Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Posts Tagged ‘US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants’

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 »

International Institute of New England mischararterizes Manchester Mayor’s position

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 24, 2013


The Mayor of Manchester has now long opposed refugee resettlement in his city. Whether you agree with his position or not, there should be no confusion about his opposition to the refugee program and his desire for a moratorium. The International Institute of New England, oddly, claims to have thought otherwise and justified resettlement to its national affiliate USCRI based on that belief. The resettlement organization claimed that Mayor Gatsas was “nuetral” on refugee resettlement for the coming year. Gatsas has quickly corrected that understanding and says he remains in support of a moratorium. The Institute also claims that there was no agreement on the number of refugees to be resettled in Manchester this coming fiscal year, while Gatsas claims that resettling 200 refugees breaks an agreement he had with the organization. An article in The New Hampshire Union Reader explains:

Services via COMTEX) –Another 200 refugees will be resettled in Manchester in the coming months, a number that Mayor Ted Gatsas said breaks an agreement he had reached with a refugee resettlement organization.

However, the International Institute of New England said the agreement was only for a 12-month period that lapses next month. And the projection for the coming 12 months — 200 refugees for Manchester — is the same as the current period. An additional 50 will be placed in Nashua.

Carolyn Benedict-Drew, the director of the Boston-based International Institute of New England, said the refugees entering New Hampshire starting in October will most likely be Bhutanese and Iraqis…

A recent report by the International Institute of New Hampshire prepared for the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants said that the state’s two largest cities have a favorable economic forecast, medical clinics and facilities to treat refugees with mental health and physical problems, including HIV/AIDS, and access to state funding for English classes.

The abstract report described Gatsas as neutral on the additional 200 refugees.

But Gatsas said that’s not the case, and he continues to favor a moratorium on refugee resettlement. He noted the Democratic mayor of Springfield, Mass., has asked for a moratorium…

Benedict-Drew said the agreement only covered the current year.

“There was never an agreement for more than one year,” she said. “We honored it for one year.”

Benedict-Drew said she likes Gatsas and asked to have the phrase that described him as neutral on the 200 refugees redacted… Read more here

Posted in International Institute of NE, moratorium / restriction / reduction, New Hampshire, USCRI | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Disabilities stigma in many refugee communities

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 10, 2013


While there remains stigmas around many disabilities in US culture, especially those related to emotional and mental health, these stigmas are even worse in many refugee communities. An article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune explores the issue:

…A recent study by researchers at the University of California, Davis, found that children with developmental disabilities in Hmong families, for instance, face significant barriers to receiving services. The obstacles include lack of accurate information, language difficulties, lack of trust and limited outreach.

In 2007, the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants put out a resource guide for serving refugees with disabilities, pointing out that — in some languages — there is not even a word for disability.

…there are no reliable figures on the number of Somalis with disabilities in Minnesota….

It is tough because we try to avoid the stigma that it is even associated with any weakness whatsoever,” said Ahmed Ismail Yusuf, whose book “Somalis in Minnesota” documents the immigration of Somalis to the state.

Yusuf works at a clinic that sees Somalis, often at the height of a mental health crisis. “At times, the affliction itself overwhelms them so then they have to seek some kind of relief,” he said.

Coming from a war-torn region with little faith in corrupt government, many Somalis may resist seeking government resources available to them in the west…

The Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, 60 miles from the Somali border, is the largest contained refugee camp in the world, serving people mostly from neighboring Somalia. The Oxford University-based Forced Migration Review noted that people with disabilities, especially children, often face frequent beatings, stonings and verbal abuse in the camp. Mothers who give birth to children with impairments are often abandoned by their husbands.

