Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Posts Tagged ‘Office of Refugee Resettlement’

Sexual Abuse Protections For Child Migrants Await Approval

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 28, 2014

ribbon..Proposed regulations for the protection of unaccompanied child migrants in government facilities from sexual assault await the White House’s approval. Advocates claim the delay leaves children in the facilities without key protections against sexual assault. Although the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) was required by law to submit new agency regulations by September 2033, it did not bother to submit more than a draft version in January 2014. The White House has failed to explain the delay. The exact number of assaults in the system that houses unaccompanied migrant children is unknown, although a Houston Chronicle investigation found 101 “significant incident reports” filed between March 2011 and March 2013. Minor victims of abuse also usually have no easy way to report and pursue a case. The children and teenagers are often cut off from the outside, and may have no safe way to report it if they suffer abuse at the hands of a facility staff member. An article in the Huffington Post examines the issue in depth:

WASHINGTON — Proposed regulations that could better protect unaccompanied child migrants in government facilities from sexual assault remain bogged down in the White House’s approval process, despite reports in May that many instances of abuse had been inadequately investigated. Those reports have frustrated advocates who have long pushed for the new rules and see them as even more urgent given the influx of children and teenagers being apprehended along the U.S.-Mexico border.

As the administration strains to handle the humanitarian crisis of nearly 63,000 unaccompanied minors caught crossing the border illegally since October, human rights advocates worry the children might remain vulnerable to abuse in the facilities where they are being kept.

While the children and teenagers are often released to family members and eventually may be deported, those from countries other than Mexico or Canada first go to the Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Refugee Resettlement. The agency has its own internal standards in place, but it hasn’t finalized implementation of the stricter standards required under the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act, or PREA. That means there are fewer formalized standards to help minors who already may be vulnerable to abuse, scared to speak out and unsure to how to ask for help… Read more here

Posted in abuse, children, Dept of Homeland Security, Guatemalan, Honduran, Obama administration, reform, Salvadoran, teenagers, unaccompanied minors | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

ORR webinar on refugee secondary migrants on September 23rd

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 19, 2014

webinarThe Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is inviting those who assist refugees to take part in a wbinar on self sufficiency for secondary migrants. Those are refugees that have chosen to move to a new community after initial resettlement. The webinar will highlight best practices for supporting those refugees. The following letter explaining the Secondary Migration webinar was sent out via ORR’s listserve:

The Office of Refugee Resettlement invites you to participate in a webinar on Secondary Migration: What Communities are Doing to Ensure Success and Self-Sufficiency for Second Waves of Refugees on Tuesday, September 23, 2014 (from 1 to 2 p.m. eastern).
Every year, the United States resettles more refugees than any other country in the world. Refugees are resettled to locations throughout the country where services are available to help with resettlement and integration. For a variety of reasons, some refugees choose to move from the city where they are initially placed, which can present challenges and opportunities for both refugees and providers of public services. This webinar will highlight best practices for supporting refugees that have chosen to move to a new community after initial resettlement.
Speakers include:
·        Amy Shir, ORR TA Provider
·        Lewis Kimsey, Kansas State Refugee Coordinator
·        Susan Downs-Karkos, Welcoming America
·        Brenda Zion, formerly of One Morgan County, Colorado
To participate in this ORR-sponsored webinar, please register here.
Thank you,

Posted in best practices, ORR | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

ORR releases $71.5M in refugee service funds withheld in June

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 19, 2014

unlocking moneyAn AP article indicates that the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) has decided to release the funds it withheld from resettlement agencies in June. The funds were withheld due to the competition for funds from the influx of non-refugee unaccompanied minors from Central America. The ORR claims that the number of minors turned out below projections, and spending on them was apparently manageable without using refugee funding – or so we’re led to believe. The new wave of minors expected in September and October apparently failed to arrive at projected levels. Florida’s The Daily Journal carries the AP article:

MIAMI — Groups that provide refugee services across the United States expressed relief Thursday after the federal government announced the release of $71.5 million it had reprogrammed in June to deal with the thousands of unaccompanied minors who crossed the border this year.

