One reason we write this blog is that we want to see Refugee Resettlement reformed. Although I am no fan of more government and I certainly am not promoting increasing the numbers of refugees, but I am beginning to think the government might just do a better job of taking care of refugees than these volags are. At least the government agencies would be accountable to us—the taxpayers—through our elected officials. The non-profit groups could still do their charitable part without being paid and everyone might be better off—us and the refugees.
Earlier today Judy posted an article from Burlington, VT. I was particularly interested in a comment by a Christopher Coen, Director of Friends of Refugees. I don’t know that group but I would like to. Mr. Coen alleges a shocking number of “problems” with one of the ten major volags and its affiliates throughout the US resulting in neglect of the refugees in their care. I thought some of the things we saw here in Washington County with the Virginia Council of Churches were an anomaly, but maybe this is more widespread than I thought.
Please go to Mr. Coen’s comment here (see Story Chat on the right side of the page) and read the long list of charges—all too familiar to us in Hagerstown. Refugees were placed in high crime neighborhoods, they lived for a long time with no bedding, transportation was lacking, translators were not available in a medical emergency, and there had not been enough effort made to find volunteers and keep them.
Mr. Coen’s sharp criticisms sent me to the website of the United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) just to see what sort of outfit they are. I had a look at their 2006 Form 990 and I thought that was kind of interesting. Their budget is almost $20 million with $16,905,312 from government grants (many of those would likely be from the US Office of Refugee Resettlement) and another $675,868 from government contracts. Public support (that’s just regular private donations) accounts for $1,496,688. Basically that means that close to 90% of their income comes from the taxpayer.
Looks to me like they spent nearly all their private donations on lobbying, but I’m not an accountant. Note that they lobbied on the Kennedy bill to bring tens of thousands of Iraqi refugees to the US real soon. Also, since I’ve admitted I’m not an accountant maybe someone else could find their office rent in this 990. Or, is it true that the State Department is picking up that tab?
USCRI is located on Massachusetts Ave. in Washington D.C. and its President, Lavinia Limon (former Director of the US Office of Refugee Resettlement) makes a cool $195,478 (salary and benefits). Its VP makes $163,109. I’m wondering if Lavinia is any relation to Peter Limon who is quoted in the Burlington article? Keepin’ it in the family? Its all kind of cozy, isn’t it? The only ones not too comfy are the refugees Mr. Coen cites.
So, back to my original premise. Since you’re paying their salaries either way. Which would you rather take your chances with—a government employee or these non-profit types in DC?