Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Posts Tagged ‘catholic charities’

Tennessee Governor No Longer Opposes Resettlement In State

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 15, 2016


Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee said today that he’s had a change of heart and no longer opposes resettling Syrian refugees or any other refugees in the state.  Haslam was one of the thirty republican and one democrat governors who announced opposition to resettlement of Syrian refugees last November after the Paris terrorist attacks, which were not known to have been committed by refugees or Syrians.  Tennessee’s state attorney issued an opinion saying the state had no authority to ban Syrian refugees, and the Tennessee Department of Homeland Security announced that the background check process for refugees is extremely rigorous.  Haslam also did not oppose a piece of Tennessee state legislation requiring the state attorney to sue the federal government, though the proposed lawsuit had no legal basis.  The state attorney general then declined to sue the federal government, pointing out that the issue had been dismissed in federal court and that the supposed basis for the lawsuit (“coerced spending issue”; the notion that the federal government was “confiscating state resources” by “coercing” Tennessee to accept refugees) was an untested legal theory and unlikely to succeed. Gov. Slater says that he now knows that the federal government security vets refugees before their entry into the country and that he confident in the process. An article from USA TODAY NETWORK in The Tennessean has the story:

WASHINGTON — With the Obama administration poised to welcome thousands more Syrian refugees into the country, Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday he’s had a change of heart and no longer opposes resettling them in Tennessee.

Haslam told the USA TODAY NETWORK he no longer objects to Syrian refugees or others making a new home in Tennessee after fleeing a war zone.

…the governor said he met recently with State Department officials and Catholic Charities and is convinced “they’re doing a good job” vetting refugees coming to Tennessee…

His shift in perspective comes just four months after he agreed to let the state sue the federal government over refugee settlement, and just one day after the Obama administration announced it plans to sharply increase the number of refugees accepted by the United States to 110,000 in fiscal 2017…

Resettlement has proved controversial in many states, including Tennessee, where the legislature voted earlier this year to instruct Attorney General Herbert Slatery to sue the federal government for noncompliance with the Refugee Act of 1980…

Haslam allowed the resolution calling for the lawsuit to take effect without his signature. Slatery, however, declined to file the suit, saying the state was unlikely to succeed… Read more here

Posted in Catholic, Catholic Charities, Catholic Charities of Tennessee, ceiling limit, refugee annual, security/terrorism, Syrian, Tennessee | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Catholic Charities in Springfield Mass. gains approval to resettle refugees to Northampton

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 11, 2016


Catholic Charities based in Springfield, Massachusetts has gained approval from the US Department of State to begin resettling refugees in Northampton.  Beginning in January, 51 Syrian refugees will arrive in the city. An article at Western Massachusetts News has the story:

NORTHAMPTON, MA (WGGB/WSHM) – The city and people of Northampton are preparing to become home for 51 Syrian refugees.  The city got State Department approval last month.

Now, refugee families are expected to arrive by the new year. 

The first families will begin arriving to their new home, Northampton, in January…

“I hope that the community is able to help them from their war-torn nation and I hope they flourish here in the United States of America, the greatest country in the world,” said Peter Knap of Northampton.

Tanner Efinger of Northampton added, “These are people who need homes.  Terrible things have happened to them and any neighbor should be able to open their door.”

These are the kinds of voices that Kathryn Buckley-Brawner, director of Catholic Charities, thinks of when she talks about the arrival of 51 Syrian refugees to Northampton.

“I think the people of Northampton are so welcoming because there is such a sense of the global.  You have a lot of people from different areas of the world, you’ve got diversity already,” said Buckley-Brawner…

Catholic Charities, based in Springfield, applied to the State Department to become a refugee resettlement agency… Read more here

Posted in Catholic Charities Springfield MA, Massachusetts, Syrian | 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 »

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 »

Worcester’s refugee population has 8.6% higher employment rate than native-born citizens

Posted by Christopher Coen on March 12, 2016

As in other cities refugees in Worcester, Massachusetts have excelled economically. Natives’ median income is almost a full $5,000 dollars less per year, and the refugee population has an 8.6-percent higher employment rate than its native-born citizens. Naturalized foreign-born citizens are also more likely to own homes and open businesses than natives. Looking at the State Department Monitoring reports for the three local refugee resettlement agencies,  Ascentria Care Alliance (also known as Lutheran Social Services) has the best record, followed by Catholic Charities, which had a few problems, followed by the Refugee and Immigration Assistance Center, which had a lot of problems. An article in the Worcester Magazine has the details about the progress of refugees in the city:

Worcester has a thriving immigrant population, many of them refugees looking to make a new start. The city, in fact, is the top destination for refugees in New England.

As this two-part series will show, it is not always easy and not always popular, but the influx of refugees can be good for the community and local economy. According to two separate, recent studies, the city is home to nearly 32,000 foreign-born citizens. That’s about 21 percent of its 181,045 residents — no insignificant number. Between 2007-2012, the Department of State reported 2,196 refugees resettling in Worcester. One study was conducted by the Public Policy Center at UMass-Dartmouth (commissioned by the Seven Hills Foundation), the other was by Dr. Anita Fábos, a Clark University associate professor…

Looking at the Seven Hills Foundation study, citizenship is another indicator of success in the immigrant and refugee population. Naturalized citizens’ median household income is $50,865 versus noncitizens, who pull in $37,944 a year. Naturalized foreign-born citizens actually have a higher median household income than native-born citizens. Natives’ median income is almost a full $5,000 dollars less per year, $46,243…

Many people fear that, upon arrival, resettled refugees will begin to receive various welfare benefits and will lack any incentive to become self-sufficient. With all the barriers refugees face — language comprehension, cultural differences, geographical unfamiliarity, among others — it is easy to fall into that mindset. In both the Clark study and the study commissioned by the Seven Hills Foundation, the numbers show a different outcome: the fears appear to be unfounded…

…despite the cards being stacked against them, Worcester’s refugee population has an 8.6-percent higher employment rate than its native-born citizens, Fábos’s study shows…

Naturalized foreign-born citizens are more likely to own homes than natives. They also open businesses; the UMass Dartmouth study puts the percentage of businesses in Worcester owned by foreign-born citizens at 37 percent… Read more here

Posted in Burma/Myanmar, economic self-sufficiency, employment/jobs for refugees, Lutheran Social Services in Worcester MA, Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center (Boston), secondary migration, secondary migration, refugee, Worcester | 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 »

Attacks on refugees in Syracuse delivered with racial slurs

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 4, 2016

As part of the ongoing attacks on refugees in Syracuse that resettlement agencies and the US State Department have know about for at least six years, refugees say that attackers are using racial slurs. An article at Time Warner Cable News has the details:

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Nancy Ayea was resettled in Syracuse as a refugee from Burma, looking for a better life. But there have been obstacles to starting over.

“Our house got broken into and our window got broke into,” said Ayea. “And they took whatever they could find to resell it. My laptop and all that.”

And although she’s not a refugee herself, Kayla Kelechin’s husband was resettled from Southeast Asia. She says she and her husband have been victimized because of his background.

“There were stones being thrown through our windows,” said Kelechin. “We see them coming to our yard and attacking our children. They’ve thrown stones at our children and they’re like “Chinese, Chinese.” It always has to do with a racial slur. So we know it’s not the whole neighborhood — it’s us”… Read more here

Posted in abuse, Burma/Myanmar, Catholic, children, crime, dangerous neighborhoods, hate crimes, Nepali Bhutanese, safety, Syracuse | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »