Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Posts Tagged ‘Minnesota’

Delivering the Basics in the US Resettlement Program – St. Cloud, Minnesota

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 12, 2015

report_An Office of Admissions (US Department of State) inspection report received through a Freedom of Information Act request for Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota (LSS-MN) shows problems refugees in St. Cloud have had trying to access the fairly minimal minimum-required services and items of the resettlement program.  In summer of 2012 office of Admissions monitors found, from a sample of just four refugee cases, that the resettlement agency had not given refugees a variety of items the refugees needed for starting a new life: clothes, beds, towels, and cleaning supplies. Refugees reported that they had trouble getting interpretation and that LSS-MN had not shown them how to use the bus system.  Casefiles showed that second home visits had in four cases occurred beyond the 30-day timeframe.  Monitors also discovered that while case files recorded that LSS-MN had given refugees required items such as a table and clothing storage items when they first arrived 2-4 months earlier, in fact, the agency had delivered the items to the refugees in the days just before the inspection (fabrication of written records – contract fraud):

“Three refugee families visited had received additional required clothing storage in the days preceding the monitors’ visit, and one refugee had also received a table during that time. Supply checklists in the files indicated the items were provided upon arrival…” Read more here

Posted in beds, clothes, furnishings, lack of, language interpretation/translation, lack of, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, Office of Admissions, St. Cloud | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Sub-Saharan African Refugees Must be Screened for Hepatitis C

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 3, 2012

New studies released by the Mayo Clinic identify hepatitis C as a cause of liver cancer. One study found that, among Somali refugees in Olmsted County in Minnesota, 80 percent of liver cancer was due to hepatitis C. Currently, refugees coming to the US aren’t even regularly screened for hepatitis C. Yet, people who have hepatitis should get blood drawn every year, as well as get ultrasound of the liver every six months. An article at MPRnews addresses the issue:

St. Paul, Minn. — The Mayo Clinic released a study today that identifies hepatitis C as a cause of rising liver cancer rates. Researchers say with that information, more people can be screened for hepatitis C and prevent cancer.

The finding may have a particular impact on the Somali community. That’s because a second study published by Mayo today says hepatitis C rates among Somalis are much higher than previously suspected.

The first study from the Mayo Clinic confirms that scarring from hepatitis C can develop over decades into liver cancer…

The study, while in progress, caught the attention of Mayo researcher Abdirashid Shire, who visits most of the Somali patients at Mayo and is Somali himself. He’s seen many friends die of advanced liver cancer. So Shire led a second study by digging into the Mayo database, picking out the Somali names, and looking for patterns.

“When we looked at those who develop liver cancer, during the timeframe we looked at between 1996 and 2001, we found 30 people who developed liver cancer,” said Shire. “And can you imagine — almost 80 percent, the liver cancer was due to hepatitis C.”

Until now, Shire says the medical community only knew of one strain of the hepatitis virus prevalent among sub-Saharan Africans — hepatitis B. Currently, Somali refugees coming to the US aren’t even regularly screened for hepatitis C. Shire says if they were, doctors could catch liver problems before they progress past the point of treatment.

There are few early signs of hepatitis C. The virus is transferred through sex or blood transfusions — and it can run rampant in places like Somalia or African refugee camps, where physicians may not always sterilize needles thoroughly between patients.

Shire says people often don’t know they have hepatitis C until decades after the initial infection. By that time, it can be too late…

…Ayan Hassan, who’s a nurse, says her brother got hepatitis C through a blood transfusion in Somalia.

“It really upset me when I find out his doctor was not doing ultrasound, because people who have hepatitis should get blood drawn every year and they should be getting ultrasound every six months,” she said… Read more here

Posted in health, medical care, Minnesota, Somali | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Refugees in Minnesota deal with possible state government shutdown

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 28, 2011

While Minnesota legislators refuse to meet the governor half way on funding state government, and continue to busy themselves with press conferences — repeating positions made at dozens of earlier press conferences — refugees in Minnesota fear for the worst. A state government shutdown could occur this Friday. A Twin Cities Daily Planet article has more:

Day Wah sees the alarm on their faces and hears it in the voices of many of the refugees she works with. They fear this thing called a government shutdown all out of proportion.

“They worry they will have to go and live on the street,” or something worse, Wah tells me, a slight Karen woman with the important job of translating the strange customs and realities of the world we know as Minnesota to the Karen, refugees from Burma, for a program called MORE Multicultural School for Empowerment in St. Paul.

All they know is the news of a possible “government shutdown” that comes to their mailboxes on official government white paper in foreign, black-lettered words.

