Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Archive for the ‘States’ Category

Syrian refugee family scattered across world

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 20, 2016

world

A Syrian refugee family in upstate in New York who settled a year ago have found their family scattered across the world. Adult brothers and two older children are in Germany. A sick daughter is in Denmark.  Catholic Family Center apparently initially resettled the family into an apartment infested with roaches. Now that they have a new, infestation-free apartment, however, they find themselves far away from services.  An article at the Democrat & Chronicle has the family’s story:

They came here in July 2015, the very first Syrian refugees to settle in Monroe County…

they learned, they had been accepted into the United States. Their escape from Syria, then, would mean a continued lengthy separation from the rest of the family.

“Of course, I thank America for this humanitarian decision,” Bahzat said. “But I hesitated, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to see my children again. It was a very difficult decision. … But for the safety of my children who were with me — so they could be safe and study and be away from the war — we decided to come here.”

It was several months before they learned where in the United States they would be going. When they discovered it would be Rochester…

The family first moved into a rental house on Smith Street in northwest Rochester, but relocated to an apartment complex in Greece after a month.

Their Greece apartment has no cockroaches, a significant improvement. On the other hand, getting around with public transportation can be an hours-long affair. To go to the market or their English classes requires multiple buses.

“We were hoping to go to school for English as quickly as possible,” Bahzat said. “(But) we learn about 10 words, then because it’s so tiring with the buses, we just forget”…

Despite their infirmity and lack of English, Bahzat and Atie are expected to seek work or take more classes in exchange for the housing assistance, food stamps and small cash supplement they receive. Those benefits have been interrupted more than once, fraying their nerves. Dilan and their older son, Zana, have both found jobs.

The two younger boys, Zana and Delshad, enrolled in high school in Greece and made the honor roll. The state tests, though, were a disaster. The interpreter that the school provided spoke a dialect of Arabic they did not understand, so they failed in science and math.

They can retake the tests later this summer, but neither boy is prepared because; they have not been attending summer school because the district does not provide universal busing for it and they had no other way to get there…

Generally, the family says they have been welcomed warmly by people they meet. But Dilan, who keeps her head covered, said she has received curses and dirty looks.

“People here shouldn’t judge me regarding my scarf or my clothes; it’s just a part of my religion, and it shouldn’t bother anyone,” she said. “I have heard some people saying bad words (and) staring at me like a stranger. I’m like, ‘What did I do?'”…

Bahzat and Atie’s eldest daughter in Denmark has multiple sclerosis and recurring brain inflammation that sometimes paralyzes her left side, another worry that keeps them awake at night.

“My daughter is sick and I can’t even see her,” Bahzat said. “For a parent, that’s really difficult”… Read more here

Posted in Catholic Family Center (Rochester), rats and roaches, Rochester, Syrian, transportation, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Refugee student education in court this week in Lancaster Penn.

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 18, 2016

student

The School District of Lancaster’s treatment of student refugees undergoing court proceedings this week.  In Pennsylvania, local districts run their accelerated credit programs as they see fit without much state oversight or guidance.  An 18-year-old Congolese refugee student involved in this lawsuit finished had senior year that spanned a week, despite English proficiency limited enough to need a translator in court.  He said that he usually couldn’t understand what was said in class, wasn’t allowed to take home textbooks, and didn’t know extra help was available outside normal school hours. The five other refugees have testified to similar experiences.  An article at WITF in Harrisburg, PA gives the details:

(Easton) – The School District of Lancaster’s treatment of student refugees is on trial this week, but practices affecting a wider population of students have come under scrutiny during court proceedings.

A lot of discussion’s centered on the accelerated credit program at Phoenix Academy.

Phoenix, run by district contractor Camelot Education, was portrayed Wednesday as a diploma mill by attorneys representing six teenaged refugees in the lawsuit.

But Lancaster school officials say they send students to Phoenix if they’re at risk for aging out, or not earning enough credits to graduate before they turn 21…

In Pennsylvania, local districts run their accelerated credit programs as they see fit without much state oversight or guidance.

But one student involved in this lawsuit – 18-year-old Congolese refugee Anyemou Dunia – finished high school in 16 months. Dunia’s senior year spanned a week, despite English proficiency limited enough to require a translator in court.

Attorneys presented Dunia’s transcript in court, reading his brief academic timeline off a projection screen:

Junior year ended May 23. Senior year started May 24 and ended June 2.

