of an executive order from Obama regarding immigration policy… Read more here

Posted in Congress, Iraqi, legislation, right-wing, SIV (Special Immigrant Visa) immigrants, Syrian | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Top security experts support settling Syrian refugees

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 1, 2015

security

A bipartisan group of US security experts is urging Congress to continue allowing the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the United States. They say that the vetting of refugees is robust and thorough, and that they oppose the legislation passed in the House last month that attempted to block entry of Syrian and Iraqi refugees. They point out that it could derail or further delay the resettlement of Iraqis who risked their lives to work with the US military and other US Organizations. The group also wrote that refusing to take the refugees only feeds the narrative of ISIS that there is a war between Islam and the West, that Muslims are not welcome in the United States. An AP article in the Business Insider has the details:

WASHINGTON — Former top national security officials in Republican and Democratic administrations on Tuesday urged Congress to continue allowing the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the United States.

“Refugees are victims, not perpetrators, of terrorism,” the 19 retired military, security experts and others wrote in a letter sent to all lawmakers. “Categorically refusing to take them only feeds the narrative of ISIS that there is a war between Islam and the West, that Muslims are not welcome in the United States and Europe, and that the ISIS caliphate is their true home”… Read more here

Posted in Congress, Iraqi, legislation, moratorium / restriction / reduction, Muslim, security/terrorism, Syrian | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Government Has Taken Serious Steps to Reduce Security Risks in Refugee Screening

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 23, 2015

magnifying glass and thumb print on white background. CRIME DETECTIVE THUMBPRINT MAGNIFYING GLASS FINGERPRINT FOTOLIA

Deputy State Department Spokesman Mark Toner recently called the refugee security screening process, “the most stringent security process for anyone entering the United States.” In fact, the refugee program is the toughest way for any foreigner to enter the US Legally. Applicants go though a laborious process that includes investigations by the National Counterterrorism Center, the Terrorist Screening Center, the Department of Defense, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. These agencies use biographical and biometric information about applicants to conduct a background check, including fingerprinting and retina scans (and matched against criminal databases), photographs taken, identification of family trees, and other background information over a period that lasts on average 18-24 months (and up to three years). Biographical information such as past visa applications are scrutinized to make sure the applicant’s story coheres. Some have DNA tests. A Department of Homeland Security officer with training in this screening process as well as specialized training for Syrian and Iraqi refugee cases interviews each applicant. The applicant also goes through in-depth interviews by a DHS officer with training in the process as well as specialized training for Syrian and Iraqi refugee cases. Refugees from Syria also go through another layer of screening, called the Syria Enhanced Review process, a process built on years of experience in vetting Iraqi refugee applicants. Military combatants are weeded out. Additionally, the lengthy security checks are done in cooperation with international and national police agencies like Interpol and Scotland Yard. Biometric data and personal information are vetted at every step of the application process.  The security process is part of a 13-step process necessary for resettlement (as outlined in a USCRI chart). The refugee screening process is also constantly refined. [Note* – the bill the US House passed last week adds no additional scrutiny to the screening process.  Instead it would require federal agencies to “certify” each Syrian or Iraqi refugee is not a security threat – a step FBI director Comey calls “impractical”.]  An article at CNN describes part of the rigorous security screening process:

Much attention has been focused on the security vetting refugees must go through before they come to the United States, particularly after it was revealed that one of the terrorists in the Paris attacks entered Europe through a refugee processing center.

Several federal agencies, including the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Department, the National Counterterrorism Center and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, are involved in the process, which Deputy State Department Spokesman Mark Toner recently called, “the most stringent security process for anyone entering the United States.”

These agencies use biographical and biometric information about applicants to conduct a background check and make sure applicants really are who they say they are… Read more here

Posted in Department of Defense, Dept of Homeland Security, FBI, Iraqi, security/terrorism, Syrian | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Scapegoating Refugees for the Terror They Flee

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 20, 2015

75 Million Visitors to the U.S. Each Year – Why No Calls to Pause Tourism?

demagoguery

After the vote in the US House today to restrict Syrian and Iraqi refugees from entering the US why have there been no calls to tighten the flow of foreign visitors to the country?  Total international visitors to the US are projected to be more than 75 million in 2015, following 75 million that visited in 2014. If security is of paramount security why would the US Congress have no concern about the millions of visitors who receive less rigorous background and security checks than any of the 70,000 refugees resettled to the US last year?  Refugees receive more scrutiny than other other class of visitor (there were also 819,644 international students at institutions of higher education in the United States in a recent academic year). The answer is that Congressional representatives don’t believe there is a security threat from Syrian and Iraqi refugees – the people fleeing terrorism.  If they did they would have voted for a “pause” in international tourist travel to the US.  The reality here is appealing to the public’s fears for political gain, with refugees — the people with the least amount of power and most vulnerable — used as the scapegoats.  Some Democrats (47) have joined 242 Republicans (only two Republicans voted nay), which would require the FBI director to certify the background investigation for each Syrian or Iraqi refugee admitted to the United States, and Homeland Security and intelligence officials would have to certify that they are not security threats — a process FBI director Comey calls “impractical”. The vote for this bill reminds me of the Congress’ disastrous vote, also supported my many democrats, to authorize the 2003 war in Iraq in search of nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. Will history look upon these actions similar to how we now regret that war in Iraq, the rejection of Jewish refugees at the onset of the Holocaust, and the internment of Americans of Japanese descent during World  War II?  An article in The Guardian explains the House vote:

The House of Representatives has approved legislation that would make it even more difficult for refugees from Syria and Iraq to enter the United States, in a major rebuke to the Obama administration’s refugee policy.

The White House has already said the president will veto the legislation if it is also passed by the Senate. However, if today’s margin in the House was repeated in both chambers of Congress following a presidential veto, Congress could override such a veto. The measure is unlikely to receive a vote in the Senate because of the 60-vote super-majority needed to consider a bill under Senate rules… Read more here

Posted in Iraqi, legislation, right-wing, security/terrorism, Syrian, Uncategorized, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

SIVs still being wrongfully denied SSI benefits

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 19, 2015

deniedAn issue we first reported on in 2011 continues — SIV immigrants improperly denied social security benefits. An Iraqi SIV visa (Special Immigrant Visa) holder in California named Danial who arrived in June 2012 contacted us to report that the Social Security Administration (SSA) denied him SSI (Supplemental Security Income benefits). Yet, US law entitles SIV holders to these benefits for up to seven years if the person proves disability and has not been able to work for at least a year. Danial reports his case was medically approved as disabled. The SSA office in question is in Victorville, CA.

Following the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2010, P.L.(111-118) enacted on December 19,2009 making Iraqi and Afghan special immigrants eligible for resettlement assistance, federal benefits and entitlements including SSI benefits to the same extent and for the same period as refugees (limited to 7 years if they do not become US citizens), some social Security offices around the US did not seem to understand the law though the SSA put out a letter to local offices to clarify that SIVs were eligible (SSA emergency message EM10023). Also, the ORR (Office of Refugee Resettlement) published State letter #10-02 confirming Iraqi and Afghan special immigrants as eligible for those benefits.

In 2015 this problem of SSA offices denying SIVs their legally allowed benefits continues – some SSA offices apparently still don’t understand the rules and are not observing the SSA’s letter. Instead, they are denying the applicants, with the only recourse to the denied applicant being to apply for a hearing on the matter if they wish to contest the decision. This involves a waiting period until the hearing, that the SIV may have to hire an attorney, going without desperately needed benefits, etc. Danial reports that he applied for Supplemental Security Income in March 2014, his case denied in September 2014, and that he appealed that decision in November 2014. As of today the SSA has still not reported to him any date for an appeal hearing.

Posted in Afghan, California, Iraqi, SIV (Special Immigrant Visa) immigrants, Social Security Administration | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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