“They worry. Some people [do] not sleep all night; they cry.” They stockpile food, wonder how they’ll pay their rent or for medical care, says Wah, 27, who came to the United States about four years ago from a refugee camp in Thailand...

In the afternoon, 16 people, including Hmong and Karen translators and an English teacher, gathered…

“We’re meeting because we’re hearing a lot of questions and a lot of worry about the government closing down for awhile. We want to talk about it,” began Sister Stephanie Spandl, a social worker with the program and a member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. A nonprofit had to explain what the government had not…

MORE can help, she said, providing free bread and other food on Fridays, clothes on Saturdays and advocacy help other days. She suggested people help each other, too, by forming babysitting coops, for instance, so they can continue going to work or school, that they use emergency food shelves if food stamp payments are unavailable…

Some small businesses such as those providing foreign-language translators or personal-care attendants might have to close temporarily, she explained. Enlist friends to help if possible, she advised.

“You’re not going to lose your housing right away” if you can’t pay rent, she said. Turn first to family or friends to see if they can lend you money, and if that doesn’t work, try talking to your landlord promising to pay as soon as you receive your housing assistance.

For medications, see if the pharmacy will issue next month’s prescription now. (MORE might be able to help with that, too, [MORE’s executive director Cathy] Patterson said.)

If you’re sick, go to your doctor, Sandl advised. Most likely the doctor will care for you, trusting he or she will eventually receive state reimbursement, she said. “If the doctor says ‘no,’ go the E.R.”… Read more here

**UPDATE** — June 29, 2011 — MPR reports that judge orders “core” services to continue (food stamps and refugee cash assistance will remain available if MN state government shuts down).

**UPDATE** July 7, 2011 – Refugee advocates ask for resumption — during state government shutdown — of translation/interpretation services for new arrivals who do not speak English.

Posted in government, Karen, Minnesota | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Continued refugee resettlement in St. Cloud Minnesota

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 19, 2011

Refugees continue to trickle into St. Cloud, Minnesota. Last year Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota opened a sub-office in the city to serve the growing refugee population, Refugees, mostly Somalis, began arriving a decade ago to take jobs at Electrolux and meat-packing companies, but now these jobs are no longer readily available. An article in the Star Tribune covers the topic.

ST. CLOUD – The basement apartment on the edge of St. Cloud State University’s campus isn’t much to look at, but to Roble Hussein, it’s guri, or “home.”

Three months ago, he lived in a refugee camp halfway across the globe, surviving on one meal a day.

He left his wife and five children to find work and peace in America.

Now, with the help of a new refugee resettlement office in St. Cloud, the Somali native’s dreams have come true. Almost.

Hussein is among about 100 refugees from Somalia and Iraq recently transplanted to the St. Cloud area with assistance from a new branch office of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota — one of five designated refugee resettlement agencies in Minnesota.

Over the next two years, LSS’s St. Cloud office will help resettle 200 more people fleeing violence in Somalia and Iraq.

That St. Cloud was chosen as a destination for the new arrivals has raised questions among immigration supporters and foes alike.

Lutheran Social Service opened the suboffice last year, within months of several incidents that highlighted the tension simmering between longtime St. Cloud residents and Somali immigrants. Among them: A Somali store owner’s business was vandalized with the words “Go home,” spray-painted in large red letters, windows were broken at a local mosque, and the U.S. Department of Education launched an investigation into claims that Somali students routinely faced discrimination and bullying in school because of their culture and Muslim religion..

For readers not from Minnesota, St Cloud has a long history of racial tension. In particular there have been many anti-Semitic activities at St. Cloud University. (St Cloud is also part of the home district of the nutty Rep. Michelle Bachmann – a trust-fund brat whose family got rich off of government agricultural subsidies.)

…”One funny thing about refugee resettlement is that the State Department requires that they have a warm meal upon arriving,” said Kim Dettmer, director of refugee services for the main LSS office in Minneapolis. For that, Jimenez-Wheatley turns to the Somali Café in St. Cloud, which prepares a welcoming meal to be delivered to the apartment.

From the moment the refugees arrive, the clock is running.

“We have a tight deadline. The State Department defines refugee resettlement period as 30 days. It used to be 90 days and even 180 days. A lot of the cases we extend to another two months,” Dettmer explained… Read more here

I’m not sure what is so “funny” about the warm meal requirement of the State Department refugee contract — “those pesky regulations!” It’s probably one of the easiest requirements. Refugees arrive tired and hungry after long intercontinental flights, and most of the time do not get a meal on the American leg of their flight. They need a place to eat and sleep upon arrival. It seems like that is a no-brainer.