Dunia’s graduation ceremony wasn’t until Tuesday night and the next day, he testified he wasn’t sure he learned enough to leave school.

Dunia says that he usually couldn’t understand what was said in class, wasn’t allowed to take home textbooks, and didn’t know extra help was available outside normal school hours.

The five other refugees have testified to similar experiences… Read more here

 

Posted in children, Congolese, education, Lancaster | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Portland ME mayor tells Somali residents they are wanted and needed

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 13, 2016

 

protest

After a recent hate-filled speech in Portland by presidential candidate Donald Trump a rally was convened to speak out against the bigotry. Mayor Ethan Strimling, speaking before several hundred residents, said Trump’s ignorance of the Constitution showed when he spoke, and the mayor embraced those who were offended by the candidate’s remarks. An article at The Forcaster has the story:

PORTLAND — After 20 years in Maine, Mahmoud Hassan has wearied of suspicions cast against Somali immigrants.

“It feels weird, it feels ridiculous, but then again, I am not surprised,” Hassan said Aug. 5 about comments by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump suggesting Somalis are a threat to public safety.

As president of the Somali Community Center of Maine, Hassan called for a public response to Trump’s words that grew into an Aug. 5 City Hall rally attended by more than 300 people.

“I don’t think there is a misunderstanding,” Hassan said of Trump. “I think there is political opportunism”…

200 people lined the City Hall steps behind him, some waving copies of the Constitution, Hassan left most of the talking to Somalis who have assimilated in Maine and had little use for insinuations made the day before.

“Shame on you, you are running for the highest office in the land and spreading hate,” Deering High School Assistant Principal Abdullahi Ahmed said…

Mayor Ethan Strimling said Trump’s ignorance of the Constitution showed when he spoke, and the mayor embraced those who were offended by the candidate’s remarks.

“You are welcomed and cherished here. We need you here, so thank you for being here,” he said… Read more here

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

Federal judge tosses out Alabama anti-refugee lawsuit

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 30, 2016

tossed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

False Facebook posting about refugees followed by death threats

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 27, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

College Station community unites after Mosque shooting

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 22, 2016

unity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 7, 2016

"Scales of Justice" button (Gold)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twin Falls police investigate threats over Fawnbrook assault

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 28, 2016

threats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What it’s like to be an SIV immigrant

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 26, 2016

siv

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More deceptive attempts to incite anti-refugee sentiments

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 20, 2016

“There were no Syrians involved, there was no knife involved, there was no gang-rape,” Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs said Monday morning.

incitement

After two juvenile males were charged for an alleged incident involving a 5 year-old female in Twin Falls in Idaho, right wing blogs and websites manufactured a story supposedly involving a gang rape at knife-point by Syrian refugees. A 7-year-old juvenile male allegedly touched a 5-year-old girl.  A Twin Falls County Prosecutor said Monday morning that, “There were no Syrians involved, there was no knife involved, there was no gang-rape.”  In addition, the College of Southern Idaho Refugee Center, which oversees refugee resettlement in the Magic Valley, did not resettle the boys involved, and no Syrian refugees have been resettled in Twin Falls. An article at has the story:

Authorities are denying claims that Syrians gang-raped a child at knife-point in a Twin Falls apartment complex earlier this month.

“There were no Syrians involved, there was no knife involved, there was no gang-rape,” Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs said Monday morning.

His comments largely refute several differing accounts about the incident circulating on anti-refugee resettlement, anti-Muslim blogs and conspiracy websites. Most claim a group of Syrian refugees sexually assaulted a mentally disabled girl at knife-point June 2 in the laundry facilities of Fawnbrook Apartments, a low-income housing complex in Twin Falls…

According to prosecutors, three boys were involved, ages 7, 10 and 14, and the alleged victim was a 5-year-old girl..

“All those involved are juveniles, and the older one didn’t touch the victim in any way,” Loebs said. He said only one person is alleged to have touched the victim, but he declined to elaborate.

The prosecutor received a report Thursday from police. Further refuting claims made in the stories online that police bungled the investigation or tried to cover it up, Loebs said the police investigated the incident thoroughly, interviewed everyone who needed to be interviewed and followed proper protocols.

Refugee-resettlement officials called the online stories deceptive attempts to incite anti-refugee sentiments…

…no Syrians refugees have been resettled in Twin Falls… Read more here

Posted in College of Southern Idaho Refugee Center, Idaho, right-wing, Syrian, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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