Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Archive for the ‘USCCB’ Category

U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops

Syrian refugee family scattered across world

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 20, 2016


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 »

Editorial asks Tenn. Attorney General Herbert Slatery to not participate in anti-refugee scheme

Posted by Christopher Coen on May 26, 2016


The Tennessee legislature measure to force the state attorney general to sue the federal government over refugee resettlement is based on two erroneous contentions: 1) that forcing states to provide Medicaid services to refugees amounts to unconstitutional coercion, and 2) that the federal government has violated the law by not consulting with the state on refugee resettlement. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that the Affordable Care Act’s original requirement that states expand Medicaid to cover new categories of recipients or risk losing existing Medicaid funding amounted to a new program that states had no choice but to accept. In addition, the Tennessee Office for Refugees essentially acts as a stand-in for the state in working with the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) since Tennessee opted out of the federal refugee program in 2007 and designated Catholic Charities to run the Tennessee Office for Refugees. An article in the Knoxville News Sentinel explains:

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam was wise to wash his hands of the Legislature’s misguided quest to sue the federal government over its refugee resettlement program. Attorney General Herbert Slatery III needs to be next in line at the sink.

Last week Haslam allowed a joint resolution clamoring for a lawsuit to go into effect without his signature, a signal of the governor’s disdain for the effort.

Inspired by the Obama administration’s plan to accept up to 10,000 refugees from war-torn Syria, the resolution calls on Slatery to take some sort of legal action against the federal government. Slatery already has explained to lawmakers in an advisory opinion that the federal government has exclusive authority over the acceptance and resettlement of refugees.

If Slatery opts not to file a lawsuit, the resolution authorizes the House and Senate speakers to hire outside counsel. According to supporters of the measure, a Michigan-based nonprofit public interest law firm is willing to provide free legal services to the state… Read more here

Posted in Catholic Charities of Tennessee, legislation, ORR, Syrian, Tennessee | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

LDS women volunteer in mass to help refugees

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 11, 2016

Mormon church

After the Relief Society general president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints urged LDS women worldwide to serve refugees, phones starting ringing off the hook at Salt lake City resettlement agencies and other nonprofits that aid refugees.  Volunteers are welcome for a variety of needs, including financial support, collection drives, foster parents of unaccompanied refugee children, and in-kind contributions, which can range from home furnishings, to clothing and school supplies.  An article at the Deseret News explains:

SALT LAKE CITY — No sooner had the Relief Society general president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints urged LDS women worldwide to serve refugees, phones starting ringing off the hook at local nonprofit agencies that assist refugees.

“It was pretty much to the minute,” Catherine Barnhart, executive director of the English Skills Learning Center, said Friday…

The nonprofit agencies that help resettle some 1,200 refugees that come to Utah each year reported similar levels of interest.

“We’ve received a ton of inquiries into the work we do, for volunteers and how people can get involved… Read more here


Posted in Catholic Community Services of Utah, churches, IRC, Mormons, Utah | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Refugees in slumlord housing in Syracuse

Posted by Christopher Coen on March 27, 2016


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 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 »

Refugees and supporters rally at Kentucky state capitol

Posted by Christopher Coen on March 17, 2016


Refugees and their supporters met on Kentucky state capitol steps in a third annual show of support for refugee resettlement. An article at MSPR has more:

The Kentucky Capitol took on an international air Wednesday as refugees and their advocates gathered in the Rotunda. With tensions over immigration on the rise, the annual celebration and meet-and-greet with lawmakers has grown into a political statement.

“…everyone [who] helped me to be here in Kentucky, thank you,” a smiling young man says as applause echoes from the well of the statehouse.

Expressing his gratitude to the state he now calls home is Mohamad Al Shamdin, a Syrian refugee who underwent a two-year resettlement process before landing in Lexington in 2015. He later takes a moment to chat with WUKY before heading off to a job interview… Read more here


Posted in Catholic Charities' Kentucky Office of Refugees, Kentucky, World Refugee Day | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Resettlement agencies do not respond to repeated requests for comment

Posted by Christopher Coen on March 3, 2016


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 »

Billboard in St. Cloud misleads

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 17, 2016


A billboard in St. Cloud, Minnesota claims that Catholic Charities is resettling “Islamists”.  Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud does not take part in refugee resettlement. The advertising company involved will not release information on who pays for the billboards but has agreed to remove the sign. An article in The St. Cloud Times has the story:

ST. JOSEPH TOWNSHIP — A billboard will likely come down in St. Joseph Township after an organization says it includes inaccurate information regarding refugee resettlement.

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud asked Franklin Outdoor Advertising on Tuesday to take down a billboard that reads: “Catholic Charities Resettles Islamists: EVIL or INSANITY?”

That statement is inaccurate, said Beth Cummings, communications and public relations manager at Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud. The local organization does not participate in refugee resettlement… Read more here

Posted in Catholic, Catholic Charities, security/terrorism, St. Cloud, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Oklahoma City deficient, report indicates

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 13, 2016


US Department of State monitors visited Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Oklahoma City (CCOKA) in February 2014. Although they found the resettlement agency mostly compliant with program requirements there were significant deficiencies. Refugees were living in unsanitary housing, did not appear to be receiving appropriate orientation, and written records were incomplete. Three homes required immediate repairs. Refugees could not recall orientation topics, some refugee children were enrolled late in school, or perhaps not at all, and six files documented late home visits to refugees. Adequate interpretation was not being used. The following are excerpts from the report:

…Monitors visited four refugee families who had arrived between November and December 2013.

…Case files for two families documented that they had received home visits, but case notes did not indicate the use of appropriate interpretation. Three families could not tell monitors the source of the RCA [Refugee Cash Assistance] or MG [Matching Grant] cash assistance they received and referred to it only as “rental assistance.” Three apartments, each located in the same housing complex, needed repairs of some sort: one apartment contained a hole in the bathroom ceiling as well as peeling paint; another apartment included a dangling light fixture above the kitchen sink, a leaky bathroom ceiling with peeling paint, and a bathtub faucet with a continuous leak; one apartment’s smoke detector was not operable and the bathtub faucet leaked. Three families reported an insect infestation, and one family reported an insect and mouse infestation. Two families could not recall what was learned during cultural orientation; in one case, a mother said her son interpreted, in another case a refugee said another refugee who had arrived on the same day interpreted, and in a third case, monitors were told that orientation was not conducted in the refugee’s native dialect. Two families also did not know where to go if someone became sick. One refugee told monitors that she was experiencing significant health issues but had not yet been to the doctor because she believed that her Medicaid was not yet active [instead it had been rejected, so she was unnecessarily waiting to seek medical care].

Monitors reviewed 20 case files…often the date of service could not be determined. Descriptions of core services such as home visits, assistance with enrollment in English language programs, and health assessments were also missing in some files. Two files documented late initial home visits, and four files documented late 30-day home visits, with no reasons noted to explain the delays….three files [did not include] a complete public assistance record….Two files did not contain a record of assistance with enrollment in either employment services or English language programs, and seven files included only referral forms for English classes. Two files documented late school enrollment, with no reason given for the delay… Of the four files containing selective service eligible males, none included evidence of registration.

…two refugees did not know how to access health care, two refugees were still without Medicaid cards. .. Of the 13 files with school-age children, two did not contain clear evidence of school enrollment. Home visits, case file review, and staff interviews indicate that refugees cannot access appropriate language interpretation….

…Apart from the R&P grant, refugees could not explain the source of the cash assistance they received from CCOKA, and indicated to monitors that the funds were strictly designated for rental payments [they are not].

…refugees could not clearly recall receiving orientation and two families could not recall any orientation topics. Three refugees reported not receiving appropriate language interpretation during orientation… Read more here

Posted in Burma/Myanmar, Catholic, Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, cultural/community orientation, post arrival, employment/jobs for refugees, ESL & ELL, failure to enroll refugee children in school, housing, housing, substandard, Iraqi, language, language interpretation/translation, lack of, Medicaid, medical care, Oklahoma, R&P, rats and roaches, school for refugee children, State Department | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 »


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