Posted in employment/jobs for refugees, faith-based, Iraqi, Jewish, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, meatpacking industry, Muslim, Somali, St. Cloud, State Department | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota branches out to St. Cloud

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 18, 2010

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (LSSMN) is expanding it’s satellite office in St Cloud and will now resettle refugees directly to the city. They expect to resettle 100 refugees this coming fiscal year, mostly Somalis and a few Iraqis.

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota has worked with refugees in St. Cloud since 2002, when it opened a refugee employment office. This year, the agency ratcheted up its efforts by establishing a refugee resettlement office in St. Cloud.

The office has contracted to resettle 100 refugees — mostly Somalis and a few Iraqis — in the St. Cloud area this year and in each of the next two years.

Jennifer Jimenez-Wheatley heads the new office, helping refugees find places to live, work, shop and worship. She helps them learn to speak and write English. She coordinates the resettlement process with local school, government and nonprofit agencies. here

Jimenez-Wheatley claims that local partners decided to resettle Iraqi refugees.

Somalis have established a presence in St. Cloud, but the handful of Iraqis she’s helping settle here won’t be joining such a large community from their home country. Jimenez-Wheatley says St. Cloud’s refugee advisory committee — composed of city, school district and nonprofit officials — decided resettling Iraqis here made sense in part because they share the Muslim faith with the Somali community.

But that can’t be true because LSSMN’s national partner, Lutheran Immigration and Refugees Service (LIRS) is the agency that attends meetings each week in Arlington, VA at the State Department’s RPC (Refugee Processing Center), and decides which refugees it’s affiliates such as LSSMN will take. Or is Jimenez-Wheatley implying that local partners put in requests to LIRS about what type of refugees they want, and in this case they wanted Muslim refugees? I find that bizarre.

In any event, I just read an interesting article about what its like for refugees to deal with our system when they arrive here. One Somali refugee family in St Cloud was beside themselves when they could not find a mentally ill adult daughter for two years because Stearns county would not tell them where she was. here

*UPDATE: Minnesota Public Radio had this to say:

While the refugee resettlement program has received positive feedback from some leaders and community members in St. Cloud, another challenge new refugees may face include religious and cultural misunderstandings. The St. Cloud area has been the recent spotlight of racial, religious, and cultural tensions: from anti-Islamic cartoons to broken windows at the mosque to graffiti on a Somali-owned business that read, “GO HOME.” here

Posted in Christian, faith-based, Iraqi, LIRS, Lutheran, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, mental health, Minnesota, Muslim, RPC (Refugee Processing Center), Somali, St. Cloud, State Department | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

USCRI’s Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services

Posted by Christopher Coen on May 23, 2010

Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, a USCRI affiliate (U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, formerly known as IRSA), has been in the news lately due to an employee who stole $61,420 in legal-aid money intended for needy clients, presumably including refugee and/or other immigrant clients. Her scheme involved filling-out phony applications for security deposits and rent payments for clients and then giving checks to her friends and boyfriend who kicked 50% of the proceeds back to her (here and here).

Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS) is in the business of giving free advice or representation to low-income people in 33 counties. When more than $60,000 is missing, it makes a dent.

Criminal complaints filed in Ramsey County District Court allege that a community worker for SMRLS, Tamara Nichole Collins, 36, of St. Paul, fraudulently issued checks to friends of hers from the SMRLS account. Her friends then cashed them and gave her half the money. The thefts, which happened between March 1, 2008, and Nov. 30, 2009, totaled $61,420.

…Jessie Nicholson, SMRLS’ chief executive officer, said the agency, which has an annual budget of about $8.5 million for its 10 offices, has been reimbursed for the thefts by its insurance company and has sent reimbursements to its funders.

Nicholson said Collins is no longer working at the agency.

The complaint gave this account:

Collins had money available to pay for security deposits and partial and full rent payments to keep clients from being homeless. She would fill out an application with the client’s name, the landlord’s name, address and Social Security number, and the amount of money needed. If the application was approved, a check would be written to the landlord.

The IRS notified SMRLS last October that the Social Security numbers submitted on federal tax forms did not match the person to whom the check was written. An investigation and audit allegedly showed that Collins issued checks to six phony landlords — her friends.

I see that this USCRI-affiliate didn’t even notice that money was missing, and was instead notified by the IRS that names on checks didn’t match the clients’ social security numbers. Exactly how are these USCRI affiliates run where this type of scheme could occur and nobody in the organization would even notice?

There have now been so many scandals involving USCRI affiliates that I think we can safely name the USCRI as the worst refugee resettlement network in the nation.

Posted in Minnesota, Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, USCRI | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »