Are you a frustrated citizen who can’t seem to get any straight answers out of various levels of government on how or why your city or town has become a refugee/asylee receiving center? Have you done all you can do with your internet research? Maybe you would like to know who is working with whom both in government and outside government in what appears to be a less than open manner? Or, would you like to know what nationalities are planned for your town? Maybe it’s time to step up your research.
First, start with letters to the agencies you have identified so far. Ask for specific information, like what non-profits have contracts to resettle refugees, what cities are targeted refugee receiving centers.
* Write a polite but pointed letter to the State Agency responsible for refugees in your state and ask them what the plan is for your city. (this is the state level).
* Write to the US State Department (the federal level). Address your request to:
Barbara Day Bur. Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
* Write to the Office of Refugee Resettlement here. (Again, this is the federal level)
If you are not satisfied with the response, then proceed to identify your state’s Public Information Law, for example in Maryland there are very clear guidelines on how to ask for information under the state law here. Just google your state and Public Information law and you will probably get what you need.
By the way, the state Public Information laws also usually apply to city and county government, so be sure to look into how to ask your local government for documents under the public information laws of your state (assuming county/city officials have not been forthcoming).
For information on the more complex Federal Freedom of Information Act go here. It may take awhile and they may stonewall you but just the very act of taking time to write a request will signal that you are very serious about getting answers. For a guide on using the Freedom of Information Act at the US State Department go here.
Write formal letters to your federal legislators, your Congressman and two US Senators, and ask them to get you the information. They are ultimately responsible for funding refugee resettlement. Publicize the fact that you have written such a request and later publicize the answers you receive.
Write letters to any private organization you have identified as working in your community on refugees/asylees and ask them what you would like to know politely and in a straightforward fashion. If they give you answers that’s a good sign, if you feel that you are getting the runaround report it to the federal agency from which they receive their funding.
Good luck! If you have any questions just e-mail me at the address to your right and I will try to help.