The Department of Health and Human Services told the states on Thursday that the money would be released because the flow of migrants had fallen.

Health and Human Services Spokesman Kenneth Wolfe said the funds were released on Sept. 15, adding there were no immediate plans to withhold funds in 2015. Originally HHS had said in June that more than $90 million would be withheld as the agency dealt with a crisis involving minors streaming over the border from Mexico. Unaccompanied children who migrate to the United States also fall under the auspices of the federal refugee office.

That number was slightly reduced later to $71.5 million, but groups across the country still scrambled to scale back programs such as English language classes, job counseling and tutoring… Read more here

Posted in ORR, unaccompanied minors | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

ORR to divert $94 mil from the refugee resettlement fund to aid influx of migrant children

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 2, 2014


To deal with the unprecedented influx of migrant children crossing the border illegally from Central America the ORR (Office for Refugee Resettlement) is transferring nearly $94 million from the refugee resettlement fund to the Unaccompanied Alien Children program. The transfer will result in a reduction in services to refugees being resettled to the US, including services such as English language learning, career development and housing placement. An article in NPR in Louisville covers the issue:

An increase of undocumented children coming into America is expected to reduce the funding for services available to displaced people living in Kentucky and across the U.S.

Kentucky Office for Refugees officials expect to see a $2.28 million cut in federal funding to provide refugees in Kentucky with services such as English language learning, career development and housing placement.

The reduction in funding stems from an influx of children coming to the U.S. to escape violence and economic struggle in Central America, refugee services officials said.  To better serve these children, the Office for Refugee Resettlement is transferring nearly $94 million to the Unaccompanied Alien Children program.  The $2.28 million Kentucky officials expect to lose is a part of the $94 million transfer.

Because of the cuts, thousands of newly arrived refugees would receive a limited amount of…services… Read more here

Posted in children, funding, Kentucky, Louisville, ORR, teenagers, unaccompanied minors | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Wyoming governor wants refugee resettlement in state

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 9, 2014


The Wyoming state government is requesting that the federal government help it set up refugee resettlement in the state. Up to now it has been the only state without direct refugee resettlement. Republican Governor Matt Mead wrote a letter in September to the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) saying the state is interested in establishing a public/private center to help refugees. (No doubt the request is motivated less by this red state’s interest in helping refugees as it is in bringing in labor willing to accept low wages for the state’s businesses. ) A newspaper article claims that the state may also decide how many refugees it will accept each year, but that is not correct. State refugee coordinators may only give their recommendations to the U.S. State Department, which manages the first stage of resettlement. The State Department decides whether to accept in whole or in part resettlement agency plans (plans submitted by the local resettlement agencies’ national affiliates) for the upcoming fiscal year, including numbers of refugees that the agencies plan to resettle. An article in Gillette News Record announces the plans:

The governor wrote a letter in September to the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement saying Wyoming was interested in establishing a public/private center to help refugees.

The federal agency has responded that it was happy to hear of that wish and the work in progress.

Since then, state officials, University of Wyoming officials and the Lutheran Family Services-Rocky Mountain have been working to put a plan together to make it possible.

There are some federal requirements and we are addressing those,” said Shawn Reese, the policy director in the governor’s office.

Among the decisions to be made is where that resettlement center will be located in Wyoming. University of Wyoming College of Law students will begin a study to determine the best site for that center with a conference call taking place next week to set a timeline for that work.

They will be conducting community profiles to determine where it makes the most sense,” said Merit Thomas, who…is working on the project. …The state also can determine how many refugees it will accept each year.

The center will happen within the next year,” Reese predicted. “We’re trying to get that hammered out.”… Read more here

Posted in Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountain, ORR, public/private partnership, Wyoming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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 »

Congress increases ORR funding to $1.489 BIL from last year’s $1.12 BIL

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 27, 2014


Congress has increased the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s budget by nearly half a billion dollars this year (compare to last year), but resettlement agencies and some others are claiming this as a shortfall. That’s because the ORR had requested $1.6 billlion to cover an estimated 26,000 unaccompanied children coming to the United States from Mexico and Central America this year – an increase of approximately 10,000 unaccompanied minors from the number of children in the 2012 fiscal year. Critics of the numbers, however, say that taking care of 10,000 extra children should not require yet another half billion dollars added to the ORR budget. An article in The Duke Chronicle explains the numbers:

Congress has…increased funding for the Office of Refugee Resettlement to $1.489 billion from last year’s $1.12 billion, said Jen Smyers, associate director for immigration and refugee policy at Church World Service—a group that works with refugees in Durham and across the country. ORR estimated it would need $1.6 billion to serve all the populations in its care this year—a half billion increase from last year’s budget—and is looking for ways to meet the more than $100 million shortfall, Smyers added.

We never thought [the funding] was going to get cut from last year’s level,” Smyers said. “Our fear was that they would not get anywhere near [ORR’s] needs…

Projected costs for this fiscal year increased by nearly half a billion dollars to cover an estimated 26,000 unaccompanied alien children coming to the United States from Mexico and Central America this year, Smyers said. This is an increase of approximately 10,000 unaccompanied children from the number of children in the 2012 fiscal year.

Suzanne Shanahan, associate director of ethics at the Kenan Institute and associate research professor in sociology, was critical of the calculations used to reach the increase in ORR’s budget requirements. She said that taking care of 10,000 extra children should not require a 30 percent increase in funds.

The U.S. resettles 60,000 refugees a year, and the 60,000 refugees cost $1.12 billion [last year],” Shanahan said. “To say that a half billion dollars is what it takes to increase that by 10,000, the math is extremely wrong.”

With regard to the $100 million shortfall, Shanahan said this is only between a 6 and 7 percent total shortfall, which is not “extraordinary.”… Read more here

Posted in children, Congress, CWS, funding, ORR | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

What’s Refugee School Impact Grant funding?

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 24, 2013

 school impact funding

Refugee School Impact Grant (RSIG) funding is a program of the US Department of Health & Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement which helps to offset added costs to schools to educate refugee children. Both refugee resettlement agencies and local government units can apply for the funding. Last year the two resettlement agencies in Louisville received around $35,000 each in RSIG funds for services such as helping refugee school children pay for backpacks, school uniforms, other school supplies, summer school, case management and field trips. This year the two agencies each received around $30,000 in RSIG funds. The local school district received almost $200,000 in RSIG funding, which it used to hire a part-time youth staff person and to expand its tutoring program. It seems like Springfield, Massachusetts should be asking its local refugee resettlement agencies if they applied for RSIG, as well as apply for its own funding.  I see from the list of grantees that the Massachusetts Office for Refugees & Immigrants received $420,000 in  school impact fundingAn article at WFPL in Louisville (an NPR affiliate) explains how RSIG is being used to aid refugee school children in that city:

The number of refugee students in Jefferson County continues to rise at a quick pace and the agencies responsible for their resettlement say extra funding being appropriated to them has improved their relationship with the school district.

Since last year, Kentucky Refugee Ministries and Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services—both support refugee resettlements—have received their own RSIG funding and officials say the extra cash has been a big help.

We finally, for the first time, have field trip money, money for backpacks and uniforms and other supplies that come as needed,” says Adrienne Eisenmenger, youth services coordinator at Kentucky Refugee Ministries.

For a while, these two organizations have been liaisons between the school district, families and many students who are resettled in the U.S. not knowing English. Officials say each organization received around $30,000 this year, a $5,000 decrease from the year before.

JCPS received almost $200,000 in RSIG funding.

It has helped us hire a part-time person who is now working with youth services. It has also helped us expand to have other people involved in our tutoring program,” says Eisenmenger… Read more here

Posted in children, Jewish Family Service of Western Masachusetts, Louisville, Lutheran Social Services of New England -- Ascentria Care Alliance, ORR, school for refugee children, schools, Springfield | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Federal budget impasse led to 5% across board cuts to ORR

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 24, 2013


The federal budget impasse brought on by Republican obstructionism led to a 5 percent, across-the-board spending cut by federal agencies beginning in March. The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR – in the US Dept. of Health & Human Services) then had to decide how it would apportion the cut. Apparently one of the ORR’s refugee resettlement programs they thought should be the first to cut is the Matching Grant Program. That is the program in which highly employable refugees receive extra services to help get them into jobs right away while staying off of public assistance. The program brings in a lot of federal money to the private resettlement contractors in return for plain little effort by those groups. Without it the refugees can still access employment services via ORR’s employment services program grants to the resettlement contractors. An article at KPBS Radio explains:

Across-the-board federal budget cuts are being felt…by resettlement agencies and the refugees they help.

…refugee service providers are beginning to feel the pinch of sequestration. The 5 percent, across-the-board spending cuts went into effect in March, slicing into federal spending by the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement.

…that means organizations that smooth the transition for refugees have less money to help them find work.

[In San Diego] Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Director Michael McKay said his organization has lost about $15,000 for a program that places refugees into jobs within four months of arrival. It matches federal dollars with local funds to cover caseworkers and programming that get refugees into the workforce, usually in San Diego’s hospitality industry.

McKay said the $15,000 would put about seven people through the program… Read more here

Posted in Catholic Charities of San Diego, funding, Matching Grant program, ORR, San Diego | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Unemployment, depression, lack of family ties & suicide among Bhutanese refugees

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 14, 2013


At least 25 Bhutanese refugees have committed suicide in the U.S. since the group began to resettle here in 2008. This blog reported on the problem when a few reports began to show up in the media and covered the stories as they occurred (see cases in Pittsburgh, Nashville, Buffalo and Phoenix). Refugee resettlement agencies have been for the most part silent about the phenomena. Risk factors include depression, not being the family’s provider, feelings of limited social support, having family conflict after resettlement, and having been resettled here less than a year ago. An article in The Atlantic magazine now shines a brighter light on this issue:

…Mitra Mishra killed himself. Subedi, a case manager for Bhutanese refugees at Interfaith Works Center for New Americans in Syracuse, NY, was with the 20-year-old Mishra at Schiller Park the evening of July 3, 2010.

“We played soccer just the previous day until 6 p.m. and he was totally fine,” Subedi said of Mishra, who was not a client of the center. “He played with me and I drove him back to his home. There wasn’t any indication. Nothing was wrong.”

On Independence Day, early morning walkers found Mishra’s body hanging from a tree at the soccer field.

…Mishra’s death is part of a troubling pattern among Bhutanese refugees resettled in the U.S. In August of 2010, about a month after Mishra’s death, Dan Maya Gurung committed suicide in Buffalo, according to the Bhutan News Service. Gurung was in her late 30s and had been in the country just two weeks. The next month, Nirmala Niroula, 35, also living in Buffalo, hung herself in her apartment. Niroula had moved to the U.S. three months earlier. That December, 20-year-old Menuka Poudel was found dead in her Phoenix apartment, hanging from a noose fashioned from the shawl Bhutanese women wear with their traditional clothing. She had been in the States just two months.

The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) began to notice a pattern. Ultimately, 16 suicides were confirmed among U.S. resident Bhutanese refugees as of February 2012…

…The rate of depression among the Bhutanese surveyed was 21 percent, nearly three times that of the general U.S. population (6.7 percent). In addition to depression, risk factors for suicide included not being the family’s provider, feelings of limited social support, and having family conflict after resettlement. Most of the suicides were within a year of resettlement to the U.S. and, in all cases, the victims hanged themselves…

…the problem is not over just because the study period has ended. Nine more suicides have been reported to ORR since. The numbers may actually be higher, says Som Nath Subedi, the Portland caseworker. He says the community is reluctant to discuss suicides out of fear of how the news might affect resettlement, which continues today… Read more here

Posted in alienation-isolation, CDC, Hindu, mental health, Nepali Bhutanese, ORR, suicide | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »