Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Archive for the ‘CWS’ Category

Minnesotans oppose anti-Muslim sentiment with message of support

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 6, 2016

Ramadan

The Minnesota Council of Churches is leading an effort to oppose anti-Muslim sentiment with a message campaign using yard signs. The lawn signs read, “To our Muslim neighbors: Blessed Ramadan.” An article at KMSP-TV-FOX-9 has the story:

(KMSP) – In the midst of a presidential election filled with talk of discriminating against Muslims, there is a Minnesota-made campaign to fight Islamophobia.

The Minnesota Council of Churches is distributing yard signs… to assure Muslims as they begin Ramadan that Islamophobia is far from a universal feeling. The lawn signs read, “To our Muslim neighbors:  Blessed Ramadan.”

“We have extremely radical Christians who sometimes get violent and Jews who sometimes get violent, Hindus, Buddhists, all over the world. In every religion there are those who go to the extreme, [but] the vast majorities do not and we want to signal to our Muslim friends and neighbors that we know that,” Pastor Tim Hart-Anderson of Westminster Presbyterian Church said. 

One of ISIS’s stated goals is to create, through their violence, Islamophobia in the western world and inflame a divide to push the vast majority of Muslims who do not agree with them to eventually join them anyway… Read more here

Posted in discrimination, Minnesota, Minnesota Council of Churches, Minnesota Council of Churches, Muslim, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Helping LGBTQ refugees find acceptance and community

Posted by Christopher Coen on May 17, 2016

LGBTQ

“Love Will Win: The LGBTQ Refugee Experience” is the name of a new speakers bureau program being launched by Stonewall Columbus in collaboration with Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS). The purpose is to help lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender refugees in central Ohio find acceptance, support and friends in Columbus. The head of CRIS contacted Stonewall Columbus after noticing a number of refugees who were self-identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer. The hope for the group is to create a safe space and give the refugees a community where they didn’t have one. An article at ThisWeek Community News has the details:

Some Ugandan refugees who have settled in Columbus, primarily in the Northland area, are hoping “Love Will Win” in their new country, because it’s been fighting a losing battle back home.

“Love Will Win: The LGBTQ Refugee Experience” is the name of a new speakers bureau program being launched by Stonewall Columbus in collaboration with Community Refugee and Immigration Services, the first joint venture between the two organizations.

The purpose, according to Angela K. Plummer of CRIS and Lori Gum of Stonewall, is to help lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender refugees in central Ohio find the acceptance they never had in the countries where they were born or among the others from their homeland who have also settled in Columbus…

The program is expected to expand to include refugees from other countries, according to Gum, program coordinator for Stonewall. Initially, however, Love Will Win is to focus on a few from ultra-homophobic Uganda, where homosexual acts are punishable by life in prison.

“We reached out to Stonewall when we learned we would be getting some LBGT refugees,” said Plummer, executive director of the Northland-based independent nonprofit Community Refugee and Immigration Services. “We wanted to find some community support for them. We have certain roles to get them going, but truly for long-term integration, you can’t understate the importance of finding friends and support in the community”… Read more here

Posted in Columbus, Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS), Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS), discrimination, LGBT refugees, Ugandan | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Judge denies Indiana stay in court case

Posted by Christopher Coen on March 30, 2016

court

U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt has rejected Indiana’s request that she put on hold her order against Republican Gov. Mike Pence’s efforts to bar state agencies from helping Syrian refugees.  She denied the state’s motion for a stay Tuesday, saying it isn’t likely to succeed on appeal and that granting a stay would hurt the refugee assistance group Exodus Refugee Immigration. Exodus sued the state over Pence’s order for state agencies to withhold federal assistance to refugees.  Last month Pratt blocked the order. She ruled it “clearly discriminates” against Syrian refugees and that the state failed to provide basic support for their case.  In an earlier hearing she asked how withholding money for refugee services would provide for the safety of the public (when the state engaged in unsupported speculation that Syrian refugees are dangerous), and, “how are we protecting Indiana safety by not providing refugees with, say, job training?” An article in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has the story:

INDIANAPOLIS – Gov. Mike Pence lost another battle in his quest to block Syrian refugees from Indiana when a federal court on Tuesday refused to grant a stay in the case.

Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt issued a preliminary injunction on behalf of Exodus Refugee Immigration.

Pence immediately appealed and also asked that the injunction not be enforced during the appeal…

“The State’s conduct clearly constitutes national origin discrimination. Although the State says it has a compelling reason for doing so – the safety of Indiana residents – the withholding of federal funds from Exodus … in no way furthers the State’s case,” Pratt ruled in February… Read more here

Posted in court, Exodus Refugee Immigration, Exodus Refugee Immigration, Indiana, right-wing, Syrian | 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 »

U.S. judge rules Gov. Mike Pence’s targeting Syrian refugees “unconstitutional discrimination”

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 29, 2016

judgement

A U.S. District Court judge has ruled that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s decision to suspend Syrian refugees amounted to “unconstitutional discrimination.”  Pence also attempted to withhold state funds to the program.  The judge ruled that the state also failed to provide basic support for their case and cited no legal authority for the proposition that temporary national origin discrimination is any more constitutionally acceptable than permanent discrimination.  An article at WRTV-ABC-6 has the story:

INDIANAPOLIS — In a scathing rebuke, a U.S. District Court judge ruled Monday that Gov. Mike Pence’s decision to suspend Syrian refugees amounted to “unconstitutional discrimination.”

U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt granted an injunction against the State’s efforts to deter the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Indiana by Exodos Refugee Services, including a decision by Pence to withhold state funds to the program…

In her ruling, Walton Pratt took the state of Indiana and Gov. Pence to task, saying the directive suspending Syrian refugee resettlement had been “utterly ineffective” and “failed to survive strict scrutiny by a wide margin”… Read more here

Posted in Exodus Refugee Immigration, Exodus Refugee Immigration, Indiana, right-wing, Syrian | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Indiana hearing of Exodus Refugee Immigration v. Mike Pence

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 19, 2016

gavel-symbol

The hearing in the case of Exodus Refugee v. Mike Pence (Indiana gov.) took place on February 12. The ACLU filed suit against Gov. Pence and the Family and Social Services Administration, claiming the state government violated the US Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in denying support for Syrian refugees. The lawsuit seeks an injunction to stop the governor from taking any actions to suspend, block or withhold aid from refugees or from Exodus. At the hearing each side was given a chance to state their case, and then the judge asked questions. All the questions were directed at the state. An article at NUVO Indy’s Alternative Voice explains:

On February 12th, the United States District Court of Indiana heard the case of the ACLU, on behalf of Exodus Refugee, v. Mike Pence on the issue of Syrian refugee immigration. Judge Tanya Pratt listened to the prosecution and the defense argue their cases …

Judge Pratt raised many questions after the arguments were heard, all of them directed at the state. We accept refuges from other terrorist-ridden countries. Why Syrians? Doesn’t that discriminate against nationality? What about other countries that are troublesome? What about Falk’s affidavits that prove the US does not lack information on Syrian refugees accepted to the US? The state’s argument is resting on advice from only 2 government officials? How does withholding money for refugee services provide to the safety of Hoosier? How are we protecting Indiana safety by not providing refugees with, say, job training?

The state attempted to answer these questions, but only briefly since they did not have time to prepare an argument for them. The state has until February 22nd to file a sur-reply brief, an additional reply to the prosecution’s argument after the motion has been heard in full.

Judge Pratt hopes to have a decision by the end of February. Read more here

Posted in Exodus Refugee Immigration, Exodus Refugee Immigration, Indiana, Syrian | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Longtime office worker steals over $50,000 from Interfaith Works

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 19, 2015

Person with a search symbol in a row

A longtime office worker for Interfaith Works of Central New York has admitted in court to stealing thousands from the resettlement agency over a 7 to 8-year period.  The Syracuse agency is an affiliate of Church World Service and Episcopal Migration Ministries.  An audit showed that Dorine Deapo, 52, of Syracuse stole a little more than $50,000. She had access to credit cards used to buy items — like groceries — for clients of the non-profit’s programs, and used them to buy gas and other personal items. As long as the worker documented that she spent the money on items for the refugees, a US Department of State monitoring visit probably would not have discovered the theft, since they rely mainly on the agency’s written records, and only interview 3-4 refugee cases at each agency. A monitoring report from 2006, was before the time of the theft.  In 2010 the agency was also the subject of complaints about placing refugees in deplorable housing. An article at Syracuse.com explains:

Syracuse, NY — A longtime office worker for Interfaith Works admitted today to stealing thousands from the non-profit over a 7- to 8-year period.

Dorine Deapo, 52, of Syracuse, pleaded guilty to stealing about $3,000. But that was part of a plea deal that spared Deapo prison. In total, an audit showed she stole a little more than $50,000, said Assistant District Attorney Beth Van Doren…

The agency was “devastated” by Deapo’s breach in trust, Van Doren said. Deapo had access to credit cards used to buy items — like groceries — for clients of the non-profit’s programs. She ended up using it to buy gas and other personal items, Van Doren said… Read more here

Posted in Interfaith Works, Interfaith Works, Syracuse | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Pa. faith leaders ask politicians to oppose restrictions

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 8, 2015

religions_symbol

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 »

If New Jersey cuts off Church World Service, it will get funds elsewhere

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 30, 2015

grassroots_money
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is one of the 31 governors – 30 Republican – that have said they will not accept Syrian refugees. He directed the New Jersey Department of Human Services, which regrants federal resettlement funds to resettlement agencies, not to resettle any Syrian refugees. Some states have been using that position to threaten the agencies to get them to withhold services – something they have no legal authority to do. An official with Church World Service in Jersey City says his agency will find funds elsewhere if necessary. An article in Nonprofit Quarterly has more:

Earlier this month, Governor Chris Christie directed the New Jersey Department of Human Services not to resettle any Syrian refugees in that state, although the state has a Syrian community with a 150-year history…

“We don’t believe the directive the governor put in place is necessarily enforceable,” said Erol Kekic, executive director of immigration and refugee programs for Church World Service. “Immigration is a federal issue. He can’t control who lives in his state.”

…even though governors do not have the power to exclude refugees (according to the Refugee Act of 1980) and the U.S. Department of State oversees their screening and resettlement, states are responsible for regranting federal dollars to local resettlement nonprofits, and some states have been using that position to block resettlement through threatening nonprofits with state contracts in order to get them to withhold services from Syrian refugees. Kekic, however, has declared that if the state were to cut his agency off, they could get funds elsewhere.

Rabbi Philip Bazeley of the Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick, where congregants have been raising money for refugees….is quoted as saying that politicians are making “xenophobic” comments and playing on people’s “fear of the other” to make political points.

“As a Jew,” Rabbi Bazeley says, “that worries me tremendously”… Read more here

Posted in CWS, Jewish, New Jersey, Syrian, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Exodus Refugee Immigration files suit against Indiana Governor

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 24, 2015

lawsuit

The refugee resettlement agency Exodus Refugee Immigration with the assistance of the ACLU has filed suit against Indiana Governor Mike Pence and the Family and Social Services Administration, claiming the state government violated the US Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in denying support for Syrian refugees. The lawsuit seeks an injunction to stop the governor from taking any actions to suspend, block or withhold aid from refugees or from Exodus. The governor joined 30 other governors last week in an attempt to illegally block Syrian refugees from resettling in their states; immigration be exclusively the province of the federal government. The lawsuit claims the Indiana state government has also violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of national origin in programs receiving federal government financial assistance. An article at ABC News has the story:

A lawsuit challenging the Indiana governor’s decision to stop state agencies from helping resettle Syrian refugees alleges that the action wrongly targets the refugees based on their nationality and violates the U.S. Constitution and federal law.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the federal lawsuit Monday night on behalf of Indianapolis-based nonprofit Exodus Refugee Immigration. It accuses Gov. Mike Pence of violating the U.S.

Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act by accepting refugees to Indiana from other countries but not from Syria.

The first-term Republican governor objected to plans for refugees to arrive in Indiana following the deadly attacks in Paris. Five days after the Nov. 13 attacks, a family that had fled war-torn Syria was diverted from Indianapolis to Connecticut when Pence ordered state agencies to halt resettlement activities… Read more here

Posted in ACLU, CWS, Exodus Refugee Immigration, Indiana, Syrian, Uncategorized, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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