Shelbyville is still roiling…..

Just as I was about to say good night and Happy New Year, someone sent me the latest from Shelbyville, TN.  Yes, can you believe it there is more!

Times-Gazette reporter Brian Mosely responded today to the criticism and the praise for his series on Somalis in Shelbyville.

Also mixed in with the comments and criticism were several messages from refugee advocates and Somalis themselves [all from out of town, some in other countries] who want to help me “understand” our new neighbors. One of them said that the Somalis “are some of the friendliest, most inviting people I know.”


Now they want to talk to us. This is months after the failed efforts of this paper and local officials to get members of the Shelbyville Somali community to sit down with us and communicate. We repeatedly offered the chance to get their story told to the public and we never got an answer. Not even a “no, thank you.” Just silence.


Well, I will do a follow up with their input now that this issue is fully out in the open, but it will have to wait until next year.

This was just the warm-up!  Go to the article here and read the rest, and don’t skip the comments.

Immigrants and Food Stamp fraud

After we had a recent federal raid on a convenience store in Hagerstown, MD where the owner, Mohammed Tariq Khan, allegedly purchased food stamps  for 50 cents on the dollar,  I’ve occasionally noticed articles about this illegal practice.  Here is an old one published at Free Republic entitled “New Immigrants Masters of Food Stamp Fraud.”

More recently, food stamp fraud has been refined by “asylees” — asylum seekers — fleeing Somalia, where rampant starvation serves as the basis of those asylum claims. Asylees are one of a very small number of immigrant groups who are normally eligible for food stamps. Last year, according to documents filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office with the District Court in Seattle, Wash., a ring of Somali couples based in Washington leveraged their skills into a multi-layered public assistance fraud that even involved cash payments from the government.

It’s going on a month now and there has been no further word about our local raid or whether anyone has been charged with a crime.   At the time the Herald Mail (our local paper) only briefly mentioned it in a police log and when I called the local AP reporter to see if they were writing on it he said that although he had received the police report,  “he hadn’t thought about writing on it.”    Is it any wonder then why the general public has no clue this stuff is going on!

Who decides which cities will get refugees next? What are the cities?

As we end the year and begin a new one, we have to get down to work.  Shelbyville, TN and the Times-Gazette have given us lots to write about in the last 10 days or so (see our whole series here), but we need to do some basic research.  Will you help us?

First, who really decides which cities will be direct resettlement cities?  In an article in the Houston Chronicle a few weeks ago this statement intrigued me. 

In the U.S., the refugees are helped by local charitable organizations coordinated by Refugee Council USA, the Washington-based coalition that helps choose their final destinations.

I thought the US State Department was deciding which cities were to receive refugees, but if this is true, then non-profit groups are making that determination.   Are members of the Refugee Council USA just sitting around a conference table in DC with a large map of the USA looking for fresh cities to bring refugees to?   Frankly, I think this is how Hagerstown became a resettlement site a few years back. 

It is our understanding that once a city has been ‘chosen’, the volag (voluntary agency) with the contract for resettlement can then place the refugees within a hundred miles of that site.

Is there any analysis of the sites chosen?  Is there any determination made by anyone in government about the economic and social viability of the site?    Any studies done?   Apparently not.    As I said before, if the residents don’t squack then the site is a good one (“welcoming”) and more refugees are brought in.

Here are some designated resettlement cities we have already identified:

Kansas:  Bowling Green, Garden City, Wichita

Missouri:  Kansas City, Jefferson, St. Louis

Tennessee:  Bristol, Chattanoga, Memphis, Nashville

Help us find more!   If you go to this site at the Office of Refugee Resettlement and choose your state, you will get the name and contact information for your state director.  E-mail or call that person and ask for the cities that have been chosen as designated resettlement sites.  Then please tell us so we can keep an updated list.

BTW, since people can move around in America and refugees are free to leave their resettlement city in only a few months, this information does not apply to secondary migrations such as recently occured in Emporia, KS or Shelbyville, TN.   It’s the first destination site when entering the country that we are looking for in this project.

We have made a new category entitled “Resettlement cities” in which to put the information you report to us. Thanks in advance for your help.