Emporia, KS lets off steam

Reports range from 200-400 people crowded into a meeting room in Emporia, KS to hear officials explain to the the public how Emporia was to become (maybe?) a resettlement site for Somali refugees apparently being enticed to this heartland city by employment at Tyson’s Food.   Read today’s lengthy account of the meeting in the Emporia Gazette.   It looks like things have changed and Emporia may not become a Somali “camp” afterall. (That terminology can be found on the free-for-all forum at the Gazette).

The possibility of Emporia’s becoming a direct resettlement site was a primary concern of numerous individuals, who questioned whether the city could support the services required.


Weitkamp [refugee director at Catholic Charities] denied that he had made the statement, which was published in a Nov. 3 report of an Emporia Refugee Resettlement Alliance meeting the previous day.


At issue was the following excerpt from the Nov. 3 meeting:

“‘I expect that there will be direct resettlement here,’ he (Weitkamp) said. ‘If resettlement starts here, that will expand our role. … I also see at some point the office here could possibly become cut loose from us and become an office on its own, applying for funding.’


“‘If the numbers of refugees increases, it is possible the local office would apply to Washington to become a suboffice.’”


Weitkamp assured the crowd Wednesday evening that Emporia definitely would not become a resettlement site.


“We are not encouraging refugees to move here and we are not expecting to make Emporia a large resettlement site,” he said.

However there were no assurances made about how many family members the present refugees would be bringing to Emporia at a later date. 

He [Weitkamp] and Kimsey [coordinator for refugees services in Kansas] said that family members of refugees here may be reunited in Emporia, but information is not yet available to estimate the number of people who might come.


“So far as fixing a hard number, it really is impossible to do that right now,” Kimsey said. “The 500 that are here today are not the same 500 that were here in May of this year or December of last year. This culture by its historic reality are nomadic. … They’re not used to settling in one place forever.”

So, let me get this straight.  The long-time citizens of Emporia are expected to embrace the Somali community whose members are always on the move and apparently have no plans to put down roots anyway.  Kimsey inadvertantly demonstrates the assimilation problem.  If Somalis are to live in America they must begin to assimililate to American ways and one of the first things they can learn is that we are not nomads.  This is where this multicultural ‘clap trap’ has gotten us—we tip-toe around this important issue, presumably fearing the scarlet “R” word will be emblazoned on our chests.

The report refreshingly free of spin, by Gazette reporter Bobbi Mylnar,  seems to be a straightforward account of the meeting (right down to the sanitary napkin problems).

Sources for State information on Refugee programs

Thanks to the sleuthing of citizens of Emporia, KS,  we are learning more things we didn’t know that should help others of you trying to understand this complicated Federal program called Refugee Resettlement.   We have maintained all along that this program is becoming increasingly contentious because local citizens are not fully briefed about the Federal plans that will change the character of their cities and towns.  Citizens then become justifiably angry because they are not given the facts and have to dig for them themselves.

This information was made available to citizens of Emporia in the last couple of days, we should have seen it sooner.   The Dept. of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement, has a division called the Division of Refugee Assistance (DRA) whose mission is described below:  

The Division of Refugee Assistance (DRA) was created to oversee and provide guidance to State-administered programs that provide assistance and services to refugees, asylees, certain Amerasian immigrants, Cuban and Haitian Entrants, and Victims of Human Trafficking (henceforth referred to collectively as “refugees”). DRA monitors program planning, provision of services, and provides technical assistance to ensure compliance with federal regulations governing the delivery of refugee assistance and services, including cash and medical assistance.



DRA provides direction to States to ensure that refugees are provided assistance and services through State-administered programs that enable them to become employed and economically self-sufficient as soon as possible after their arrival in the United States.

You can read a summary of social service programs and grants programs for refugees here.

Go here for recent state grant figures, number of cases managed and to find your state’s Refugee office. Our previous post on this database is here.