A 2007 study by a British researcher found that Somali refugees in London’s Camden district made considerably less use of community mental health resources because of the brand attached to mental illness… Read more here

Posted in abuse, disabled refugees, Hmong, language, mental health, Somali, Twin Cities, USCRI | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Volunteer gives a thumb down to USCRI Albany

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 2, 2011

According to Peter Huston who volunteered at the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) in Albany, NY, the organization is not doing adequate work. This site is a local office of USCRI, and not an affiliate organization. Peter Huston’s blog has the details:

Is USCRI Albany a successful organization?

This is an important question that people should ask. Not only does the organization receive large amounts of government funding, resettle large numbers of people, but it also sends a signal to the outside world that it is THE place to send refugees in need of care.

In other words, more than once when I have taken refugees to places like the New York State One-stop Job Center, the state mandated and tax funded office that is supposed to assist all legal residents of the area with job-hunting, the secretary or someone else has suggested to me that I take the person, the refugee in need of work, down to the refugee center as this is supposed to be THEIR job. However, being familiar with the refugee center (and its very dedicated but completely overwhelmed job placement people)I know darn well that that is not an effective solution. In other words, the existence of the refugee center (USCRI-Albany) gives many people in social services the feeling that things are being taken care of when anyone familiar with the refugee center (USCRI-Albany) knows that they are not being handled properly.

Not too long ago a refugee invited me to attend an event where a spokesperson for USCRI-Albany stated that USCRI-Albany is an organization that helps refugees when they come to our area. In fact, USCRI-Albany is an organization that invites refugees to our area, promises the state department they will care for them, receives payment for doing so from the state department, and then, sometimes, only sometimes, actually cares for them in a responsible manner…


Anonymous said…

Peter Limon is Lavinia Limon’s brother. It’s a family operation all right. I’m a former employee. As we used to say, “When life gives you Limones, …keep your head down and don’t ask questions…or else…”

October 15, 2011 4:37 PM …Read more here

Posted in Albany, employment services, Karen, Karenni, State Department, USCRI, USCRI Albany, volunteers | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

USCRI’s Bowling Green International Center claims they do a great job, refugees disagree

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 3, 2010

An article in the Bowling Green Daily-News comments on local refugee resettlement and Senator Lugar’s recent refugee resettlement report. According to the article refugees make up about 10% of Bowling Green’s population. That seems difficult to believe.

The article also states that the local Health Department makes refugees pay for their own vaccinations at their first health screening. How is that possible? Does that mean that refugees who cannot afford vaccinations don’t get them?

The Warren County Health Department is where most refugees get their first medical treatment. They get vaccinations if needed, and are screened for tuberculosis.

“They have to pay out of pocket for those immunizations, which is tough for some,” said Rebecca Tyree, a registered nurse and center coordinator for the health departmenthere

This makes absolutely no sense, because the ORR reimburses local health departments for refugee medical screening costs. According to ORR’s website:

The Cash and Medical Assistance (CMA) Program is part of the Division of Refugee Assistance and provides reimbursement to States and alternative refugee assistance programs for 100 percent of …Refugee Medical Assistance (RMA)… CMA also reimburses States for medical screening costs through local public health clinics or physicians so that contagious diseases and medical conditions that may be a public health concern or a barrier to refugees’ economic self-sufficiency are identified and treated. here.

In the article, James Robinson, executive director of the USCRI affiliate, Bowling Green International Center (IC), describes the work his agency does as an “attempt” not to leave refugees high and dry. That would seem to instill somewhat less than total confidence in the quality of his agency’s services. But, of course last year and earlier this year we heard from a friend of the local Karenni refugees, Cindy Florez, who described the horribly filthy apartments where the IC had placed the refugees. She said the apartments looked like they have never been cleaned in years before the refugees’ arrival, and teemed with cockroaches and rodents. (See pictures of broken fire alarms, filthy walls, filthy counter tops, broken screens) She said that the furniture the International Center gave the refugees was stuff that Goodwill would have thrown out.

Refugees placed into apartments with filthy walls

Refugees tried to thread up apartment’s torn screens

Cindy Florez says her Halloween weekend visit to a new refugee family she has befriended in Bowling Green, Ky., was scary.

The family of four Karenni refugees from Myanmar had no bedsheets, and shared one small bath towel, one plate, two coffee mugs and two spoons, she said. The carpets and walls were grimy. She found mouse droppings and cockroaches.

After fumigating, “it took us well over an hour cleaning up roaches,” Florez said.

James Robinson, director of the agency that resettles refugees in Bowling Green, concedes some refugees have cockroaches — but he points out that families don’t always wrap garbage and keep food off counters. Landlords assure the agency that they spray for pests monthly, he added.

And, Robinson retorts, Florez’ allegations that families are left without basic household supplies are “totally untrue.”

The Western Kentucky Refugee Mutual Assistance Association, also known as the International Center, has resettled about 600 refugees from Myanmar in the past year. Caseworkers inspect and furnish apartments, then photograph each family with the initial food and household supplies they receive, Robinson said.

Refugees sometimes move all their beds into one room, placing box springs and mattresses directly on the floor, he said. They get rid of the bed frames, so they may throw or give away other supplies as well, he theorizes.

They are free people,” Robinson said. “They can do what they want.” (here On the map click on Kentucky)

stained kitchen counters

It’s funny that Mr. Robinson came up with this type of defense about refugees throwing away bed-frames. In the photos that Cindy Florez took you can see that the mattresses are still propped up on bed-frames, here. He also talks about refugees leaving out food, except that these refugees had just recently arrived when Cindy found them. She said the apartments looked like they hadn’t been cleaned in years. I guess Mr. Robinson thinks its his job just to rationalize away his agency’s failures to fulfill its contractual responsibilities. See videos herehere and here. Cindy also said that refugee children missed vaccinations because the IC did not give rides to the medical clinic that they had promised. She also reported that the refugees’ landlord had her thrown off the apartment property by the police when she brought donations to the refugees. She said these landlords where working in close coordination with the International Center. IC caseworkers also showed up on a Sunday on a holiday weekend to watch (intimidate?) the refugees as they spoke to police who were bringing donated coats. Conditions were so bad that at least ten Karenni refugees quickly out-migrated to Minnesota, just to get away from the IC.

Kentucky’s state refugee coordinator Becky Jordan was most unhelpful when we brought these concerns to her attention earlier this year. She told us that she wasn’t going to communicate with us because we dared to ask her if she was concerned about the refugees. It turned out that she actually works for another refugee resettlement contractor in Kentucky, Catholic Charities. She has her office at Catholic Charities and receives a paycheck from them, while supposedly acting as their oversight agent (does that make any sense?). She even told us she was accountable to Catholic Charities and not to us.

That’s how the system works folks.


broken smoke alarm

another broken smoke alarm

filthy walls

Posted in Bowling Green, Burma/Myanmar, Catholic, Catholic Charities of Louisville Inc., furnishings, lack of, health, household items, missing or broken, housing, housing, substandard, International Center in Bowling Green (Western Kentucky Refugee Mutual Assistance Association), Karenni, Kentucky, secondary migration, refugee, transportation, USCRI | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments »

15-year-old Eritrean refugee boy shot to death in St. Louis – International Institute says refugees had incorrect “perception” of safety

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 15, 2010

A 15-year-old Eritrean refugee boy was murdered on June 11th at the apartment complex that the International Institute in St. Louis (a USCRI affiliate) resettled his family and other refugees to. The neighborhood the apartments are in is known as unsafe, yet the International Institute continued to place refugees there do to the apartments’ size and cost.


Sahele Wodede

[Sahele Wodede] and his family were in search of a stable life, a place to rebuild. After Sahele’s father was killed in their home country of Eritrea, the rest of the family fled to a refugee camp in neighboring Ethiopia. When the family relocated to St. Louis in 2007, safety was foremost. So much so that the family picked up and moved when Sahele’s mother felt their apartment on Hodiamont Avenue was too dangerous.

But it wasn’t enough.

On June 11, one week after finishing his sophomore year, Sahele was gunned down at the same apartment complex his family had abandoned.

The 15-year-old had returned to the apartments often to visit one of his good friends and soccer mates, Jujuba, who came to the U.S. 10 months after Sahele. The boys were from the same refugee camp. They loved their new American life but talked fondly about their homeland.

Sahele and four other teens were dropping off Jujuba at his home June 11, after a day of soccer practice at Tower Grove Park. As the teens walked to the front door, a white car drove by. Several shots were fired from an automatic rifle. An 18-year-old took a bullet to the chest. Sahele was shot twice in the head, with the second bullet traveling down his back. He collapsed in Jujuba’s apartment, where eight family members were at home, terrified but unharmed after bullets came through a front window. Sahele died at a hospital a short time later. The 18-year-old is recovering.

The shootings have set the small Eritrean community in St. Louis on edge. here 

The International Institute’s chief executive officer claims that the problem lies, not with her agency for placing the refugees in a dangerous area, but with the refugees who just don’t understand how dangerous the city is. Plus, they trained the refugees to be streetwise.  

Anna Crosslin, chief executive officer of the International Institute of St. Louis, said that the agency worked with police and neighborhood groups and that refugees were trained to be streetwise. 

“We struggle with the whole perception of what is safe and what isn’t,” Crosslin said. 

Refugees think of the city as safe harbor from the atrocities they faced in their home country. 

“They say: ‘I’m safe, I’m safe. I’m free.’ Until something like this happens, they don’t realize (crime) is real,” she said. 

Yet, the refugees do indeed seem to have understood the dangers facing them in the neighborhood, contrary to Anna Crosslin’s claims. 

When the family came to St. Louis, they moved in next to refugees from Somalia, Nepal, Iraq and Cuba. All sought the roomy and cheap accommodations of the apartment complex on Hodiamont Avenue. 

Sahele’s family felt uneasy there, in a neighborhood that did not always welcome outsiders and is known for its violence. One of Sahele’s brothers was beaten. So the family moved to another part of town after only a few months. 

Teachers who work with refugees in the St. Louis Public Schools say the students have complained about the Hodiamont apartments. The neighborhood is not walkable to the schools refugees attend or to most of the services they need. 

“The kids are constantly harassed, their bikes get stolen. Car windows get broken out,” said teacher Sarah Natwick, also with the English language program at Roosevelt. 

Ms. Crosslin goes on to claim that her organization just can’t find large enough apartments with landlords who are willing to take refugees with no credit or work history. 

An ongoing challenge, Crosslin said, is finding large apartments with cheap rent. The agency must abide by city occupancy permits, which restrict how many people can live in a residence. Most refugee families are large. 

“The ability to find three- and four-bedroom apartments is a woeful problem,” Crosslin said. 

Most landlords require credit ratings and work history — two things refugees don’t have. 

“We work with landlords who will take them on faith,” said Crosslin. 

Yet, do landlords really ask for work histories as Ms. Crosslin claims? I asked a few people in our group and none of us have ever been asked for this when applying for an apartment or helping refugees to apply. They do ask for one’s current employer in order to verify income, although any source of income is usually acceptable. As to credit histories, many landlords do not ask for this as so many people on the market for inexpensive apartments have poor credit histories. Most landlords are more interested in whether or not someone has an eviction on their record or not. 

Of course even if landlords in St Louis are asking for work and credit histories as Ms. Crosslin claims, does that mean that refugees must be resettled to dangerous apartment complexes? It is the International Institute in St. Louis, in partnership with the State Refugee Coordinator, Sandra Nelson, who is recommending St. Louis as an appropriate resettlement site for international refugees. If we are to believe that the only place to resettle these refugees is to Hodiamont Avenue apartments in which their property and lives are in danger, then is St. Louis really a good site for them? 

I think that if refugee resettlement officials also risked paying with their lives for these decisions, just like the refugees do, that we would quickly see a sudden change in how they conduct refugee resettlement in this country.

Posted in children, Cuban, dangerous neighborhoods, Eritrean, housing, International Institute in St. Louis, Iraqi, Missouri, Nepali Bhutanese, safety, Somali, St. Louis | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

USCRI’s International Institute of Erie in “partial compliance” with State Department refugee services contract

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 21, 2010

In the latest monitoring report from the State Department evaluating the USCRI’s International Institute of Erie, the State Department rated the agency as being in “partial compliance” with their refugee services contract (here). They rated housing and furnishings provided to refugees by the International Institute of Erie as “not in compliance” with R&P (resettlement & placement) requirements, and refugee employment, at 41%, was below established targets (75%).

The International Institute of Erie made it into the newspaper in recent months with a report that a Burmese refugee family was left at the airport overnight and had to sleep on the floor, here and here. We inquired with the director of the Institute, John Flanagan, to find out why the refugees were left there, but he never responded.

The State Department report, the product of a second State Department inspection in eight years (unusual), found that of four refugee families visited, three reported that the Institute had delivered some required furnishings and done some repairs the DAY BEFORE the monitors’ visit. The housing and furnishings were also generally below minimum standards. The monitors suggested that the Institute’s director Mr. Flanagan, visit the homes of the Burundian, Iraqi, and Burmese refugee families (gee, what a novel idea).

According to the report:

In the apartment of the Burundian family, monitors observed water leaking through electrical wiring, evidence of rodent and insect infestation, and several broken chairs. The oven did not work and the rear entrance to the apartment had been boarded up. Furniture was arranged in one bedroom in a way that would make exit difficult in an emergency. The family reported that affiliate staff delivered a sofa and alarm clock and repaired a moldy, leaking bathroom ceiling the day before the monitors’ visit. Monitors asked that alternative housing be found immediately for the family.

The Iraqi family informed monitors that they were extremely uncomfortable in their home and were often afraid to leave the apartment because they feel the neighborhood is unsafe. They described an instance where a woman screamed all night in the street outside their apartment, and said they have witnessed drug dealers fighting and frequent police activity in the neighborhood. They complained that the house is dirty and infested with insects, the bathroom did not work for two weeks after their arrival; and the lock on the door to the basement is broken. Clothing storage had been provide by [the International Institute of Erie] the day before the monitors’ visit. Monitors observed garbage stored in the hallway outside the family’s kitchen, and moldy carpet in the bathroom. There was  no working smoke detector in the apartment. …the husband said he was relying on Iraqi friends to help him find work because International Institute of Erie staff had told him there was no work available.

…Monitors asked that the affiliate assist the Iraqi [family] to find new housing.

Read more. It doesn’t get much better.

Posted in Burma/Myanmar, Burundian, employment services, Erie, furnishings, lack of, household items, missing or broken, housing, substandard, International Institute of Erie, Iraqi, meeting refugees at the airport, neglect, Nepali Bhutanese, Pennsylvania, R&P, State Department, USCRI | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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 »

International Institute of Connecticut back in the refugee resettlement program

Posted by Christopher Coen on May 22, 2010

People in Ansonia, CT, outside of New Haven, are worrying that schools cannot handle an influx of refugees brought to the area by the USCRI’s International Institute of Connecticut (see the Valley Independent Sentinel article here). People voiced other concerns back on March 3 (here).

School officials are worried they won’t be able to adequately educate a group of refugees that have arrived in Ansonia from Nepal.

This week the city’s tax board recommended a zero-percent increase for the school district.

At a school board meeting Wednesday, school Superintendent Carol Merlone worried about the combination of low funding and refugee students in the district.

School officials said the school district only has one English as a Second Language teacher per school. They’re worried about the ESL teachers being overwhelmed due to the arrival of the refugee students who do not speak English.

While the new students have been welcomed with open arms into the district, “We don’t want to overburden the school system,” the superintendent said. “I’m worried about children getting gypped.”

Refugee families have been arriving in the lower Valley since March. In all, about 10 families are expected to arrive by June.

Merlone’s comments came after Jeremy Marshall, a case manager with the non-profit International Institute of Connecticut, made a presentation to the school board about his organization and the arriving families.

So far, 15 people have arrived in Ansonia, Marshall said, including eight children in the school district.

Another family is expected to arrive next week.

Many of the new residents have spent 20 years confined to refugee camps. Marshall urged the board to support the new arrivals.

“[The Nepalese] are very much dependent on some institution to help them out,” he said.

He said volunteers would be on hand so the school district wouldn’t have to should the responsibility alone.

Marshall’s organization uses several sources of funding, including government grants, to support the families as they transition to a new life in the U.S.

The goal is to make the families self-sufficient within six months.

“Within one year they can have a green card,” Marshall said.

School officials wanted to know why it seems all the families are arriving in Ansonia, where the school district already faces a number of challenges, including large class sizes.

To date, no refugee students have been placed in the neighboring Derby school district.

Marshall said there is an oversight committee has strict criteria in deciding where to place refugees. Number one on the list — “Housing rates have to be low,” he said.

Representatives from Marshall’s organization told the Valley Indy in March that they were looking to place people outside major cities. The refugees assimilate better in smaller communities that have accessible public transportation.

“There is an overflow of refugees already set up in Waterbury and Bridgeport,” Marshall told the school board.

While there is another refugee family due to arrive in Ansonia next week, Marshall said it is unclear whether more families will be coming to Ansonia.

About four members of the public spoke on the refugee issue. Most of the speakers expressed concerns about the situation.

Ken Plavnicky, co-chairman of Axe the Tax, a citizen group, said the city cannot afford to absorb the refugees.

“Bringing families into Ansonia is going to cost a lot of money, why couldn’t they reach out to a more wealthy community, such as Fairfield or Darien?” he asked.

Terri Goldson, the principal of John C. Mead School, asked the school board to “have an open mind and have an open heart,” concerning the refugees.

Of course USCRI’s International Institute of Connecticut lost its State Department refugee resettlement contract just two years ago in May 2008 due to repeated severe neglect of refugees, including placing Burmese refugee clients in poor housing, fractious relationships with volunteers, missed immunizations for refugee students, and insufficient help for refugees with daily tasks (here). The State Department inspected the agency in 2006 (here) and warned them to clean up their act, but apparently they were unable or unwilling to do so.

Then, why are they resettling refugees again when they proved repeatedly that they could not be entrusted to care for vulnerable refugee clients? It makes me think that the State Department’s cancellation (now revealed as a temporary revocation) of the Institute’s contract was just a dodge to divert attention away from this agency after the series of newspaper articles documenting the repeated neglect of refugees, and do little government oversight agencies (see a series of articles under CT in our Document Library page, here).

By the way, in 2007 the International Institute of Connecticut board of directors approved the agency’s executive director, Myra Oliver (now deceased), paying herself $99,893 (see 990 form), while she placed her refugee clients in squalor, even though the State Department had just admonished the group for doing the same thing just a year earlier. In 2006 the board approved payment to Oliver of $100,016 (see 990).  According to these 990 forms the International Institute of Connecticut in 2006 was getting 90% of its operating funds from the government, and 87% in 2007. So the great “public/private partnership” was a 9 to 1 split in this case, with refugees going wanting for basics while the board paid the executive director handsomely with our public funds.

In addition, the current Board of Directors officers listed at the group’s website (here) are the same people as listed on the 2008 form 990 when the Institute lost its refugee contract due to the abuses — Sharon Kish – President, Robert Maresca, Esq.- Vice President, Fr. Richard Ryscavage- Secretary, and Jorge Atencio.

So why did the International Institute of Connecticut get their refugee resettlement contract reinstalled so soon and with the same people overseeing it? Why should we ever trust this group again?

Posted in Burma/Myanmar, Connecticutt, education, ESL & ELL, household items, missing or broken, housing, substandard, International Institute of Connecticut, moratorium / restriction / reduction, neglect, Nepali Bhutanese, New Haven, school for refugee children, State Department, USCRI | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Refugees accuse International Institute of Boston of placing them in expensive apartments

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 19, 2010

Once again refugees are complaining about services they received at a USCRI affiliate, in this case the International Institute of Boston (here).

Many refugees are angry at resettlement agencies, such as the International Institute of Boston, that brought them here. They accuse the institute of placing them in apartments that are too expensive for their meager benefits, and then abandoning them.

Carolyn Benedict Drew, International Institute president, instead blames the refugees, saying they are rich and expect too much. Apparently Ms. Benedict Drew prefers that all refugees be poor, uneducated people with lower expectations of what her agency should do for them.

Carolyn Benedict Drew, International Institute president, said she agreed that the financial assistance was inadequate but also said many of the Iraqis came from well-to-do families and had higher expectations than refugees from poorer backgrounds.

If somebody has been in a refugee camp all of their life, and has never really used a fork and spoon, that’s a very different expectation in coming to America than somebody in Iraq who was a physician and did very well,’’ Drew said.

But of course refugee resettlement agencies don’t get to pick who is a refugee. Refugees are people who are fleeing oppression, and some of them are educated and/or middle or upper social-economic people. They tend to ask more questions and are a bit less easy to intimidate, i.e. they’re “uppity” in the minds of some of the resettlement agencies.

As usual Bob Carey, director of resettlement and migration policy at the International Rescue Committee (IRC), then tries to blame things on the government::

They’ve been shocked at how little support they get.’’

Mr. Carey, do you ever tell your refugee clients that they should also be expecting support from your organization and not just the government? Do you ever tell them that you’re not adding much private funding? Instead, after successfully lobbying Congress to double the State Department contract money, you now want to get even more goodies via your partner government agency, HHS’s ORR.

By now the private refugee resettlement “charities” have long since learned that they don’t have to offer much of anything on their own. Instead, they know they can just do a poor job and then effectively lobby the federal government to fill the “void”. For example, with the arrival of another refugee group that has many professionals, Iraqis, similar to many of the former Yugoslav republics refugees before them, resettlement agencies are now spinning their lack of even minimum adequate help to these refugees as the fault of insufficient U.S. government funding.

Resettlement agencies are calling on federal and state governments to increase cash assistance and its duration. They also want professional re-certification programs that would enable refugee doctors, lawyers, accountants, and other professionals to work in the careers in which they were trained. Until these measures are taken, they say, the federal government should provide money for emergency housing.

If they really believe that the government should give funding for all needs then what exactly is the point of involving charitable groups in the refugee resettlement program? As supposed charities shouldn’t they be offering these services on their own? Anyone can help  refugees with professional credentials to try to re-certify just by, at the very least, Googling how to do it and then making an effort.

Our group has even done this for Iraqi refugees who couldn’t get any help from their particular resettlement agencies. It really doesn’t need more funding, it just means that we use our time differently to help these refugees. Instead of spending time and effort directing these refugees to a series of no-skill or low-skill jobs, resettlement agencies could instead help the refugees to write a good resume, and then direct them to jobs related to their field and to places to get take classes to prepare for re-certification.

If they were thinking along these useful lines, instead of always just demanding more government funding, they would also direct professional refugees to resettlement sites where they could  take higher level courses in their professional fields. For example, last year an Iraqi periodontist with a doctorate named Faiz Al Berqdar, 60, (he had an extensive collection of degrees, research articles and academic writings) was resettled to Salt Lake City by USCCB, and when he needed to go back to school to complete classes in areas where the U.S. considered his Iraqi education “deficient” he learned that there was no dental college in Utah (here). He and his family then moved back to the Middle East where he immediately got an academic job in Syria. What sense does that make?

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