Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Archive for the ‘Waterloo’ Category

Federal funding dries up for Waterloo resettlement office

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 7, 2014

dreis up

The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) having made a late arrival to Waterloo, Iowa to serve thousands of secondary migrant refugees (refugees who first resettled elsewhere and then relocated to Waterloo for jobs) is now pulling out. The ORR funded a branch office of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants to offer services to the refugees since late 2012. Now, the group is arranging for volunteer groups and people to supposedly take over in its place and offer refugee services. Finding between $100,000 and $140,000 each year to fund these efforts is the biggest hurdle. An article in The Republic carries the story originally reported by the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier:

WATERLOO, Iowa — A federal agency is ending services to Burmese refugees in Waterloo, leaving volunteers scrambling to figure out how they can continue to help the immigrants.

The local office of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, which opened in December 2012, will close on Feb. 28 when federal funding runs out, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported ( ). It has been helping Burmese refugees, especially those in their few first years in the country, learn English and understand what community services are available. That includes preparing for citizenship.

The office always intended to be a temporary presence in Waterloo, where about 1,200 Burmese refugees currently reside. To date, it has helped about 200 refugees…

[Ann Grove, lead case worker] said finding ways to fund these efforts among the groups may be the biggest hurdle. It will take about $100,000 a year to replicate most services provided by the federal office, she said… “…If we’re looking at increasing the amount of interpretation to our desired level, we’re probably talking closer to $140,000.”

…[the] plan [is] to focus on case work, community education, employment and language. Read more here


Posted in Burma/Myanmar, funding, meatpacking industry, ORR, poultry production, secondary migration, refugee, USCRI, Waterloo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

ORR grant money to help refugees in Waterloo/Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 29, 2012

A year-and-a-half after refugees from Myanmar faced a serious lack of assistance in Waterloo after migrating to the area for jobs, the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement is now channeling funds to the immigrants to help with learning English, finding housing and fulfilling other resettlement needs. An article in the Waterloo Cedar Rapids Courier has more:

WATERLOO, Iowa — Federal help is on the way to assist a growing Burmese population in Black Hawk County.

The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement awarded $150,000 to help the county’s “secondary refugee migrants” learn English, secure housing and fulfill other resettlement needs.

The money went to the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants-Des Moines to open a sub-office in Waterloo at a site yet to be determined.

That is good news for a growing number of Burmese here, most drawn by jobs at Tyson Fresh Meats.

The term “secondary refugees” refers to people who migrate from the community they originally resettled in when coming to the U.S.

“We can confirm at least 300 secondary migrants in the area, mostly Burmese,” said Valerie Stubbs, USCRI Des Moines director. “We estimate another 300 to 600 will be moving to Black Hawk County.”

People within the Burmese community actually estimate they have closer to 800 living here, with more arriving each week.

The need increased when Lutheran Social Services, instumental in aiding a Bosnian influx in the ’90s, closed the doors of its Waterloo resettlement office just as the Burmese influx began…

A USCRI release said the 17-month program also will focus on helping the Waterloo community, schools and businesses with translation and interpreting services, as well as building relationships between community volunteers and the newcomers… Read more here

Posted in Burma/Myanmar, language, meatpacking industry, ORR, poultry production, secondary migration, refugee, USCRI, Waterloo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Secondary migrant refugees stream into Waterloo, IA, federal refugee agencies remain absent

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 6, 2011

As secondary migrant refugees continue arriving in Waterloo – in search of jobs or to join their families – the federal refugee agencies remain incognito. In this vacuum the county public health agency has become the default lead agency involved with case coordinating all aspects of issues that refugees face. Hundreds of refugees need green cards –  to apply for permanent residency status after a year in the US – an issue the health agency has no experience with. Other refugees have fallen victim to assaults and robberies with the lack of guidance and orientation to the community and culture. An article in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier has more:

…The number of Burmese here has grown as members of the Burmese community refer friends and family, said Kaitlin Emrich, disease surveillance program manager. Before, the majority were recruited by Tyson Fresh Meats. The plant employs about 300 Burmese, including an interpreter to transport and interpret at appointments.

Now, some are seeking jobs elsewhere, while others are stay-at-home mothers, or have health problems and come to stay with family.

“They’re kind of coming in under the radar,” said Bruce Meisinger, director of public health for the county. “Before we were aware there were X number coming on a certain date.”

According to Emrich, Tyson continues to hire Burmese refugees, and the population is expected to continue growing quickly until winter. Several large families — with eight to 10 members each — will reportedly arrive soon, while many continue to wait for family to join them from Burma or other states.

“We are anticipating the first multigenerational family to arrive by the end of (October),” Emrich said…

…”Basically, we are still the lead agency involved with case coordinating all aspects of the issues the community is confronted with in terms of the Burmese resettling here,” Meisinger said. “There is no indication that the numbers are going to slow down in the foreseeable future.”

Emrich said close to two full-time-equivalent employees are now devoted to Burmese issues. The department is looking for a partner to handle non-health-related issues, and she has been in communication with a Des Moines agency about establishing a resettlement agency to serve the Cedar Valley.

She previously sought assistance from Catholic Charities, which declined because staffers have full loads and doesn’t have the means to hire additional workers.

“They’re used to working about 32 cases a year,” Emrich said. “We’re seeing about 32 cases every two or three weeks.”

Tyson has worked with the U.S. State Department to bring refugees to Waterloo from refugee camps in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Texas. Their resettlement here is considered secondary migration. Financial help is attached to primary refugees, Emrich said...

…According to Emrich, the Burmese live in rental housing with one primary landlord “who understands their unique needs as newcomers to our country.” However, some have fallen victim to assaults and robberies, especially in neighborhoods with high crime rates, she said… Read more here

Posted in Burma/Myanmar, Catholic Charities Diocese of Des Moines, community/cultural orientation, dangerous neighborhoods, economic self-sufficiency, immigration services, meatpacking industry, safety, secondary migration, refugee, Waterloo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Waterloo, Iowa site of secondary migration as refugees from Burma seek meat-packing jobs

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 11, 2011

Iowa has become a secondary migration site for about 1000 refugees from Burma, according to John Wilken, who heads the Iowa Bureau of Refugee Services, in a quote to the WCF Courier in Waterloo, Iowa. Secondary migrants are arriving largely in Waterloo, Columbus Junction and Storm Lake, and some may also be coming to Marshalltown and Perry. For the most part they are migrating to Iowa for meatpacking jobs.

…Since the 1990s, thousands of ethnic minorities and political dissidents have fled Myanmar, as Burma is called by its ruling military government.

[There are] about 150 Burmese refugees employed at the Waterloo Tyson plant. The first 40 Burmese employees arrived from…Rockford, Ill., in May last year. Tyson officials said another 100 likely will be hired by the end of the year.

“We knew the refugees were there and needed jobs, and we had these jobs to fill,” said Teri Wray, community liaison for the Tyson’s Waterloo plant.

The plant had added jobs faster than the local pool of applicants was providing candidates, said Worth Sparkman, public relations manager of Tyson Foods.

“More than anything, it seemed to be a good fit,” Sparkman said.

Tyson has worked with the U.S. State Department to bring refugees to Waterloo from…Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Texas. Their resettlement here is called secondary migration.

“Based on the anecdotal information I’ve heard, I’d say there are 1,000 secondary migrants” from Burma in Iowa, said John Wilken, who heads the Iowa Bureau of Refugee Services. Along with Waterloo, secondary migrants are arriving largely in Columbus Junction and Storm Lake. He said some may also be coming to Marshalltown and Perry. Generally, they are being drawn to Iowa by jobs at meat packing plants.

Burmese refugees have been directly resettled into the Des Moines metro area since 2007, with 128 refugees arriving the first year.

“In that year, there were a total of 435 refugees that were settled into Iowa,” Wilken said.

“They were the largest single group coming into Iowa.”

Since then, “they have been the largest planned resettlement coming into Iowa.” A total of 825 Burmese refugees have been resettled in the state, although some have since moved. The numbers are down recently because in January 2010, Lutheran Services of Iowa stopped resettling refugees, Wilken said.

In the Des Moines area, Catholic Charities plans to resettle 120 Burmese per year, with a focus on relatives of those already here. The U.S. Committee on Immigrants and Refugees is targeting 350 Burmese resettlements in the Des Moines area next year. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dubuque’s Cedar Rapids office plans to resettle a small number of Burmese next year.

Wilken’s agency resettled refugees until a year ago, but the State Department determined the bureau did not meet the criteria of a national office, so it had to stop. The bureau now focuses on job placement for the refugees, mostly in the Des Moines area.

“Right now, there’s no agency that has stated they’re going to open up a resettlement office in Waterloo,” Wilken noted.

Since there is no resettlement agency in Waterloo, many of the Burmese Tyson workers here are still waiting for green cards and for their families to join them… Read more here

Now I know that new Americans desperately need jobs, but I still councel them to stay away from meatpacking due to the deplorable safety record in the industry. There is chronic underreporting of injuries, according to an article in The Nation. An article in Mother Jones also reported that Bureau of Labor Statistics show that meatpacking is the nation’s most dangerous occupation.

Posted in Burma/Myanmar, Catholic Charities Diocese of Des Moines, Columbus Junction, Des Moines USCRI (field office), employment abuses, health, Iowa, Marshalltown, meatpacking industry, Perry, secondary migration, refugee, Storm Lake, USCRI, Waterloo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »