Diversity Myth busted

As the political heat rose about refugee resettlement in my county seat of Hagerstown, MD, an opinion editor at the Herald-Mail, our daily newspaper,  called anyone who questioned whether refugee resettlement was good for our community “unenlightened”.   By that I presume he really meant we were a bunch of xenophobic local yokel right wing hate mongers who needed our horizons broadened by exposure to the holy grail of liberalism—multiculturalism. 

Now here comes a study by Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone, that suggests that diverse communities are not healthy communities.  

Putnam’s study reveals that immigration and diversity not only reduce social capital between ethnic groups, but also within the groups themselves. Trust, even for members of one’s own race, is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friendships fewer. The problem isn’t ethnic conflict or troubled racial relations, but withdrawal and isolation. Putnam writes: “In colloquial language, people living in ethnically diverse settings appear to ‘hunker down’—that is, to pull in like a turtle.”

For the full story see John Leo http://www.city-journal.org/html/eon2007-06-25jl.html

In the 41 sites Putnam studied in the U.S., he found that the more diverse the neighborhood, the less residents trust neighbors.

So don’t let them make you feel guilty for asking questions about refugee resettlement.  That is their tactic and you know you aren’t the racist bigot they want you to be!

Leo sums  up Putnam’s findings here:

Diversity does not produce “bad race relations,” Putnam says. Rather, people in diverse communities tend “to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more, but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television.” Putnam adds a crushing footnote: his findings “may underestimate the real effect of diversity on social withdrawal.”

So, if refugee resettlement is causing friction in your community, don’t hesitate to ask questions and most of all don’t be intimidated by the enlightened promotors of multiculturalism for all.

Refugee numbers for 2007, so far

Yesterday’s post about the “Bulge” led me to the  numbers of refugees resettled in the US this year so far.    Earlier we had learned that the Department of State Refugee Processing Center keeps statistics that are available to the public.   

You can see what states received refugees and how many at the following link for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2006 up until July 3, 2007.  Check out your state  here:  http://www.wrapsnet.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=j1Ea6tx59%2bU%3d&tabid=211&mid=648 

If you are interested in seeing from what regions of the world the refugees originated, go here:   http://www.wrapsnet.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=DdzgYC9sMbM%3d&tabid=211&mid=627

Look for more information soon on a project we will need your help with.

Refugee Resettlement Watch will do more than watch.  As we get up and running, we will be your community organizing center.   We want you to start taking action to help direct the future of your community.

This is not a bump on the log Blog

The Bulge is coming!

One hears frequently at this time of year (as the fiscal year runs out) that a big push is underway within Federal govt. agencies to spend their money (your money) so that they can ask for more next year.  Well it appears that refugee resettlement works that way too!  

The US State Department hoped to get 50,000 refugees resettled in the US by Sept 30th but only have around 23,000 so far.   That means that another huge wave of 25,000 refugees could arrive in the US from now until the end of September.   The Courier-Journal in Kentucky calls it the 4th quarter “bulge”.   http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070708/NEWS01/707080480

Officials from the Federal contractors, Kentucky Refugee Ministries and Catholic Charities, are scrambling to alert local health department officials and local school boards to be ready for the hundreds of refugees expected in a very compressed period of time which puts a strain on local resources and often requires the hiring of aditional ESL teachers just as the school year is beginning.

 A problem everywhere and one we have seen in Hagerstown MD, is that volunteers are in short supply so refugees suffer as do local citizens and the local agencies that interact with the refugees.    But that doesn’t stop the contractors who receive federal tax dollars based on the numbers of refugees they resettle.

Church World Services has announced that it will be participating in the bulge as well.  In a July 5th press release, the NYC based contractor announced it will resettle 600-700 refugees per month for the remainder of the fiscal year.   http://www.wfn.org/2007/07/msg00032.html

Most of those refugees will be Burmese (Karen) who have received a waiver from the requirements of the Patriot Act.    This particular ethnic group has been affiliated with a terrorist group in Burma (Myanmar) and would therefore normally be excluded from resettlement.   However, Sec. of State Rice granted a waiver to allow their entry into the US.

CWS is the parent contractor to Virginia Council of Churches whose program has been suspended in Hagerstown, MD for the remainder of the fiscal year due to public controversy over the program.

Church World Services lobbied for Immigration bill

Last week,  Church World Services, one of 10 U.S. Govt. contractors for the resettlement of refugees sent out a call to action to its constituents (presumably some of these are refugees and people employed by CWS!) to call Senators to support the so-called Immigration Reform legislation.   

The Rev. Joe Roberson, who heads CWS’s immigration and refugee resettlement program in NYC, asked that people take 5 minutes while they can still influence their Senators and urge support of the legislation.    As we all know now, the “Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Reform Act” was rejected by a vast majority of the American people.

Are non-profit church groups allowed to lobby and are they using our tax dollars to do it?   CWS received approximately $24 million from the Federal treasury last year.

Non-profit groups receive millions to resettle refugees

Its hard to track the millions going to non-profit  groups to resettle refugees, but Gringo Malo’s Blog  http://gringomalosblog.blogspot.com/  has done some original research in “Refugees, the welfare state and you.”  Many of these groups receiving millions  from the government (tax payers) are church groups, so where is the ACLU when you really need them?   Here is an interesting table from this article, but you might want to read the whole post at Gringo Malo’s Blog , June 20,2007.

The table below summarizes the figures given above in order by the amount of government contributions.

Organization Private Funding Gov’t Funding Total Funding %Gov’t Funded Source
International Rescue Committee 108,219,613 88,346,729 196,566,342 44.9% 2004 Form 990
USCCB MRS 4,767,870 39,221,971 43,989,841 89.2% 2005 Annual Report
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service 2,457,136 20,845,300 23,302,436 89.5% 2004 Annual Report
Church World Service 64,859,356 24,172,542 89,031,898 27.2% 2005 Form 990
U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants 1,446,688 16,905,312 18,352,000 92.1% 2005 Form 990
American Refugee Committee 10,127,694 16,413,492 26,541,186 61.8% 2005 Form 990
Shelter for Life International 1,060,736 11,155,077 12,215,813 91.3% 2004 Form 990
New York Association for New Americans 4,225,478 7,416,611 11,642,089 63.7% 2004 Form 990
HIAS Inc. 6,560,917 7,069,318 13,630,235 51.9% 2005 Form 990
Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. 1,650,045 1,914,320 3,564,365 53.7% 2004 Form 990 & AR
Ecumenical Refugee Services, Inc. 27,501 1,147,967 1,175,468 97.7% 2004 Form 990
Refugee Women’s Network, Inc. 116,726 558,153 674,879 82.7% 2004 Form 990

 

Here are the total numbers for the cost of refugee resettlement available from the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) for 2006.

Yup thats right …. the bottom line is $815 million not including welfare costs

Table VIII
Estimated Costs of Refugee Processing, Movement, and Resettlement

FY 2005 Estimate and FY 2006 Budget Request ($ Millions)

Agency Estimated Funding FY 2005 (by Activity) Estimated Funding FY 2006 (by Activity)
Department of Homeland Security
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services

Refugee Processing

20.3 21.5
Department of State
Bureau of Population, Refugee, and Migration
Refugee Admissions 171.8* 223.0
Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, Office of Refugee Resettlement
Refugee Resettlement 484.4** 571.1**
     
TOTAL 676.5 815.6
       

* Includes FY 2004 carry forward of $4.3 million and $3.9 million in recoveries.

** Does not include costs associated with the Transitional Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid, or SSI programs. ORR’s refugee benefits and services are provided to Asylees, Cuban and Haitian Entrants, certain Amerasians from Vietnam, victims of a severe form of trafficking who have received certification or eligibility letters from ORR, and certain family members who are accompanying or following to join victims of severe forms of trafficking, and some victims of torture. None of these additional groups is included in the refugee admissions ceiling

Is this a good idea? Iraqi asylum seekers begin in-processing through Jordan

In light of the terrorist doctor crisis in the UK  (one of whom we understand is an Iraqi who sought asylum in Great Britain) is this a good time (is there ever a good time?) for the U.S. State Dept. to begin taking applications from Iraqi refugees in Jordan to resettle in the U.S.?

The Refugee Resettlement program has been abused throughout its history.  In the early 90’s Russian mobsters bought their way into the US through this program and even rich Kenyans passed themselves off as refugees.   

One might wonder also, if these supposed refugees had been so valuable to the US, why aren’t they staying to rebuild their country?  

Last week the State Dept. announced that it would be taking applications from  Iraqi asylum seekers in Jordan:

Fact Sheet                                                                    
Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration                                 
Washington, DC                                                                
June 28, 2007                                                                 
                                                                       
Resettlement Program for Iraqis in Jordan with U.S. Government Affiliations   
                                                                       
                                                                       
Iraqi asylum seekers in Jordan meeting the criteria listed below may be       
eligible for resettlement consideration under the United States Refugee       
Admissions Program (USRAP). Interested individuals may initiate their case    
directly with the U.S. Overseas Processing Entity (OPE) in Amman, Jordan, which
is operated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The        
following individuals (and their immediate family members) may seek access    
through this direct program:                                                  
                                                                       
                                                                       
  * Individuals who worked on a full-time basis as interpreters/translators for
    the U.S. Government or Multi-National Forces (MNF-I);                     
                                                                       
  * Locally Employed Staff (LES) engaged by the U.S. Government under the     
    authority of the Chief of Mission or the Coalition Provisional Authority  
    (CPA);                                                                    
                                                                       
  * Surviving immediate family members of interpreters/translators or LES.    
                                                                       
Individuals who believe they are at risk or have experienced serious harm as a
result of employment/association with the U.S. Government as described above, 
and wish to be considered for resettlement as refugees in the United States may
initiate a case with the USRAP by scheduling an appointment with IOM.         
Appointments can be made by calling the OPE at +962 6 590 2280 or by sending an
email to AmmanInfoCenter@iom.int. When sending an email to the OPE, please    
include the following required information:                                   
                                                                       
                                                                       
1.  Full name and date of birth of individual claiming association with the  
    U.S. Government;                                                          
2.  Full names and dates of birth of spouse and minor (under 21 years old)   
    children;                                                                 
3.  USG association: Employer’s name (company name or U.S. Government  
    agency), job title, name of immediate supervisor, and dates and location(s)
    of service;                                                               
4.  Current location and contact information; and                            
5.  UNHCR registration number if available.                                  
                                                                       
Initiating a case with the OPE does not guarantee an interview for resettlement
in the United States. The first step in the process will be verification of the
claimed employment or association. Applicants will be notified by OPE once this
verification has been completed to arrange the next steps in the process.     
Registration for consideration in this program is free of charge to applicants.
                                                                       
Initiating a case with the OPE should not be considered a substitute for      
registration with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for      
Refugees (UNHCR). It is extremely important that all Iraqi asylum seekers     
register with UNHCR.                                                          
                                                                       

********************************************************************************
See http://www.state.gov/g/prm/ for U.S. Refugee Assistance and Admissions Issues
********************************************************************************
To change your subscription, go to http://www.state.gov/misc/echannels/66822.htm

Our initial research

Since we have been unable to get all the facts directly from the various refugee resettlement agencies and non-government organizations, we wrote this intial fact sheet to help local citizens and elected officials understand the mechanisms involved in our county. This will be Vol. 1 No. 1 since we anticipate adding new information or correcting information as we receive it.

We welcome your input!

Refugee Resettlement

Fact sheet

June 25, 2007

Volume 1, No. 1

___________________________________________________________________________________

 

  • The United Nations and the U.S. State Dept. work together to identify potential refugee populations worldwide. The President and Congress set a limit on the number to be admitted to the US each year. The cap at this time is 70,000 but approximately 53,000 have been admitted.
  • Refugee Resettlement programs are authorized under several federal laws including Refugee Act of 1980.
  • Ten (sometimes 11) major voluntary non-government agencies (Volags) carry out the function of resettling the refugees throughout the US. In total there are some 400 Volags and organizations with loose affiliations to Volags which have State Department contracts relating to refugee resettlement.
  • Earlier refugee resettlement was primarily carried out in the so-called gateway cities such as New York and Los Angeles. The Clinton Administration issued a directive that required refugees to be distributed to every state in the US. However, some states, notably West Virginia, Delaware, Mississippi, Wyoming, and Arkansas get only a handful of refugees. * Charts for distribution of refugees by state are available.
  • Funding for resettlement is distributed through grants and contracts from the U.S. State Dept., Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) and the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to the Volags. Each of the major Volags subcontracts to others. The cost to the Federal government (taxpayers) for Refugee resettlement in FY 2005 was $676 million. Projected costs for 2006 were $815 million (latest figures that I could obtain). That does not include welfare received by the refugees.The cost of on-going welfare for refugees dwarfs the annual bill for the resettlement program.
  • Church World Services (CWS) received $24 million in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2006 from the U.S. government (26% of its annual budget). It passed down $813,000 to Virginia Council of Churches (VCC) to carry out its resettlement work. According to Richard Cline, VCC receives approx. 90 % of its budget from government sources of funding. CWS has 28 subcontractors in 2007. * Annual budgets for CWS and VCC are available.
  • The Volags receive $2000 for each refugee (including children) under an ORR program called Matching Grants. The Volag must provide $200 in cash of its own and $800 worth of items like used clothing, furniture and cars, and they then receive $2000 cash from the government. So, numbers matter to the Volags and competition for refugees is stiff. And, that is not the only source of taxpayer money for the Volags.
  • Refugees get an interest-free loan for air travel to the US provided by the federal government that is not regularly repaid. As of 2002, about 43 percent of all such loans were unpaid, leaving a balance due the government of $436.5 million. *Report is available.

Volags are given 25% of any travel loans they can collect from the refugees.

  • Volags bring refugees to communities they believe are “welcoming” and have jobs and low income housing, but do not thoroughly inform communities before hand of the planned resettlement. I believe the Volags have carved up the country in some way and actually have exclusive territories. It is a competitive business.
  • For the first 30 days the refugees are funded with an $850 per family gift from the State Department. At 30 days they are eligible for all forms of welfare. Listed below:

Federal “Means-Tested” Public benefits available to refugees and successful asylees include:
> > Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) formerly known as AFDC

> > Medicaid

> > Food Stamps

> > Public Housing

> > Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

> > Social Security Disability Insurance

> > Administration on Developmental Disabilities (ADD) (direct services only)

> > Child Care and Development Fund

> > Independent Living Program

> > Job Opportunities for Low Income Individuals (JOLI)

> > Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

> > Post secondary Education Loans and Grants

> > Refugee Assistance Programs

> > Title IV Foster Care and Adoption Assistance Payments (if parents are “qualified immigrants”)

> > Title XX Social Services Block Grant Funds

  • Prior to 1980, refugee sponsoring agencies were totally responsible for all refugee needs, including housing, medical care and employment. Today they have virtually no responsibilities. A newly arriving refugee aged 65 can immediately retire on SSI/Medicaid never having worked a day in the U.S.
  • After 4 months the Volags do not even have to know where the refugees are located. Therefore they have no legal requirements to make sure the refugees are o.k. and are assimilating. One very interesting statistic I noted was that a few refugees actually return to their country of origin which brings up the question of how persecuted were they in the first place. In Washington Co. an Iraqi family left the area soon after arrival telling people the conditions were deplorable.
  • One area of change suggested by those advocating reform of refugee resettlement is to require Volags to identify sponsoring churches and organizations for each family and to be responsible for the family for a year before accessing welfare programs. Although not a legal contract requirement, VCC did not identify enough sponsors for refugees in Washington Co. and therefore many refugees were not adequately supported causing some of the political friction. Recently VCC stated that existing refugee families could sponsor new families which would not be a desirable solution.
  • The National Governor’s Assn. was critical of the program in its Policy Position on Refugee Resettlement on March 5, 2007. They are concerned about the lack of consultation by the Volags in placement of refugees and they are concerned about the cost of refugee resettlement (a Federal responsibility) being passed down to state and local governments. * This report is available.
  • It is often difficult to get accurate information from Volags about the numbers of refugees resettled in a community. VCC has stated publicly that they have resettled over 200 refugees in Washington Co. from Africa and Russia. In fact, the State Department places the number at 168 from 13 different countries. Of the 168, 125 are Muslim. Nationally about 50% of refugees brought to the US are Muslim. There are no Muslim Volags, most are various Christian faiths and one Jewish organization. * List of the major Volags is available.
  • Employment statistics vary from location to location, but in ORR’s 2004 Report to Congress only 16% of refugees find a job in the first 3 months and at 12 months only 62% nationally have a job. The average hourly wage in a 5 year population sample was $8.90. *This report is available.
  • The Department of Homeland Security is responsible for determining whether refugees pose any danger to the safety and security of the US, but this authority can be waived by the US State Department. For example, on May 5, 2006 Sec. of State Rice gave approval for the Burmese (Karen) people of the Tham Hin Camp in Thailand to enter the US even though some may be members of (or have given support to) the Karen National Liberation Army, considered a terrorist group by the US govt. Burmese (Karen) comprise the next group of refugees VCC would like to resettle in Washington Co. *Waiver is available.
  • Some states have another layer of bureaucracy, a kind of go-between office, that helps to facilitate Refugee Resettlement between the Volags and the Federal government. In Maryland, it is the Maryland Office for New Americans (MONA). Although listed as part of Maryland’s Department of Human Services it is funded primarily by grants from the Federal Government.
  • The cost of translation for such things as medical care, emergency response etc. is according to federal law the responsibility of the local government agency. In Washington Co., VCC says they are working with seven languages at the present time.
  • I have found no location where a Volag does any formal written reporting about their plans in advance of bringing refugees to a community, or any report to local governments during the program.
  • Other cities are having problems with Refugee Resettlement. Manchester, NH shut the program down completely after they had to build a wing on to the high school exclusively for English as a Second language students and had a problem with many refugee children having lead poisoning. Lewiston, ME tried to stop the influx of Somali Bantu but failed. Eastern Tennessee is having problems. Cayce, SC is the only town I have found so far that stopped Refugee Resettlement in advance.

Contact information:

Asst. Sec. of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, Ellen R. Sauerbrey,

202-647-7360

Domestic Resettlement Section Chief, PRM, Dept. of State, Barbara Day, 202-663-1052

Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) Assoc. Director Joshua Trent, 202-401-4556

Maryland Office for New Americans, Ed Linn or Martin Ford, 410-767-7192

Church World Services, Rev. Joseph Roberson, 212-870-2178

Virginia Council of Churches, Richard Cline, 804-321-3305